Tens of thousands of men, women and children woke up at the crack of dawn Wednesday to take part on the Blessing of the Sun prayer.
The unique event occurs only once every 28 year when, according to Jewish tradition, the sun reaches the exact spot it graced in the heavens at the moment it was created.
Hundreds of special prayer services were held throughout the Jewish world Wednesday. A mass prayer service was held in the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem, with senior figures from the religious community in attendance. The service was led by Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv.
Let there be light. Blessing of the Sun (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Similar gatherings were also spotted at the capital's International Conference Center and Temple Mount. Tel Aviv marked the Blessing of the Sun with mass services held at Hayarkon Park, Rabin Square and atop the metropolitan's signature Azrieli towers. A special service was also held in the ancient desert fortress of Masada in southern Israel.
Do the math
"We thank God for the Sun, which lights our days and ripens our crops every day," explained Rabbi Mordechai Gnut. "But nevertheless, once every 28 years there is something out of the ordinary with the sunrise."
According to Judaism, the sun's year is 365 days and six hours long and it is divided by the four seasons. The year's onset is marked on the month of Nissan – the seventh month of the Jewish calendar – which marks the beginning of spring and coincides with the months of April or May on the Gregorian calendar.
According to the calculations of the Bible, says Rabbi Gnut, the sun is reborn on the Wednesday marking the new cycle, at 6 am, but since the Jewish year is never exactly 365 days long, the blessing is not said every seven years but every 28 years. The last time the blessing was recited was in 1981.
The Orthodox Jewish Chabad Movement scheduled live web-casts from seven service locations as the sun moved across the time zones, starting at 8 am local time in New Zealand, followed by events in Australia, Jerusalem, London, New York, Colorado and Honolulu.
The Associated Press contributed to this report