Tonight the Festival of Sukkot (booths) begins. Because the Jewish calendar is lunar, Sukkot always begins on a full moon. So nothing unusual about that. What was special this year was the beautiful "blood moon" eclipse this morning (October 8, 2014). It reached totality at 5:55 AM here in Minnesota, and is currently trending all over the Net. In some places, people gathered for "blood moon parties" to watch and enjoy it. That would have been fun, but out here in rural Minnesota, it was a solitary experience for me.
Here on our little hobby farm, I was up at 4 AM cooking food for the Festival so that I could use the daylight hours to finish setting up my sukkah booth
. The local news stations were covering the eclipse, so every half hour or so there was a live update during the weather report.
Just before totality, I went outside to take a look. The sky was clear but the trees were in the way, so I had to walk out to the road to get a good view. (We have a much better view of the sky in the east, where I often take wonderful dawn photos. But this time around, the eclipse was happening as the moon was setting in the west, where we have a windbreak of trees and bushes.)
We live out of town on a dirt road with zero traffic this time of night, so I could stand there moon gazing, but it was also pretty cold -- in the mid 30s -- so I didn't stay out long. In fact, it was so chilly that there were no crickets chirping. Nor were there any other nature sounds. The wind, which had been blowing hard the last few days, was now still. No traffic sounds, either -- even the freeway, which I can sometimes faintly hear at night if a noisy truck goes by, was silent.
Then, for some reason known only to himself, one of my roosters crowed.
According to an old superstition, a rooster crowing at night is a bad omen. So is a blood moon in some cultures. So a blood moon and
a rooster crowing at the same time -- oy vey, is that a double whammy?
Hardly. I'm not superstitious. I see these things as natural phenomena, period. One of my favorite stories is the one about the Jewish archer in the Roman army who asked why they had stopped marching. His commanding officer pointed to a certain bird in a tree and said that it was an omen telling them to stop. Whereupon the archer shot the bird and said, "That bird could not even protect itself from my arrow, so how can it protect an army?" (Sad that the bird had to die, but the point was made: Looking for omens in natural events is not a Jewish practice.)
Returning to the eclipse, I did take time to make the brochah (blessing) osseh ma-asseh bereshit --
praising "The One (God) Who creates the works of Creation" -- that Jews are supposed to say upon seeing a wonder of nature. It may not be an omen, but it is a wonderful thing to look at.
My wife, who has difficulty walking and some balance problems when walking in the dark, opted to stay inside. So I downloaded this beautiful photo on space.com
taken in Nebraska by John W. Johnson of the Virtual Telescope Project. I set it up as the desktop wallpaper on the computer, where we can both enjoy it today, as we continue to prepare for the holiday tonight.
Peace and blessings!