ARCHIVES: HILCHOS BIRCHAS HAR’IYAH
(Halachos of Brachos on Seeing Things)
BELOW ARE THE HALACHOS FROM THE DAILY EMAILS THAT WERE SENT OUT TO THE “HALACHA FOR TODAY” DAILY EMAIL LIST
HALACHOS FOR SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 29 2009
1) Brachos on seeing things are only recited once every 30 days for each item, unless otherwise indicated. (See Shulchan Aruch Siman 224:13 and Mishna Berura S”K 17 where it seems that he rules that even a similar item would not receive a Bracha within 30 days. Others argue.)
One person may recite the Bracha and exempt others who see the same sight. However, by Birchas HaShevach and Hoda’ah (blessings of praise and thanks, as these Brachos are classified) once a person has already recited the Bracha, he may not say it again in order to exempt someone else (See Kaf HaChaim Siman 224:30 and 225:8)
Even if the object that is seen isn’t clearly seen (i.e. it is seen from afar), as long as the body of the item is discernable the Bracha may be recited. Of course, if one is going to be able to see it clearly soon, it is best to wait until it is seen clearly before reciting the Bracha. (See Sefer V’Zos HaBracha Page 154 quoting Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach Zatzal.)
Also, if the item is seen through a window pane or seen at night the Bracha is still recited. (Sha’arei Teshuva 224:1. See also Shu”t Shvus Yaakov Vol. 1 Siman 126 that L’Chatchilah the window should be opened. Seeing something through eyeglasses is acceptable L’Chatchilah. See Shu”t Halachos Ketanos Vol. 1 Siman 99 and Shvus Yaakov ibid. See also Halichos Shlomo Perek 12:23 and Shu”t MaHarsham Vol. 2 Siman 124)
2) If one is R”L blind, most of these Brachos are not recited, even if he/she knows it is there. There are a few exceptions and we shall Iy”H discuss them when we get there. (See Shu”t Igros Moshe Orach Chaim Vol. 5 Siman 37:10)
If someone sees something that requires a Bracha, and does not recite the Bracha, as long as the item is still in your field of vision, the Bracha can be recited. (Biur Halacha Siman 118:1 Dibur Hamaschil Bamakom HaZeh. See also Halichos Shlomo Perek 23:26 where he rules that as long as one is in awe from the sight he can still recite the Bracha.)
It is customary to recite these Brachos while standing. (But halachically it doesn’t invalidate the Bracha. See Bais Yosef Siman 8 and Pri Megadim in his introduction to Hilchos Brachos Siman 18Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos Vol. 3 Siman 76:1)
These Halachos apply equally to men and women
HALACHOS FOR MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30 2009
1) One who sees mountains or [large] deserts in which the greatness and the enormity of the Creator is plainly evident, recites the Bracha “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam Oseh Ma’asei Vereishis (* See Note Below)- Blessed are you Hashem, Our G-d, Master of the world, Who Creates (i.e. renews daily) the work of [the original] Creation [of the universe]“. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 228:1. According to some Poskim this Bracha is only recited on mountains that are well-known in the world as awesome mountains. See Shu”t B’tzel HaChachma Vol. 1 Siman 63 and Ohr L’Tzion Perek 46:2. However, other Poskim rule that a Bracha may be recited on any mountain that an individual sees which awes him/her regardless of its size or if it is a well known peak)
*Note: The proper Dikduk (grammar) for this Bracha dictates that the last word of this Bracha be pronounced “…Oseh Ma’asei Vereishis” (with a soft Veis), and not Bereishis (with a hard Beis)
2) This Bracha is recited only if the mountain/desert has not been seen in 30 days. (Mishna Berura 228:2)
One who lives near such a mountain or desert, and regularly sees it and thus isn’t awed by its sight does not recite this Bracha. (See Halichos Shlomo Perek 23:28)
Some have the custom to recite this Bracha without Shem U’Malchus (and would just say Baruch Ata [Melech HaOlam] Oseh Ma’asei Vereishis”) (See Kaf HaChaim Siman 227:1)
HALACHOS FOR TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1 2009
1)Upon seeing a sea, a large river or lake, or other large body of water, the Bracha of “Baruch…Oseh Ma’asei Vereishis” is recited.
The above applies only to bodies of water that were part of the original creation of the world, and not oceans that are man-made (such as the Suez canal) (See Sha’ar HaTzion 228:9)
If one isn’t sure, there is no reason to assume that it wasn’t part of the original creation, and a Bracha may be recited. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 228:1 and 2)
If one of the great oceans (Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Arctic) which encompass almost the entire world, is seen, the Bracha recited is “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam Oseh (or SheAsah, according to some opinions) HaYam HaGadol- Blessed are You Hashem our G-d, Master of the world, Creator of the Large ocean”. The reason Chazal instituted a special Bracha for these oceans was du e to their Chashivus (prominence) (Mishna Berura 228:2 and Biur Halacha there)
The Mediterranean Sea, although technically part of the Atlantic Ocean, is considered its own body of water, and the Bracha upon seeing it would be like seeing other seas, “Oseh Ma’asei Vereishis” (See Shu”t Minchas Yitzchok Vol. 1 Siman 110 and Halichos Shlomo Perek 23:29 for their view on this. See also Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos Vol. 3 Siman 76)
HALACHOS FOR WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2 2009
1) One who sees a wise Jewish man, a Talmid Chacham who is well versed in Torah, recites the Bracha “ברוך אתה ד’ אלקנו מלך העולם שחלק מחכמתו ליראיו – Blessed are you Hashem our G-d, Master of the world, who Shared some of His wisdom with those that fear Him”
(Shulchan Aruch Siman 224:6. Even though nowadays there aren’t many true Talmidei Chachamim that are versed in all aspects of Torah, there are still a few on whom this Bracha may be recited. See Chayei Adam Klal 63:8.)
2) Upon seeing a non Jewish wise person (defined as someone who is expert in one of the 7 known channels of wisdom, and not referring to someone who is “wise” in a different religion’s doctrine etc.) the following Bracha is recited:
ברוך אתה ד’ אלקנו מלך העולם שנתן מחכמתו לבשר ודם – Blessed are you Hashem our G-d, Master of the world, who gave some of His wisdom to flesh and blood”
(Mishna Berura Siman 224:9 and 10. See Shu”t Teshuva M’Ahava Vol. 2 Siman 237 that a non Jew who doesn’t keep the 7 Noah-hide laws, does not get this Bracha recited over him. See also Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos Vol. 3 Siman 76:2)
Some have the custom to recite aforementioned Brachos without Shem U’Malchus.(See Kaf HaChaim 224:19)
HALACHOS FOR THURSDAY, DECEMBER 3 2009
1)Upon seeing a Jewish King, the following Bracha is recited:
ברוך אתה ד’ אלקנו מלך העולם שחלק מכבודו ליראיו – Blessed are you Hashem our G-d, Master of the world, who Shared some of His Glory with those that fear Him” (Shulchan Aruch 224:8)
Upon seeing a Non Jewish King, with real powers, the following Bracha is recited:
ברוך אתה ד’ אלקנו מלך העולם שנתן מכבודו לבשר ודם – Blessed are you Hashem our G-d, Master of the world, who gave some of His Glory to flesh and blood” (This applies to a queen as well. See Shu”t B’tzel HaChachma Vol. 2 Siman 19 and Shu”t Shevet Haleivi Vol. 1 Siman 35 and Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos Vol. 2 Siman 139)
Upon seeing a king without real powers (as most kings today, who are only ceremonial figure heads) the Bracha should be recited without Shem U’Malchus. (See Mishna Berura 224:12. See also Shu”t Chasam Sofer Siman 159 and Shu”t Be’er Moshe Vol. 2 Siman 9.)
According to many Poskim, this Bracha is recited on a president or a prime minister as well. The prevalent Minhag is to recite it without Shem U’Malchus (See Shu”t Minchas Elazar Vol. 5 Siman 7, Shu”t Shevet Haleivi ibid., Shu”t Yechaveh Da’as Vol. 2 Siman 28 where Rav Ovadia Yoseph Shlita differentiates if the state leader is dressed in regular garb or with “royal’ garb. See also Shu”t Yabia Omer Vol. 8 Siman 25)
2) It is a Mitzvah to go and see Kings (Jewish as well as non Jewish) as doing so will enable us to distinguish between the glory that we know today and the genuine glory which we will all hopefully merit to see in the era of Mashiach, may it arrive speedily and in our day! (Shulchan Aruch Siman 224:9. See Shu”t Shevet Haleivi ibid, and Shu”t MaHaril Diskin Kuntres Achron S”K 25)
However, if the king displays Idol worshipping religious symbols, or if the crowd that assembles to greet him does so in a non Tznius way, a Jew may not be in attendance. (See Sefer Chasidim Siman 435 and Orchos Rabbeinu from the Steipler Zatzal, page 93)
HALACHOS FOR EREV SHABBOS KODESH, DECEMBER 4 2009
(SPECIAL DOUBLE PORTION L’KAVOD SHABBOS KODESH)
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh
1) One who sees 600,000 Jews in one gathering recites the Bracha
“ברוך אתה ד’ אלקנו מלך העולם חכם הרזים – Blessed are You Hashem, Our G-d, Master of the world, Knower of Secrets” (Shulchan Aruch Siman 224:5)
The meaning of this Bracha is as follows: No two people are the same, their faces are different, their thoughts are different, yet Hashem is all knowing and knows the deepest thoughts of each and every one of us! Thus, when we see 600,000 Jews, we basically see the entire jewish nation (as the number used to refer to the Jewish nation as a whole is always 600,000, as that was the amount of Jews [men, between the ages of 20 and 60] who left Egypt and received the Torah) and thus an opportune time to praise Hashem for being all knowing and all seeing. (See Mishna Berura Siman 224:8)
2) Some Poskim maintain that only in Eretz Yisroel is this Bracha recited, and upon seeing 600,000 Jews anywhere besides for in Eretz Yisroel, the Bracha is recited without Shem U’malchus. (See Kaf HaChaim 224:15)
HALACHOS FOR SHABBOS KODESH
1) Upon seeing 2 or more Jewish Graves, once every 30 days, the following Bracha is recited:
ברוך אתה ד’ אלקנו מלך העולם אשר יצר אתכם בדין וזן וכלכל אתכם בדין והחיה אתכם בדין ויודע מספר כולכם בדין ועתיד להחזיר ולהחיותכם בדין ברוך אתה ד’ מחיה המתים
Blessed are you Hashem, our G-d, Master of the World, who created you with Justice, sustained you with Justice, gave you life with Justice, He has an accurate account of each and every one of you[r actions] with Justice, He will eventually return you and make you live again with Justice, Blessed are You Hashem, who makes the dead live again.(Shulchan Aruch Siman 224:12 and Mishna Berura S”K 16)
2 ) L’Chatchilah, this Bracha should be recited when within four Amos of the graves, however B’dieved if it was said from afar it’s acceptable and indeed Kohanim, who may not go within 4 Amos of a grave, say it from afar. (See Aruch HaShulchan 224:8 and Shu”t Igros Moshe Orach Chaim Vol. 5 Siman 37:10. See also Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos Vol. 3 Siman 80 and Vol. 4 Siman 56 for more details about this)
HALACHOS FOR SUNDAY, DECEMBER 6 2009
Upon seeing a person whose outward appearance is extremely strange, unusual or atypical [and it is this way from birth] the following Bracha is recited: Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam Meshaneh HaBriyos- Blessed are You Hashem, our G-d, Master of the world, who creates the creatures Different” (Shulchan Aruch Siman 225:8 and 9)
This Bracha is never recited again upon seeing the same or different person with similar abnormal features.(Psak of the Mishna Berura Siman 225:29. See Aruch HaShulchan Siman 225:13 for a different opinion on this and see Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 12 Siman 22)
A few of the many examples of this would include people with odd skin complexions (such as albinos or red skinned), midgets and dwarfs, extreme hunchbacks, people born without all their limbs, etc.
Of course, if any of these have become commonplace sights in society, no longer may this Bracha be recited. (See Mishna Berura Siman 225:24 and Kaf HaChaim 225:50)
2) If the strange appearance is not from birth and only developed later on in life (either naturally or from an occurrence), if the person is Jewish and you feel bad for them and are pained at his having to look that way, the proper Bracha to recite is “Baruch Dayan HaEmes” (as we assume this was brought about by a heavenly chastisement. See Mishna Berura Siman 225:26)
If , however, you aren’t pained at the sight of the abnormality that developed after birth, or upon seeing a non Jew with any of the above abnormalities [that developed after birth], no Bracha is recited. (Mishna Berura 225:28)
HALACHOS FOR MONDAY, DECEMBER 7 2009
1) One who sees an elephant or a monkey for the first time, also recites the Bracha of Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam Meshaneh HaBriyos. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 225:8)
The reason these 2 animals are singled out for this Bracha, when apparently all animals in the animal kingdom have their own unique and often strange appearance, is as follows:
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 109a) tells us that one of the punishments that Hashem meted out to the Dor haflaga ,The people who tried to build the tower to heaven and wage war on Hashem,was to turn them into monkeys. (Unlike the evolutionists who absurdly believe that mankind evolved from monkeys, Chazal tell us that in fact the opposite is true and monkeys actually evolved from man!)
Thus, according to this Gemara, monkeys were not created during the 6 days of creation, and were only “changed” from humans as a punishment. Thus the Bracha of “Meshane HaBriyos- Changes the creatures” is perfectly understandable! (See Maleches Shlomo to Mishna in K’layim Perek 8:6 Dibur Hamaschil Hapil V’HaKof where he alludes to the above and also adds that elephants understand the language of man, and thus are “different” and require this Bracha. See his commentary at length for more on this. See also Meiri to Brachos 58 Dibur Hamaschil HaRoeh.)
2) Nowadays, with the advent of pictures and the abundance of zoos, there is hardly anyone that hasn’t seen a monkey or an elephant from when they were a small child, so on a practical level this Bracha does not ever get said. (Based on Mishna Berura 225:29)
HALACHOS FOR TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8 2009
1) Upon seeing beautiful trees, fields, an exceptionally beautiful person [, male or female,] or a beautiful animal the following Bracha is recited: Baruch Shekacha Lo B’Olamo- Blessed is the One Who has such [creations] in His world” (Shulchan Aruch Siman 225:10)
According to some Poskim this Bracha is no longer recited today’s days, therefore it is best to recite this Bracha without Shem U’Malchus. (See Chayei Adam Klal 63:1, Mishna Berura 225:32 and Sha’ar HaTzion 225:33 where he writes the reason as it being very hard nowadays to determine which creatures are extraordinarily more beautiful than others.)
This Bracha is never recited again, unless a more beautiful variety than the original sighting is seen. (Shulchan Aruch ibid.)
2) If the beautiful person seen is a non Jew (we are possibly referring here only to an idol worshipper, according to many Poskim), he/she may be looked at quickly and the Bracha recited, but one may not gaze and marvel at the beauty of an idol worshipper as doing so is a transgression of the biblical prohibition of “Lo Tichanem” (Devarim 7:2).
Incidentally, it is prohibited to verbally say about an idol worshipper that they are good looking or another compliment, due to the above transgression. (See Mishna Berura 225:33 quoting the Mogen Avraham based on the Talmud Avoda Zara 20a. See Sefer HaChinuch Mitzvah 426 and 427 and Minchas Chinuch there for a full treatment of the dos and don’ts in dealing with idol worshippers. There are exceptions to these rules, if for reasons of peace (Darchei Shalom) or for reasons benefitting the Jew. Also, it is debatable if these Halachos apply to all non Jews or just to idol worshippers, which aren’t common today. The Bais Yosef Choshen Mishpat end of Siman 249 clearly states that these Halachos apply to all Non Jews, including Arabs, and not just to idol worshippers. The Rambam and other Rishonim seem to hold that this applies only to idol worshippers.
See Radak to Melachim I Perek 11:2. See also Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 15 Siman 47. There is a lot more to write about this topic, but this isn’t the proper time or place for it. For Halacha L’ma’aseh a Rav should be consulted.)
If the beautiful person is a female, a male may only recite the Bracha if he happened to see her, but he may not purposely look at her (or any other female) and surely it is prohibited to gaze or otherwise look at her for her beauty beyond the first chance glance. (See Biur Halacha Siman 225 Dibur Hamaschil Afilu. See also Mishna Berura Siman 75:7 regarding the strict prohibition of men looking at women)
HALACHOS FOR WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9 2009
1)Upon seeing/feeling uncommonly strong winds, on feeling an earthquake, upon seeing a shooting star or a Meteoroid the Bracha of “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam Oseh Ma’asei Vereishis” is recited. (See Mishna Berura Siman 227:4)
2) Upon seeing lightning [that is part of a rainstorm, as opposed to lightning that happens in a heat storm] the following Bracha is recited: “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam Oseh Ma’asei Vereishis”. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 227 and Mishna Berura S”K 3. See Shu”t Shevet Haleivi Vol. 10 Siman 48 for more about lightning during heat storms.)
The actual lightning bolt needn’t be seen, even if the light produced by the bolt is seen it suffices to necessitate the recital of the Bracha.
Likewise, if one is in a dark room and sees the room get illuminated due to the lightning, even if no actual part of the bolt was seen, a Bracha can be recited. However, if one didn’t see anything and was just informed that there is lightning, no Bracha is recited. (See Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 12 Siman 21, Shu”t Minchas Shlomo Vol. 2 Siman 4:34 and Shu”t Az Nidberu Vol. 10 Siman 23)
HALACHOS FOR THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10 2009
1) Upon hearing thunder, after having already recited the Bracha on the lightning that preceded it, the following Bracha is recited: “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam SheKocho U’Gevuraso Malei Olam- Blessed are you Hashem, Our G-d, Master of the world, Whose Power and Strength Fills the universe”. (See Mishna Berura Siman 227:5-7)
If the two Brachos were confused and Oseh Ma’asei Vereishis(* See Note Below) was recited on thunder and/or SheKocho U’Gevuraso Malei Olam was recited on lightning, it is acceptable and doesn’t need to be repeated. ( See Sha’ar HaTzion 227:7)
2) If one simultaneously (or successively) saw lightning and heard thunder. Only the Bracha of Oseh Ma’asei Vereishis should be recited on both. (Mishna Berura 227:5)
If one sees lightning or hears thunder and does not recite the Bracha, the Bracha can still be recited on the next one that is seen or heard. (See Shu”t Be’er Moshe Vol. 2 Siman 10 and Shu”t Yechaveh Da’as Vol. 2 Siman 27)
HALACHOS FOR EREV SHABBOS KODESH, DECEMBER 11 2009
Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh
1) Once the Bracha is recited on Thunder and lightning, the Bracha is not recited again that day, during this storm.
If the clouds dissipated totally and the storm was over, and later on that day a new storm arrived, the Brachos can once again be recited.
2) If the [same] storm did not let up and continued overnight into the next day, a new Bracha may be recited on thunder and lightning seen/heard once more on the following day. (Mishna Berura 227:8. See also Kaf HaChaim 227:13 and Halichos Shlomo Perek 23:27 that for this Halacha the next morning is considered a new day, and we don’t say that the “day” starts at night like by most other things in Halacha. However, other Poskim, including Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv Shlita argue and maintain that the new day for this also starts at sunset. See Sefer Saiser Ram Siman Perek 6:6 where he quotes these opinions at length. See also Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 18 Siman 78 and Shu”t Az Nidberu Vol. 5 Siman 32)
HALACHOS FOR SHABBOS KODESH
1) The Brachos on thunder and lightning may only be recited immediately after hearing/seeing them (Toch K’Dei Dibur, a time span of approximately 3-4 seconds)
If more time elapsed, the Bracha can no longer be recited, and one must wait until the next bolt arrives. (Mishna Berura 227:12)
2) Thus, if one is in an unclean place, where a Bracha may not be recited, when he/she sees or hears thunder/lightning, if they can quickly move out of that place and their hands are clean, then he/she must quickly leave that place and recite the Bracha.
If they cannot get out in time, or if the hands aren’t clean, no Bracha may be recited on that particular thunder/lightning anymore, and they need to wait for the next bolt.
If one exited the restroom, washed his hands and heard thunder, the Bracha on it should be recited before the Bracha of Asher Yatzar. (See Mishna Berura ibid. and Kaf HaChaim 227:17)
HALACHOS FOR SUNDAY, DECEMBER 13 2009
1) One who sees fruit trees that are beginning to bloom, in the [beginning of the] month of Nissan, or at any other time when it’s the season for the trees to bloom, recites the following Bracha: Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam Shelo Chisar B’Olamo Klum U’Vara Vo Beriyos Tovos V’Ilanos Tovos (or “Tovim”; See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Siman 60:1) Lehanos Bahem Bnei Adam- Blessed are You Hashem, Our G-d, Master of the Universe, who ensured that nothing is lacking in His world and Created in it good creations and good trees in order to pleasure mankind with them. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 226:1 and Mishna Berura S”K 1. See Aishel Avraham (Butshatsh) that only in Nissan may the Bracha be recited with Shem U’Malchus. However, the prevalent Minhag is to say the regular Bracha as long as the tree is still in the blooming stage, even if this is past Nissan. See Chayei Adam Klal 63:2 and Aruch HaShulchan 226:1 regarding climates where the blooming season is not in Nissan (e.g. Australia or South Africa). See also Shu”t Har Tzvi Orach Chaim Vol. 1 Siman 118 and Shu”t L’Horos Nosson Vol. 5 Siman 7)
2) Preferably this Bracha should be said on two or more trees [in a field]and not on a solitary tree. However, if it was recited on a solitary tree it is acceptable. (See Kaf HaChaim Siman 226:2 and Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos Vol. 1 Siman 191. The prevalent Minhag is indeed to say it on a single tree)
Women are obligated in this Bracha just as men are. ( See Shu”t Har Tzvi Orach Chaim Vol. 1 Siman 118 and Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 12 Siman 25 for the reasoning behind this and why it isn’t considered a Mitzvah She’Hazman Grama, as it is seemingly a time-bound Mitzvah)
HALACHOS FOR MONDAY, DECEMBER 14 2009
1) Some people have the custom after reciting the Bracha on seeing blossoming trees to add additional Mizmorim of Tehillim and other texts praising Hashem for the trees.
Some people try to say this Bracha with other people, as a group.
Some even have the custom to give Tzedaka before reciting this Bracha.
Each person should do as their customs dictate. (See Kaf HaChaim 226:7 and 8. See also Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak Vol. 10 Siman 16)
2) This Bracha may only be recited once a year, and according to some Poskim only during the daytime (Mishna Berura 226:3. See also Shu”t Har Tzvi ibid. and Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 12 Siman 20:6)
The Bracha on seeing a blossoming tree should not be recited on Shabbos, as we are worried that one will touch the tree and/or pluck a branch from it, as well as for Kabalistic reasons (which we will discuss tomorrow B’Ezras Hashem).
However, if it is seen on Shabbos and it will be the last opportunity to recite the Bracha, it may indeed be recited according to many Poskim (See Kaf HaChaim 226:4 and Shu”t B’Tzel HaChachma Vol. 6 Siman 37. See also Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchaso Perek 26 footnote 72 and Shu”t Yechaveh Da’as Vol. 1 Siman 2)
HALACHOS FOR TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15 2009
1)The Bracha on seeing blossoming trees is only recited on fruit trees, and only when the buds/flowers are seen in the early stages of blooming, and not on trees where only leaves are seen and not on trees where the fruit has already completely developed. (Mishna Berura Siman 226:2 and 4. See also Shu”t Shevet Haleivi Vol. 6 Siman 53:4)
If one saw such a tree and did not recite the Bracha, it may be recited at the next opportunity. (See Mishna Berura Siman 226:5 and Sha’ar HaTzion S”K 3. Some Poskim, including the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Siman 60:1 and Kaf HaChaim Siman 226:9 and 10, argue and rule that if it wasn’t recited upon seeing it the first time, it is no longer recited at all. See also Shu”t Shevet Haleivi Vol. 6 Siman 53:4)
2) According to the Sifrei Kabala, reciting this Bracha, is a big Tikkun (spiritual repair) for the Neshamos that are hovering between the two worlds as Gilgulim (reincarnated souls) in the barks of trees, and it’s important when saying this Bracha to have in mind to bring heavenly mercy onto these hovering souls and allow them to be freed from their pain and allow them to return to their place in Olam Haba (See Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos Vol. 1 end of Siman 191 and Kaf HaChaim 226:8. The Kaf HaChaim 226:4 goes so far as to give another reason for this Bracha not being said on Shabbos, as doing so will be “Borer”, separating the “sparks of Kedusha” of the Neshamos from the trees!)
HALACHOS FOR WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16 2009
1) After the Mabul (the great flood), Hashem promised to never bring such destruction again upon the world, and instead, whenever the world was deserving of such destruction, a rainbow appears in the sky as a sign. (Parshas Noach Perek 9:11-17)
Upon seeing a rainbow in the sky, the following Bracha is recited: Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam Zocher HaBris, Ne’eman (or V’Ne’eman according to the Rambam and the Tur) B’Vriso V’Kayam B’ma’amaro- Blessed are You Hashem, Our G-d, Master of the world, who remembers the covenant; is trustworthy in His covenant, and fulfills His word [not to destroy the world]. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 229:1 and Mishna Berura S”K 4)
2) There is a debate amongst the Poskim if an entire rainbow (i.e. the full half circle) must be seen in order to be able to recite the Bracha or even seeing part of it suffices, thus if only a small part of a rainbow is seen it is best to recite the Bracha without Shem U’Malchus. (See Biur Halacha Siman 229 Dibur Hamaschil HaRoeh. See also Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos Vol. 3 Siman 76)
HALACHOS FOR THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17 2009
1) It is forbidden to gaze at a rainbow for an extended period of time as it is a Siman Klala, a sign of Hashem’s wrath that He really wants to destroy the world.
Rather if it is seen the Bracha should be recited, and it should not be looked at again. (Based on Talmud Chagiga 16a that one who gazes at a rainbow will go blind, quoted in Mishna Berura 229:5 and Be’er Heitev S”K 2 quoting the Shl”a Hakadosh. See also MaHarsha in Chidushei Agados to the aforementioned Gemara in Chagiga where he writes that gazing at a rainbow is tantamount to gazing at the Holy Shechina’s presence and thus just as one who gazes at the Shechina must die, so too one who gazes at any manifestation of the Shechina is punished with blindness which is likened to death)
Furthermore, if one sees a rainbow, he/she should not say to another person “Look, there is a rainbow in the sky!” (Mishna Berura 229:1 quoting the Chayei Adam that doing so violates the principle of “Motzi Dibah Hu Kesil- One who utters bad tidings is a fool” (Mishlei 10:18), a scriptural warning against talking badly about the world)
Some Poskim allow telling your friend in a roundabout way “It is now possible to recite the Bracha on a rainbow”. (Sefer Sha’arei Bracha page 479)
2) This Bracha is recited for every [new] rainbow that is seen, even if it is less than 30 days between sightings. (Mishna Berura 229:2)
Only a rainbow in the clouds in the sky is a “sign” and would require a Bracha, and not a rainbow that is formed from the sun’s shining on the water and causing a prism effect etc. (such as is visible on Niagara Falls or oftentimes after a rainstorm such “rainbows” are visible on the ground)
Similarly, there is no prohibition to gaze at such a “rainbow” as it isn’t considered a rainbow rather something that looks “rainbow like” (See Drashos HaRan, Drush 1 Dibur Hamaschil V’Zeh Hu Inyan HaKeshes where the great Rishon Rabbeinu Nissim discusses at length the nature of the rainbow and discusses some of the questions as to its origin etc. See also Shu"t Rivevos Ephraim Vol. 6 Siman 103 and Sefer Chavos Yair Perek 8 S"K 22. Some Poskim say to recite the bracha without Shem U'Malchus on such a non-rainbow. Each person should consult his Rav for a psak halacha L'Ma'seh))
SPECIAL DOUBLE (and larger) PORTION L’KAVOD SHABBOS CHANUKAH
HALACHOS FOR EREV SHABBOS KODESH
1) The sun’s cycle is a 28 year cycle. Once every 28 years , always on a Tuesday evening, the sun returns to the exact spot where it was on the day that Hashem created it on “the fourth day of creation”. (The next time this will happen is in the year 5,797-2037)
Since we cannot see the sun at night, we postpone the blessing until the following morning, thus “Birchas HaChama” always takes place on a Wednesday morning.
To commemorate this phenomenon, the Bracha of “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam Oseh Ma’asei Vereishis” is recited when the sun is seen at that time, along with some other special prayers. (Talmud Brachos 59b, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Siman 229:2)
The earliest time for this Mitzvah to be performed is after sunrise (Netz Hachama) and only after the entire “ball” of the sun is visible.
The latest time for reciting this Bracha is a subject of debate in the Poskim.
Some Poskim maintain that you only have until the end of 3 Halachic hours into the day (same as Sof Zman Krias Shma. See Shu”t Chasam Sofer Orach Chaim Siman 56 and Mogen Avraham 229:5)
Other Poskim maintain that one can perform this Mitzvah throughout the entirety of the day. (Elya Rabbah 229:2 and others. However, even according to those opinions, L’Chatchilah it should be recited before Chatzos. According to the Mishna Berura 229:8, it may be recited with Hashem’s name until Chatzos, and only without Hashem’s name after Chatzos)
According to all opinions, it is best to say the Bracha as early as possible and not push it off for no reason until close to the deadline.
2) It is best to perform this Mitzvah with a large group, B’Rov Am Hadras Melech, therefore if you will only have a group after Shacharis, according to many Poskim it is best to do it then, rather than doing it alone at Netz HaChama. (Shu”t Chasam Sofer ibid. and Elya Raba ibid.)
Other Poskim contend that it is better to recite the Bracha immediately upon seeing the sun and not to wait to do it together with a Tzibbur. (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Siman 60:6 and 7, Kaf HaChaim Siman 229:13 and 14 and others)
The prevalent minhag in many Jewish communities is to daven Shacharis K’Vasikin and then recite the Birchas HaChama together as a Tzibbur.
HALACHOS FOR SHABBOS KODESH
1)Some Poskim maintain that women may say this Bracha like any other Mitvas Asei SheHazman Grama (such as Lulav, Sukkah etc. and similar to how they say the Bracha over thunder and lightning) where even though they are not obligated, they may do it if they like.(Rav Moshe Feinstein Zatzal ruled this way)
Other Poskim maintain that they should not recite the Bracha , rather hear it from a male and answer Amen. Alternately, many Poskim maintain that women can say it without Shem U’Malchus.
Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach Zatzal maintained that the custom is for women not to say this blessing. (And ruled as such Halacha L’ma’aseh in 1981. See Halichos Shlomo page 33)
One thing is clear though from the Poskim: even if a woman does want to participate in this Mitzvah and it is her custom to do so, she must not do it at the expense of Hilchos Tznius, and thus should be careful to stand at some distance from the assembled men.
(This is a very exhaustive topic and beyond the scope of this forum. If anyone is interested in exploring this fascinating topic further, here are some starting references: KafHaChaim 229:8, Shu”t Chasam Sofer Orach Chaim Siman 56, Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak Vol. 8 Siman 15 and 34, Mogen Avraham beginning of Siman 426, MaHaram Shik Orach Chaim Siman 90m, Chasam Sofer to Shabbos 21a, Shu”t Kesav Sofer Orach Chaim Siman 34, Shu”t MaHaril Diskin Kunteres Achron Siman 26, Ben Ish Chai Shana Rishona Parshas Eikev Siman 19)
2 )In the event that it is an overcast day and the sun cannot be seen, it is best to wait until a little before midday(Chatzos) and then, if the sun is still not visible, say the Bracha without Hashem’s name (Mishna Berura 229:8)
It is best to recite the Birchas HaChama while standing outdoors. (Siddur Ya’avetz). If one is ill or otherwise unable to go outside, the Bracha may be recited indoors, after having seen the sun through an open window.