Birkat HaChammah, the blessing on the sun, is coming Wednesday morning, April 8, 2009. This blessing, praising G-d for renewing creation, occurs once every 28 years at the beginning of the spring when according to Jewish tradition the sun is in the same position relative to the Earth that it was when the when the Universe was created.
Here is an excellent overview of Birkat HaChammah written for the layperson: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/817861/jewish/Birkat-Hachamah.htm. Here is a recent article by Rabbi Bleich that provides an overview of this topic: http://www.ou.org/index.php/jewish_action/article/50008/. Here are some more detailed (and complex) presentations: http://www.kehillaton.com/en/articles_birkat_hachama.asp?c=1 and http://berachot.org/halacha/24_birkathachammah.html. For educators, Birkat HaChammah is a great opportunity for curriculum integration across various disciplines.
- Talmud teachers can teach about the event, how it is calculated based on the Jewish calendar, and its various Halakhot. Here is a link to an audio class by Rabbi David Bleich of Yeshiva University about Birkat HaChammah: http://yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/732921/Rabbi_Dr._J._David_Bleich/Birkhat_HaChammah. Here is a great guide in English to the Halakhot of Birkat HaChammah: http://star-k.org/kashrus/kk-BirchasHachama.htm. Here is a link to a worksheet for students:http://www.scribd.com/doc/13421620/Birkat-HaChammah-Sources-for-Students. I also created a Smart Notebook presentation to teach the material. It is not yet available online but a slideshow of it can be accessed here: http://www.slideshare.net/frischintegration/birkat-hachammah-frisch.
- Tanach teachers can teach the different chapters and verses from Tanach that have been incorporated into the Birkat HaChammah liturgy. Here is a link to the Birkat HaChammah service in Hebrew and English: http://www.kehillaton.com/en/docs/birkat_hachama.pdf.
- Science teachers can teach about the seasons as Birkat Hachammah occurs at the Halakhic beginning of the spring. You would be surprised how many students do not know why we have 4 seasons (hint: it's not because the earth's orbit is further away from the sun in winter or else it would not then be summer in the southern hemisphere). One can also teach about the night sky and the constellations and how they relate to the path of the sun throughout the solar year. Here is a link to an audio class and slideshow presentation by Rabbi David Pahmer about the atronomical background to Birkat HaChammah: http://yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/732920/Rabbi_David_Pahmer/Background_to_Birchat_Hachammah. Here is a link to free programs that one can download that teach about the night sky: http://freeware.intrastar.net/planetarium.htm. For more on the science behind Birkat HaChammah you can request a curriculum designed for Middle School students that can be adapted to other grade levels by emailing: email@example.com.
- History teachers can teach about the Julian calendar which is the same as Amora, Shemuel's calendar upon which the date for Birkat HaChammah is calculated. They should also teach about the Gergorian calendar which was first introduced in 1582 and how it affects the solar calendar date for Birkat HaChammah. Here is a link to the wikipedia page on this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_calendar. Also of interest is the following page: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/820926/jewish/Calculating-the-Date.htm.
- Math teachers can teach how to calculate the Birkat HaChammah date as happening once every 28 years. Here is a PowerPoint presentation (in Hebrew) that does a pretty good job with this: http://www.halachayomit.com/elbaavia/AE%20birkhat%20hachama.ppt.
- English teachers can teach about poems that celebrate Nature. The most famous one is Joyce Kilmer's Trees which can be found here: http://www.bartleby.com/104/119.html.