As some of you may know, this Wednesday morning marks a special opportunity to make a bracha that comes only one in 28 years. The Talmud tells us that someone who sees the sun in its equinox says the blessing "Oseh maaseh bereshis". Through various stages of analysis, it is now generally explained that on this morning of April 8 the Sun is in exactly the same position vis a vis the Earth as it was when God first placed it in the sky on Day 4 of Creation.
Now, given that this opportunity only comes every 28 years there seems to be a lot of hoopla assocaited with it. Just like Daf Yomi was once upon a time an exclusive club limtied to a very few scholars and now increases its adherents with every new cycle, so too the phenomenon that is Birkat HaChamah is growing each time. This time through even the ignorant secular groups, the ones that think tikun olam is about environmentalism and fair employment standards, are getting in on the act.
But like an Jewish ritual which, over time, has grown far from its founders' original intents, it's important to clear up a few things:
1) There's this urban myth that this year is the third time that Birkat HaChamah has occured on Erev Pesach. The first time was the yeaer of yetzias Mitzraim, the second was the year Purim happened. However, this is not true. It's the fourth time since the calender was fixed by Hillel the Younger 1600 years ago. As well, neither of those two events happened in a Birkat HaChamah year.
2) You do not have to be outside to say the blessing. Seeing the Sun through a window is completely acceptable. The reason for going out during Birkat Halevanah is for the specific reason that we are greeting the Shechinah as it were. This is not the case on Wednesday where we are acknowledging an astronomical event.
3) The mitzvah is fulfilled by saying the blessing. Period. The other stuff, the various tehillim and prayers that have been added on over the centuries are nice, inspirational and great if you have the time to do that. If you don't, because you have to get to that last chometz breakfast to gorge yourself because, Heaven knows, you aren't going to have enough to eat over the next eight days (seven, for my Israeli reader(s)), then don't lose sweat. You got the mitzvah. But the bottom line is: You see the sun, you say the blessing.
May we all merit that this be the last time we say this blessing in exile and that the words LeShanah HaBa'ah Biyerushalayim that we will say at the seder in a couple of days be fulfilled in this coming year.
A Chag Kasher v'Sameach to all of you.