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Blessing the rising sun

Celebration marks sun’s position at moment of creation

Posted: April 9, 2009 12:17 a.m.
Updated: April 9, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Worshippers snap photos of the sunrise Wednesday at the start of Temple Beth Ami's special service, during which they recited a collection of Psalms and traditional prayers.

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With a guitar in hand, Wendy Hersh took to the front of a small stage at Richard Rioux Park in Stevenson Ranch early Wednesday morning and performed the Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun."

The tune marked a unique meeting between pop culture and ancient, revered religious tradition as about 50 people - members of Temple Beth Ami and interested community members - gathered to perform the "blessing of the sun" ceremony, known as Birkat Hachamah in Hebrew. "The louder we sing, the warmer we get," Hersh joked with the audience.

The group swayed with the music as the sun displayed itself amid passing clouds.

The outdoor ceremony marks the position the sun occupied when it was created, according to Jewish tradition, and is celebrated once every 28 years.

Families stood together on the cold morning, wrapped in blankets, sweaters and jackets, clutching cups of coffee, to recite Psalms and hear messages delivered by Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami, who organized the local ceremony.

The special blessing was marked in many time zones, starting with members of a small Jewish community in New Zealand. In hundreds of places, from Israel and Italy to New Zealand and Kyrgyzstan, observant Jews rose before dawn for outdoor prayers and dancing.

Parting clouds from an overnight rain passed through the morning sky over the Santa Clarita Valley, but they didn't stop the main star, the sun, from extending its warmth and orange radiance over the group of Temple Beth Ami congregants and local community leaders.

As Blazer led the ceremony, he called upon a handful of leaders from the community and other congregations to share Psalms and blessings for the service.

Prabhu Ambatiupudi, a local Hindu, delivered a sun salutation to the congregants while Rev. Stan Fix of Friendly Valley Community Church, a United Methodist congregation, led the group in a Psalm reading.

"This is truly a day that the Lord has made," Blazer said.

Blazer offered a hope that the world, and especially California, would one day be much more dependent on the sun for providing energy.

The blessing comes on the eve of the weeklong Passover festival.

Having the blessing-of-the-sun ceremony this year so close to the Jewish holiday comes as a rare occurrence.

"It's not going to happen for hundreds of years in the future," Blazer told the crowd.

The last time the ceremony coincided with Passover was in 1925 and before that, 1309, Blazer said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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