Yaakov Trump

Sanctifying the Heavens

Photo credit: Yehuda Rothchild
Total Solar Eclipse in Dallas Texas, photo credit: Yehuda Rothchild

An estimated 1 million people travelled to Dallas Texas this April 8th 2024. These ‘eclipse-chasers’ were excited to see the unusual celestial event – only to be visible again over central American skies in 2044. People came from all over to watch, marvel and capture this fantastic moment. But of all those visitors, there was a special group on a more lofty mission. We were proud to travel to Dallas not just to watch and gaze, but to learn, elevate and sanctify this unique event.

We joined a special Yom Iyun, learning conference, on the topic of the eclipse, astronomy and Judaism. It was hosted by the Dallas Area Torah Association (DATA), the local Community Kollel. The conference began on Sunday April 7th in the afternoon, leading to Monday morning and culminating with the eclipse viewing on Monday afternoon. The inspiration behind the idea was Rabbi Dr. Ari Bergmann who worked with the Community Kollel as they arranged the many practical details.

The presenters came from very different backgrounds and interests. We got to hear from the Rosh Kollel. Rabbi Fried, about the Jewish sensibilities towards wonders in creation. We learned from Rabbi Dovid Heber in detail about the three different celestial events which make up the day, month and year cycle in Judaism. We then learned from Dr. Jeremy Brown four ways to understand the theological implications of a predictable phenomenon. Rabbi Dr. Bergmann came next delving into the kabbalistic and theological depths of the relationship between God and Israel and its metaphor in the sun and moon. Dr. Henry Abramson presented on the long history of Jewish fascination with astronomy over the millennia. Rabbi Aharon Notis then took the time to elucidate the basics of how the eclipse works and how human beings figured this all out centuries ago. At dinner, Rabbi Fox from the Kollel introduced Rabbi Bergmann again and I had the opportunity of speaking about the metaphor of the sun in the Jewish thinking regarding the end of days. After dinner there was an open Q&A panel from some of the presenters.

On Monday morning, we learned from Rabbi Elchonon Adler about the background to the process of kiddush hachodesh. This was followed by Dr. Sacha Stern from London who presented some of his research from the Cairo geniza evidencing Jewish courts involvement in adapting the fixed calendar upon need well into the 10th century. The session concluded with Rabbi Moshe Baruch Kaufman developing a thesis on the significance of the divergence and convergence of the solar and lunar cycles. We got to see the original print of the book ‘Nechmad Venaim’ from Rabbi David Gans, a student of the Maharal and student of Tycho Brahe. We got to see his original diagrams explaining the solar and lunar eclipse phenomenon.

Photo credit: Yaakov Trump

The entire conference was streamed and recorded on

After these many different perspectives and ideas, the group travelled out to Lake Lewisville, a little North of Dallas because of the unpredictable cloud cover in Dallas. While experiencing the eclipse, the group took the time to say Tehillim for our brothers and sisters in Israel. In addition, being as it was erev Rosh Chodesh, the group prayed the special prayer of Yom Kippur Katan, which is traditionally done on such a day.

The experience of the totality of the eclipse itself was eerie and difficult to describe. In the minutes leading up to it, the temperature dropped, the wildlife became restless and it felt oppressively dimmer. Just as the moon covered the sun, the clouds covered both of them. But a short minute later the majestic corona and moon appeared to the excitement of everyone watching. It took just a few minutes, but they were indescribably beautiful and strange.

People have asked me, why did you go to Dallas? Were you one of those crazy eclipse-chasers? The truth is I felt deeply privileged. I felt privileged to travel with friends, colleagues and experts to help understand and unpack what could have just been another form of entertainment and source for selfies. We imbued this experience with deep meaning. We learned about the complexity of God’s creation. We used this as a moment to pray and appreciate. As we danced together after the totality singing the prayer liturgy about God’s marvelous creations, I felt a deep sense of gratitude. I felt grateful to have been part of a Kiddush Shem Shamayim – sanctifying the name of heaven.

About the Author
Rabbi Ya’akov Trump serves as the Rabbi of the vibrant community of the Young Israel of Lawrence Cedarhurst. His mission is to share his passion for the Torah and its relevance in contemporary times. His innovations have led to numerous engaging programs in the community and beyond. He is a featured speaker on, has his own Nach Yomi website, has a podcast and recently released his own App.
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