There will be a total lunar eclipse on Monday, September 28, 2015 (Partial in Israel). This will be Tishri 15, 5776 on the Anno Mundi calendar, which will be Succoth (Feast of Tabernacles). This is year nineteen of the nineteen year cycle, it is a leap year (Full-leap). This is the first year of the Shmita cycle. We will read the following Torah and Haftorah on this day: Vayikra 22:26 - 23:44, Bamidbar 29:12 - 29:16, and Zechariah 14:1-21.
Finally, there will be lunar eclipse on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. This will be II Adar 13, 5776 on the anno Mundi calendar. This will be the Fast of Esther.
The following table illustrates the connections between the two sets of eclipses:
The 13th day of the Omer
Nisan 15, 5755
Tishri 14, 5756
Nisan 28, 5756
Nisan 15, 5756
Tishri 15, 5756
II Adar 15, 5756
April 15, 1995
October 8, 1995
April 17, 1996
April 3, 1996
September 28, 1996
March 23, 1997
5775 is a Shmita Year
5776 is a Yovel (Jubilee) Year
New year for Jewish Kings
Fast of Esther
Nisan 15, 5774
Tishri 14, 5775
Adar 29, 5775
Nisan 15, 5775
Tishri 15, 5776
II Adar 13, 5776
April 15, 2014
October 8, 2014
March 20, 2015
April 4, 2015
September 28, 2015
March 23, 2016
What is a lunar eclipse, and why will the moon be red?
The earth, lit by the sun, casts a long, conical shadow in space. At any point within that cone the light of the sun is wholly obscured. Surrounding the shadow cone, also called the umbra, is an area of partial shadow called the penumbra. The approximate mean length of the umbra is 1,379,200 km (857,000 mi); at a distance of 384,600 km (239,000 mi), the mean distance of the moon from the earth, it has a diameter of about 9170 km (about 5700 mi).
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes completely into the umbra. If it moves directly through the center, it is obscured for about two hours. If it does not pass through the center, the period of totality is less and may last for only an instant if the moon travels through the very edge of the umbra.
A partial lunar eclipse occurs when only a part of the moon enters the umbra and is obscured. The extent of a partial eclipse can range from near totality, when most of the moon is obscured, to a slight or minor eclipse, when only a small portion of the earth's shadow is seen on the passing moon. Historically, the view of the earth's circular shadow advancing across the face of the moon was the first indication of the shape of the earth.
Before the moon enters the umbra in either total or partial eclipse, it is within the penumbra and the surface becomes visibly darker. The portion that enters the umbra seems almost black, but during a total eclipse, the lunar disk is not completely dark; it is faintly illuminated with a red light refracted by the earth's atmosphere, which filters out the blue rays. Occasionally a lunar eclipse occurs when the earth is covered with a heavy layer of clouds that prevent light refraction; the surface of the moon is invisible during totality.
Is there a bracha, a blessing, for an eclipse? Jews have a blessing for everything that brings us benefit. This suggests that if there is no blessing for a significant event, then there is no benefit to the Jew. So, is there a bracha for an eclipse? No, we do not have a bracha and we do not say a bracha for an eclipse. The primary reason we do not say one, is that Chazal, the Sages, did not include eclipses on the list of Wonders of Nature upon which we say Berachot. Why did Chazal not include this phenomenon of nature on the "bracha list". An eclipse is as much a WOW kind of experience as a shooting star or a rainbow. It certainly leads us to marvel at the Creator's handiwork.
The Hebrew term for eclipse gives the answer away. Likui - defect. The Talmud states, as we read earlier, that a Likui of the Sun is a bad sign for the world; a lunar Likui is a bad sign for Israel. Being associated with bad signs, the eclipse was not assigned a bracha.
HaRav Chaim David HaLevi raises the possibility that had eclipses been better understood in days of old, Chazal might have included them in the bracha oseh maasei bereshit with other natural phenomena.
It is probable, however, that Chazal were not relating to what eclipses actually are, but rather to what they appear to us to be. And this does not depend on the scientific details of the mechanics of an eclipse. During an eclipse, we witness the powerful, constant light and energy of the Sun being diminished. Or the light of a full Moon paling to a feeble glow. In both cases, we can read the chilling reminder that it is in HaShem's Hands as to whether we live in light or suffer in darkness. An eclipse might not be a bad sign of a particular event or time, but it still has the negative flavor that kept it off the bracha list.
Kiddush Lavanah, the blessing said after a new moon, can not be said during or after an eclipse as the moon is already waning at that point.
The Torah commands us to count seven times seven years and then celebrate the fiftieth year as a Yovel (Jubilee). We have written extensively about the Yovel in our study titled : Yovel. Proposed dates for the Yovel, from various sources, are detailed in our study titled: Yovel1. The student interested in the details should consult those studies.
One of the most interesting Yovel calculations comes from those who combine the opinion of the Rabbanan and Hakham Yehoshua. This novel idea suggests that we count fifty years for the Yovel up until the destruction of the Temple. After the destruction of the Temple we revert to counting forty-nine years with the first year of the next cycle being the Yovel year.
Remember that the major purpose of the Jubilee was the freeing of slaves to serve HaShem rather than a terrestrial master, on their own land. This suggests that the events of the Yovel should be related to freedom and to a return to eretz Israel.
This novel calculation shows the following Jubilees and their significance:
Yovel Year 46 - 5678
Shortly after the beginning of the 46th Yovel, the Balfour Declaration was ratified. Dated November 2, 1917 (17th Marcheshvan 5678), the Balfour Declaration is one of the biggest steps towards gaining international recognition for the Return to eretz Israel.
Yovel Year 47 - 5727
The next Yovel year, according to this calculation, was in 5727. In Iyar 5727 (June of 1967), Yerushalayim, Yehuda, Shomron, the Golan, and Gaza came under Jewish control for the first time in centuries, and the move back to these areas, of eretz Israel, began.
Yovel Year 48 - 5776
This coming Yovel, and its events, are yet to be seen. Never the less, we can learn what kinds of events to expect.
By combining Rabannan’s count and R. Yehuda’s count, we find that the last Yovel year was 5727 (1967CE), the year of the 6-Day War. This was the 48th Yovel year starting from the time of Ezra in 3416. The Yovel year which is 49 years later is 5776. Perhaps the year following would be a fitting time for the Sanhedrin to assume or rather to resume its role in counting of Shmita and Yovel and to assume its role of leadership of Am Israel. This next Yovel would start the 49th Yovel period. Rather fitting that the Sanhedrin would count the last Yovel before the 50th Yovel, a Yovel of Yovels. Remember that only the Sanhedrin can count and sanctify the Yovel year.
Sanhedrin 97a ‘Thus hath R. Johanan said: in the generation when the son of David [i.e., Mashiach] will come, scholars will be few in number, and as for the rest, their eyes will fail through sorrow and grief. Multitudes of trouble and evil decrees will be promulgated anew, each new evil coming with haste before the other has ended.’
Our Rabbis taught: in the seven year cycle at the end of which the son of David will come-in the first year, this verse will be fulfilled: And I will cause it to rain upon one city and cause it not to rain upon another city; in the second, the arrows of hunger will be sent forth; in the third, a great famine, in the course of which men, women, and children, pious men and saints will die, and the Torah will be forgotten by its students; in the fourth, partial plenty; in the fifth, great plenty, when men will eat, drink and rejoice, and the Torah will return to its disciples; in the sixth, [Heavenly] sounds; in the seventh, wars; and at the conclusion of the septennate the son of David will come (the first year of the next Shmita cycle). R. Joseph demurred: But so many septennates have passed, yet has he not come! — Abaye retorted: Were there then [Heavenly] sounds in the sixth and wars in the seventh! Moreover, have they [sc. the troubles] been in this order!
Thus we might expect Mashiach ben David in a Yovel year. Please bear in mind that we do not know for certain when the next Yovel year will be. Further, Chazal have commanded us to expect Mashiach every day. Maimonides codifies this in Principle number twelve of his thirteen principles:
Principle XII. The era of the Mashiach