Some rise early in Ranch to perform rare Jewish ritual

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Roughly 20 people turned to the east, toward the rising sun, in front of the Chabad of Bradenton & Lakewood Ranch Jewish Center on Palm Brush Trail Wednesday to take part in a rare Jewish ritual.

Called “Birkat Hachamah” in Hebrew, the event comes around only once every 28 years and marks, in the opinion of Jewish scholars, when the sun returns to the same position in the sky it occupied when it was first created by God, on the same day of the week and hour of the day, said Chabad Rabbi Mendy Bukiet.

What makes Birkat Hachamah doubly rare was that it occurred this year on Passover, which began Wednesday at sundown and continues for eight days.

“It has almost never occurred at Passover,” said Alan Parsells, who drove from Brooksville with his wife, Robin, to be part of the event. “One other time we know it occurred on Passover was the first Passover, when Moses led the Jews on their exodus out of Egypt.”

David Kasse, a Greyhawk Landing resident and member of Temple Beth Shalom in Sarasota, saw a notice in the newspaper about the blessing and since he had never attended one, decided to come. He didn’t think his own synagogue observed the event.

“When the rabbi said the sun was today exactly where God put it in the heavens way back then, it was a very powerful moment for me,” said Kasse, who joined the others in reading from holy texts and singing songs for about 20 minutes in praise of God for creating the sun.

“I’ve never been to the service and I don’t think I’ll make the next one,” added Kasse, who is 67 now and would be 95 on the next one.

Bukiet, who will be 60 in 28 years, made it clear that the blessing is not for the sun itself. The Jews don’t worship idols and worshipping the sun would be such a gesture. But the blessing is to God for gathering up gases into a bright red ball and flinging the sun into the heavens, where it became a giver of life.

Ricki Rubin, a Greenbrook resident who attends services at Chabad, said she could imagine the Jews fleeing from Egypt and seeing the sun exactly as she was seeing it Wednesday morning in Lakewood Ranch.

“It impresses you to know he threw the sun into the sky into the exact location we saw today,” Rubin said. “It’s really incredible. It made me feel a connection with God.”

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.