Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Did I say, just the other day, that I couldn’t discover any reporting on the Blessing of the Sun prior to 1953, or in The New York Times prior to 1981? I was wrong.

I just discovered this wonderful story about the blessing that took place in Tompkins Park in 1897, during the McKinley administration, in the golden age of the Jewish Lower East Side. It seems that an Irish cop and a Yiddish-speaking rav got into a dust-up, with the rabbi getting arrested, for trying to bless the sun without a permit. As The New York Times explains tries to explain, “The celebration is a rather complicated matter to explain to anybody. Rabbi Klein’s knowledge of English is slight, while [Police Officer] Foley’s faculties of comprehension of matters outside police and park regulations and local events are not acute. The attempt of a foreign citizen to explain to an American Irishman an astronomical situation and a tradition of the Talmud was a dismal failure.”

The good news: “Similar services were held in other parts of the city. One or two east side congregations gathered on the East River waterfront and were not disturbed.”