- An e-book on kiddush hachammah, as a roundup of nice blog posts on the subject. (from SerandEz and Hirhurim)
- First, some more on Birkat haChamma. On the last blog roundup, I suggested a nigleh reason for Kiddush HaChama. I may have been hasty in suggesting that particular one, for all sorts of deep, yet surface reasons are plausible. It could be to appreciate Hashem's creating of the sun, or the wonder of the complex yet perfect movements of the stars and planets. Gilui noted in a comment on that post:
In Pirkei D'Rebbi Eliezer, the discussion regarding the sun is only part of a larger discussion which includes the moon, then moving on to a combined cycle which doesn't mathematically exist of 84 years. I would suggest that one shouldn't try to attach meaning to the ritual until checking out the bigger picture.Indeed, he put together a very nice site (link is to Chapter 6, but see it all) all about Kiddush HaChamma, with halachos, and an analysis of the math involved. Check it out.
I will admit that I do not have the time or patience to want to read through the mathematical and astronomic analysis right now. So I don't know if he is correct or incorrect that this is an entirely and obviously fictional calculation.
He suggests that Chazal therefore had mystical reasons for wanting to arrive at the number 84, which is the mystical 7 times the mystical 12. Thus:
It strikes me, if it is indeed inaccurate, that it might be a legitimate mistake. Perhaps a mistake in calculation, which would not be detected readily because of the long time span from the beginning of the cycle to the end. Or a typographical error which cascaded. I would not assume that Chazal would deliberately mess up the calculation, when the goal is presumably to accurately hit a specific time for a halachic purpose.
Also, as I wrote in a comment on the previous roundup post, are we really taking about Tannaitic Chazal here? After all:
In terms of Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, this returns to the question of its date of authorship. If it is Tannaitic, from the Tanna Rabbi Eliezer, then it is giving deeper insight into the meaning of this bracha. If it was composed shortly after 833 CE, then it is post-Talmudic...I will add the following here. If this is really Chazal, or whoever the author of Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer is, hinting to us at something with deep mystical significance, then we should not expect other folk to be using this fictional 84 year cycle. And yet, it seems to have been pretty standard even outside Jewish circles. To cite Wikipedia on the lunisolar calendar:
Rome used an 84-year cycle for Easter calculations from the late third century until 457. Early Christians in Britain and Ireland also used an 84-year cycle until the Synod of Whitby in 664. The 84-year cycle is equivalent to a Callipic 4×19-year cycle (including 4×7 embolismic months) plus an 8-year cycle (including 3 embolismic months) and so has a total of 1039 months (including 31 embolismic months). This gives an average of 12.3690476... months per year. One cycle was 30681 days, which is about 1.28 days short of 1039 synodic months, 0.66 days more than 84 tropical years, and 0.53 days short of 84 sidereal years.Maybe we can say that they got it from us. After all, we are talking about Easter calculations, and early Christians. But surely Rome had people skilled at astronomy and mathematics. If it really is entirely fictional and does not accord with any kind of calculations, why would they use it, and not simply discard it?
Therefore, I would not leap to the conclusion that some deep mystical reason exists for the 84 year cycle.
(The Julian calendar also uses the somewhat inaccurate approximation of 365 1/4 days, just as in PDE, and not in order to obtain some mystically significant result.)
Another interesting point: In terms of the fictional cycle, perhaps this is why we no longer do the birchat halevana and for the other signs of the zodiac in their tekufah. The standard reason given is that anan lo bekiin, and that has merit, since even as the world at large has better astronomical knowledge, the particular calculations they did may not accord with our modern calculations; or, we might say respectfully that we are not bekiin, when in truth, it was they who were not bekiin. And since we cannot fulfill the law in accordance with the metzius, we fazed these out. More on this later, perhaps.
- Also, the Seforim blog has a nice overview on birchat hachammah.
- And Yeranen Yaakov has a post describing how one should look at someone named Avraham when reciting kiddush hachammah, and mentions the Ostravtza Gaon on this kiddush hachammah falling on erev Pesach, though misstating the uniqueness of this event.
Also, whether or not Rabbi Yehuda's position is that birchat hachamah is avodah zarah.
- For the event, JNUL has a bunch of kiddush hachammah material. Check it out. In particular, this poster from Chabad. Perhaps I will discuss it later.
- Thanbook on liturgies for blessing the sun.