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Sun blessed from naval observatory

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — A group of Jews said the Blessing of the Sun from atop the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington.

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who directs American Friends of Lubavitch-Washington D.C., led the group of about 20 Washingtonians in the early morning prayers Wednesday at the observatory, which overlooks northwest Washington D.C.

The blessing, called the Birkat Hachama, is said every 28 years when the sun reaches the point where it was situated when the world was created, and when that moment falls on a Wednesday.

The observatory tracks astronomical data and houses atomic clocks that serve as the official source of time for the United States. Founded in 1842, it is one of the oldest government-run scientific institutions in the United States.

After packing into a ledge surrounding one of the observatory’s telescopes for the blessing, the group toured the agency’s facilities, including its library, which houses some of Galileo’s works published in his lifetime.

The grounds of the observatory also house the official residence of the vice-president.

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