In one month from now, on April 8, millions of Jews from all types of backgrounds and communities across the world will take to the streets to participate in a rare prayer service performed once every 28 years.

According to tradition, the blessing of the sun marks the point in time when the sun returns to the exact point in the sky it occupied on the same day of the week during the creation of the world.

For many, the service will be their first ever.

Take Sara Goldstein, the 26-year-old Canterbury-based co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of New Zealand. Reached last week, the mother-of-three was brimming with excitement over the opportunity to be among the first people this year who will bless the rising sun first thing in the morning.

“To be the first to bless the sun is quite a privilege,” she stated.

Goldstein predicted that hundreds of people, from Israeli backpackers to members of the local community, will join in the Chabad House’s service.

Known in Hebrew as Birkat Hachama, the service consists of selections of Psalms and other biblical texts and centers around a blessing thanking G‑d for “renewing the works of creation.” Another blessing thanks G‑d for granting the opportunity to participate in the celebratory occasion.

Although the service is relatively short in its liturgy, the rarity and novelty of the event is expected to draw crowds of worshippers.

The last time the blessing of the sun took place, in 1981, thousands of people filled Eastern Parkway outside of Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y., to join the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, in the prayer service, which was interspersed with meditative song and lasted close to an hour. (To view footage of the event, click here.) Three days later, the Rebbe elaborated on the significance of the solar cycle and pointed out that the sun presented an unending source of energy. If the United States in particular, he said, developed solar technology, it could be self-sufficient in its energy production.

A continuously updating directory of events worldwide, as well as explanations and a step-by-step guide, can be found on

Incredibly Rare

This year, Jewish communities from Asia and Australia to Israel, Europe and the Americas will be examining the history of the service in a series of classes that trace the sun blessing from a reference in the Talmud to its last observance 28 years ago. Jewish Educational Media released a special DVD featuring footage of the 1981 Brooklyn service to aid communities in learning about the occasion.

The Kehot Publication Society also printed two editions of the order of service, featuring an English translation and transliteration of the prayers and a compilation of Chabad customs.

Compounding the significance of the event, the time to recite the blessing over the sun this year coincides with all of the customs relating to the day before Passover, including the traditional burning and selling of leavened food products.

“This is such a privilege,” said Benny Gamlieli, a professional tour guide in the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat. “It is definitely a very rare phenomenon.”

Gamlieli, 59, who didn’t know about the blessing in 1981, will be attending a class on the subject at the local Chabad House to become fully acquainted with the service.

Rabbi Shimon Eisenbach, the co-director of Chabad of Shakhmon Eilat who will be giving the class, noted that schools and synagogues all over the city are asking for information on the blessing. The municipality has even included Eisenbach’s service in its calendar of events celebrating Eilat’s 60 years of incorporation.

Chabad-Lubavitch of Venice, Italy, meanwhile, is planning a large event in the middle of the city’s old Jewish ghetto. It expects crowds to be on hand for the early morning ceremony set against the backdrop of a reflected sunrise on the water of the canals.

The proximity to water is also figuring into plans of the Jewish community along France’s Cote d’Azur to bless the sun. In the sun-drenched city of Nice, where some 20,000 Jews live, Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Yossef Yitzchok Pinson said that, although he and his staff were still making final arrangements, he was leaning towards a large gathering on the boardwalk first thing in the morning.

“We’re making this real big,” said Pinson. “That it happens on the day before Passover makes it tight, but we’re thinking sunrise along the beach.”

Back in New Zealand, local resident Jessica Dolamore was awed at the practice, which she found out about from a Jewish calendar the Chabad House mailed to the community before Rosh Hashanah last year.

“It’s absolutely beautiful that it corresponds directly with Creation,” she said. “Isn’t it amazing?”

The Dolamores plan to be at the bottom of South Island, which will be first in the world to witness the sunrise. They were last there just before the last Passover, when they delivered kosher supplies to a Jewish inmate at the local prison that had reached out to the Chabad House.

Gamlieli said that he plans to attend the Eilate service with his wife. His two sons will likely recite the blessing seven hours later.

“My sons are in Manhattan,” he said. “They are just as excited about this opportunity as I am.”