Solar Eclipse 08.21.17

What is Jewish About a Total Solar Eclipse?

What is Jewish About a Total Solar Eclipse?

By Kate O’Brien, Director of Education 

Over the last few months, campers, staff and camp professionals have enjoyed the magic inside the bubble of camp. It is a world as removed from the everyday as the dark side of the moon. As we are emerging from that immersive experience and returning to the light of the “real world,” we’re met with an extraordinary event: a total solar eclipse occurring today, Monday, August 21st.

This once-in-a-lifetime event is a cause for joy and wonder. After all of the arts and sports and fun of the summer, the eclipse presents another source of adventure and excitement. We might ask, “What is Jewish about a total solar eclipse?”  Jewish tradition has wonderful ways of marking and make meaning of amazing occasions. One of these is the practice of saying brachot (blessings). Brachot help us to pause in praise and thanksgiving so that we can hold a space for what we see or experience. There are hundreds of brachot, many for witnessing natural phenomena from thunder and lightning to beautiful trees to unusual creatures.

In the moment that we say a bracha (blessing) for something exceptional, we recognize a miracle in our midst. What’s more, we are able to see and appreciate the small miracles all around us from waking each morning to greeting a camp friend. For this reason, says David Ackerman, Director of the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Center for Jewish Education at JCC Association, we have a creative opportunity to offer brachot to help us invest is natural marvel with Jewish energy and meaning. Here are a few appropriate brachot that campers may have learned during their outdoor exploits at camp:

Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam (Blessed are you Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe…)

 …Oseh ma’aseh beresheet(…who makes the world of Creation)

   …Shekacha lo b’almo (…who has such things in the universe)

…Yotzer or uvorei choshech, oseh shalom uvorei et hakol (…who fashions light and creates darkness, makes peace and creates everything)

If you have never seen a total solar eclipse before, you are in luck! You can say the blessing for all new things. Your campers may know the shehecheyanu from all the new things they tried this summer:

Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam shehecheyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higi‐anu laz’man hazeh.

Blessed are you Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who gave life, sustained us, and allowed us to reach this moment.

Or you can create your own bracha using this formula!

Camp may have ended for the summer, but miracles await us as we look forward to new beginnings and new friends. As we walk on our journey, brachot will help us elevate the ordinary and celebrate the extraordinary.

So grab your safety glasses, a good view, and to enjoy “The Great American Eclipse.”