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Jews ready for Passover's Blessing of the Sun

As observant Jews prepare for the beginning of the eight-day Passover celebration Wednesday night, some will pause this morning to recite the least frequently spoken prayer in Judaism.

It is a ritual that comes around only once every 28 years, one that commemorates the sun's return to the place in the firmament where, according to the Book of Genesis, God created it on the fourth day.

This year's confluence of Passover and the sun's commemoration is particularly rare - marking only the 12th occurrence in the 5,769-year-old Jewish calendar.

"There is something special about celebrating the beginning of the Jewish people coming out of Egypt and the Wednesday of the sun's creation," said Rabbi Anchelle Perl, of Congregation Beth Shalom Chabad, in Mineola.

"It adds meaning to Passover," he said. "This is one more thing we have to give thanks for, a physical thing to help us understand that God gave us a world to fulfill our purpose in life."

The commemoration of the sun, known as Birkat Hachamah, happens so infrequently that several individuals could remember distinctly what they were doing during its last occurrence, 28 years ago.

Rabbi Tuvia Teldon, director of the Jewish Academy of Suffolk County in Commack, recalls being in Tucson, Ariz., for the funeral of his grandfather.

Perl and his wife were attending a ceremony at the epicenter of Lubavich Judaism, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

"It's an occurrence that happens only three or four times in a person's life," said Rabbi Rafe Konikov, of Chabad of Southampton Jewish Center. "Certainly it is momentous, because it is a reminder to give thanks for what God has given us."

Perl's congregation intends to mark the sun's return to its origins by burying a time capsule on the grounds of the synagogue.

Perl said this year's commemoration comes at a time in which Wall Street scandals and Ponzi schemes have inflicted broad economic hardship.

"We've seen so many examples of taking and being self-centered and the greediness of the world," Perl said. "Hopefully, in 28 years it will be a kinder, gentler world than it is today."

- Click here for Passover recipes with a modern twist

- Click here to see photos of Passover food

- Click here for critic Peter M. Gianotti's recommendations of kosher wines for Passover

- Click here to see photos of preparing for Passover


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