Thursday, May 15, 2008

Silly Things That People Believe -- Part II

Yeranen Ya'akov points out that there is a meme going around that Birkas HaChamah (the once-in-28-years blessing on the Sun that we will be reciting next year) has only been recited on Erev Pesach twice in Jewish History -- and both times in the year of great salvation (bolding mine).

...This is interesting, because what I have seen this year I did not see the last time the Sh’mittah year came around. Someone from Montreal knew about it, faxed it to a friend of mine in Eretz Yisroel, who recently passed it on to me. It is from a sefer called, “Meir Einei Chachamim”, based upon the teachings of the Ostrovster Rebi. The following piece was said over in 1925, or the Jewish year 5685, the year of Kiddush HaChamah—the blessing over the sun that has returned to its original position at the time of Creation. He said:

From the time of Creation, there are three times that Kiddush HaChamah falls on Erev Pesach: the year they left Egypt—it is mentioned in the Talmud that Kiddush HaChamah happened on Erev Pesach on a Wednesday—and the second time was in the year of the redemption of Mordechai and Esther, who then fasted on the 14th, 15th, and 16th [of Nissan]. The third time Kiddush HaChamah occurs on Erev Pesach, not much time will pass before the redemption comes, God willing.

If so, then that is good news, VERY good news. For, the third time that the sun finds itself back in its original position on an Erev Pesach, which has to be on a Wednesday, the day on which it was put in its place during the week of Creation, will be in 2009, or 5769—the eighth year of THIS Sh’mittah cycle! What an amazing coincidence...

Well, as Yeranen Ya'akov and others pointed out, Birkas HaChamah was recited on Erev Pesach in 1925. But we can excuse the memory lapse. After all, that happened 83 years ago. What we can't excuse, however, is the lack of basic math skills.

Birkas HaChamah is predicated on a 28 year cycle which stretches back to creation. Based on this fact, we're going to perform a little experiment. For those of you with Excel, this should be fairly easy.

Start with 5769, the next year that Birkas HaChamah will be recited. Now subtract 28, to get the previous year that it was recited -- 5741. Now subtract 28 again. If you continue this 207 times, you will eventually work back to year 1 - the year of Creation. So far, so good.

Now, I'd like you to look over your list of years again.

You'll note that 2448, the year of the Exodus, is not on the list. The closest year is 2437 -- eleven years earlier. There was no way that Birkas HaChamah was recited the year we left Egypt. In addition, you'll note that 3404, the year Haman was hung, is also not on the list. In 3404, they would have been thirteen years away from the next recital in 3417. In short, it is impossible that Birkas HaChamah could have been recited on Erev Pesach (or any other time of the year) in the years of Passover and Purim.

You'd think that before people start spouting nonsense, they'd perform the basic math to see if it actually works out.

The Wolf

Hat tip: DovBear


mother in israel said...

bluke said...

Forget about the math, until less then 2000 years ago we had קידוש החדש , meaning there was no fixed calendar. Therefore, we have no idea when pesach, purim etc fell out as it depended on the בית דין.

yaak said...

Wolf, thanks for the link. I'm still trying to understand it.
לא זכיתי להבין

The math of which day it fell out on is not the issue. The math of year it fell out on is the issue.

Jewish Atheist said...

I think it's pretty funny that in a post about "silly things people believe," you treat the Exodus in 2448 and Haman in 3404 as historical facts.

BrooklynWolf said...

That's a fair criticism, JA. I did mean it more along the lines of "even given their beliefs that the events occurred in..."

Nonetheless, I do believe that there was an Exodus and a Haman (sorry to disappoint, JA).

The Wolf

history said...

JA: "[...]you treat the Exodus in 2448 and Haman in 3404 as historical facts.
BW: "I do believe that there was an Exodus and a Haman"

Wolf, even if you believe that the stories of Purim and Exodus are based on real events, their chronology in rabbinic imagination is almost certainly wrong Especially Purim, given that Chazal's conception of the Persian period--where it supposedly happened--is indisputably very wrong.

Tafasta meruba lo tafasta.

Zach Kessin said...

IT also relies on a few assumptions about astronomy that are flat out wrong. specificly the position of the sun moves over time due to a number of effect but mostly Precession. The Mean tropical year (IE The time from one Vernal equinox to the next) is about 20 minutes shorter then the mean Sidereal year (IE the year as defined by the apparent motion of the sun against the stars.

When you stat asking "How long is the year" you start having to define things really carefully to get sensible numbers.


Anonymous said...

There's another problem. We're assuming a time of creation of less than 6000 years ago, and the Sun being created during the first week. Anyone see a problem with that?

I also commented on another blog that I didn't understand the point of having a bracha for something (that even if it were true)we don't notice, and even if we did, it wouldn't affect us one way or the other.

Ichabod Chrain