An Illinois Chabad center along the route of Monday’s total solar eclipse will host out-of-town Jews seeking to witness the historic spectacle and get its Jewish perspective.

Rabbi Mendel Scheiman, director of the Carbondale Chabad Center at Southern Illinois University with his wife, Yochi, said they are preparing a viewing party, Talmudic discussion, prayer and plenty of kosher food.

It will not be the first time they catered to crowds seeking the sun—or instead, the lack of it. Skywatchers across the country made the most of the 2017 total solar eclipse and have the chance to do the same in 2024. Untold numbers of people are expected to visit places along the path of totality, running diagonally from Texas to Maine.

Scheiman anticipates the excitement surrounding the 2017 eclipse to be replicated on the afternoon of April 8.

The longest duration of two-and-a-half minutes of totality made Carbondale “the eclipse crossroads of America,” Scheiman told “We had a minyan and got to view this cool phenomenon.”

In the 2024 edition, the eclipse over Carbondale will offer four minutes of totality. The rare event will occur next in nine years on Wednesday, March 30, 2033.

Sonya Siegel of Potomac, Md., will be visiting Carbondale for the eclipse. The 64-year-old realtor, who has a son in a Ph.D. psychology program at Southern Illinois University, thought she’d take advantage of the phenomenon and visit her son. “I’ve been reading a lot about the eclipse, and I know Carbondale is one of the places that is expected to have excellent visibility,” she said. “So, I decided to come in because it’s very exciting. I’ve never seen a full solar eclipse.”

Siegel is a member of Chabad of Potomac and says she plans on joining the Chabad viewing party in Carbondale.

Skywatchers across the country made the most of the 2017 total solar eclipse in Carbondale. - Photo: Chabad of Carbondale and SIU
Skywatchers across the country made the most of the 2017 total solar eclipse in Carbondale.
Photo: Chabad of Carbondale and SIU

Seeing Through a Torah Lens

On Sunday, Rabbi Scheiman will lead a Torah class and discussion on the eclipse, covering the sources and teachings that address solar and lunar eclipses.

“It’s not always a good sign for the world,” Scheiman said, referring to the Talmud passage in the tractate of Sukkah. “There’s actually no blessing we make on an eclipse even though we have other blessings for natural phenomena like lightning, a shooting star, a rainbow or the new moon.”

The Hebrew word for eclipse is likui or “defect.” A solar eclipse is a bad omen for the entire world, which runs according to the solar calendar. A lunar eclipse is considered a bad sign for the Jewish nation, which calculates the duration of months according to the cycles of the moon.

Thus, the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneeron, of righteous memory—points out that eclipses should be opportunities to increase in prayer and introspection—as opposed to prompting joyous blessings. It is a sign, he instructed, that we really could and should be doing better.

“Sometimes, things go dark for a moment, and we’ve got to do our part to increase the good,” Scheiman said.

In advance of the event, the Carbondale Chabad center gave away eclipse-themed mishloach manot gift packages for Purim. They included disposable glasses with a filter to view the sun directly during the eclipse.

“Just like the Purim story, there was a dark period for the Jewish people, the threat of annihilation. We don’t even see G‑d’s name in the book of Esther. G‑d was hiding. So, with the eclipse the world goes dark, but the sun is still there, shining.”

The precision and predictability of the eclipse where the moon, the earth and sun have to be lined up “gives us that recognition that the amazement of G‑d’s creation and the perfection of the world and everything is by design, which of course means that we’re part of the picture,” Scheiman said. “We’re here by design, and we’ve got a mission to accomplish.”

Chabad will offer a place to pray, a hot kosher meal on Sunday night, and a bagels and lox brunch available throughout the day on Monday. “We’ll make sure people are comfortable with whatever they require to provide for their Jewish needs,” said the rabbi.

Scheiman added that he looks forward to seeing the same people from 2017 and newcomers: “It’s exciting. We’ll see what happens.”