I understand that the blessing on the sun is to be recited every 28 years in a cycle that begins with the creation of the universe. If so, why is 5769—this years' Jewish year—not divisible by 28?


You are correct, if you divide 5769 by 28 you will be left with a remainder of one. This is because there is no year zero. Rather the world was created in year one. Hence, the cycle was completed for the first time not in year 28, but in year 29. All subsequent cycles are thus divisible by 28 with a remainder of 1.

Incidentally, year zero is not used in the Gregorian calendar, nor was it used in its predecessor, the Julian calendar. Under those systems, the year 1 BCE is followed by 1 CE.

Another point to ponder is the fact that this blessing is intended to mark the day the sun was created. Yet we celebrate the anniversary of all of creation—including the sun—on Rosh Hashanah in the fall.

The explanation is that there is a debate in the Talmud whether the world was completed in Tishrei (the first month of autumn), or in Nissan (the first month of spring). The consensus reached is that it all depends: regarding the counting of years we consider Tishrei to be the beginning of creation, but in areas of Jewish law pertaining to the seasons and astronomy (including the equinoxes), we consider the starting point of creation to be from Nissan (spring). (See "The Chassidic Angle" at the end of this article for an explanation of why this is so.)

The position of the sun, being an astronomical event, therefore relates to Nissan.

Wishing you a happy Passover,

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson