(Also, happy birthday, Dad!)
I'm still not entirely clear why we say Birkat Hachama only once every 28 years. It has something to do with the vagaries of the lunar calendar and the sun returning to the same position it was at Creation. The spring equinox also figures in there somehow, but I'll be damned if I know how.
Led by Rabbi Hershey Novack, the students and various bystanders recited psalms in English and in Hebrew. The blessing came right in the middle. Technically, it only praises God for the glory of creation, but since we were facing the sun, I think our message was pretty clear.
"It's not a pagan prayer," Novack took pains to explain to me later. "That would be violating the second commandment."
The solemnity of the service was marred somewhat by a work crew at the bottom of the Brookings steps who were preparing for the spring carnival. Novack's infant son began to cry.
Afterwards, the students ate kumquats -- like miniature suns! -- and Chips Ahoy and Nilla Wafers rescued from the Chabad kitchen. God seemed pleased. The sun continued to shine.
P.S. Because of its rarity, Birkat Hachama was never covered during Holidays class at my Hebrew School. Or maybe there just wasn't time, what with our teacher's preoccupation with drawing naked women on the board and passing around pictures of himself and his girlfriend in skimpy bathing suits on the beach at Eilat. I'm sure this had some pedagogical value but again, I'll be damned if I know what it is.