Many people find a total solar eclipse to be an incredibly spiritual experience in nature that opens them to the vastness of the cosmos. It has a wonderful echo of the ancient legend of the Moon, because during the full solar eclipse the moon passes between earth and sun and blocks our view of the sun for a brief time, giving the illusion that the moon is the size of the sun. According to NASA.gov, “The Sun is 400 times wider than the moon, but it is also 400 times farther away, so they coincidentally appear to be the same size in our sky. This is what allows us the phenomenal beauty of the total solar eclipse.”
For spiritual reflections from a Jewish perspective, I love Dr. Tamar Frankiel’s beautiful post on Rosh Hodesh Elul (the new Hebrew month prior to Rosh Hashanah), and its relationship to the eclipse.
Traditionally, no Hebrew blessing was said upon seeing an eclipse, as in earlier generations people viewed it as a bad omen, Today many people view it with wonder and find it appropriate to say a prayer from tradition. On the occasions of the Full Solar Eclipse visible across the United States on August 21, 2017, Rabbi David Zaslow recommended the blessings below. Perhaps a blessing practice can help us to see the Eclipse in a more positive, modern light, as a fully predictable natural event that evokes awe and wonder at creation. Still, the traditional sense of the Eclipse calling us to teshuvah, to repairing and mending our ways, is always worthwhile. Rabbi Joshua Heller wrote a teshuvah (response) from a Conservative Jewish perpsective, to the question of whether one should offer a traditional Hebrew blessing on seeing the eclipse–and which one to say. (Wellsprings does not generaly offer halachic (Jewish legal) opinions but I’m including this link for those who would like to explore the subject.)
Featured image from: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/total-solar-eclipse
Thank you to Rabbi Riqi Kosovske for sharing several of these resources during the 2017 Solar Eclipse.