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Upon seeing a rainbow, we say,

זוכר הברית, ונאמן בבריתו, וקים במאמרו

...who remembers the covenant, is faithful in his covenant, and fulfills his word.

I recently witnessed a natural event that looked very much like a rainbow, but it was not a rainbow scientifically speaking. Although it was brightly colored, it was curved downward like a smile, it was high in the sky when the sun was not far from the horizon, and there were no rainclouds in sight (EDIT:) although it appeared in cirrus clouds.

Upon investigation it seems to have been a circumzenithal arc, caused by ice crystals in cirrus clouds. There are apparently lots of different phenomena of this type. This phenomenon can occur in Israel.

Since halachah was established at a time when atmospheric phenomena were not well understood by science, it made me wonder if it is halachically in the same category as a rainbow, so that the blessing would be זוכר הברית as above. If not, should a blessing be recited, and which one?

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Duck and cover? – Seth J Jun 3 '13 at 19:52
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Genesis 9 (14 - 16) describes the first “rainbow” with the words,

14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow is seen in the cloud, 15 that I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.'

The repetition of the bow being in the cloud (vv 14, 16) and the mention of the waters (v15) seems to indicate that the brocho which recalls the everlasting covenant is related only to clouds which bring rain.

IMHO the brocho "oseh maaseh braishis" might be appropriate but CYLOR.

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The circumzenithal arc appeared in a cirrus cloud, although not a raincloud. Does a person need to properly identify the cloud type before choosing the bracha? – Cislunar Jun 3 '13 at 20:27
@Aaron I think Avrohom Yitzchok is saying it depends on whether there was rain associated with the rainbow. If I go to the car wash and I look "at the sky" through my windshield and see a "rainbow", I don't say a Berachah. – Seth J Jun 3 '13 at 20:37
@SethJ Thank you. Yes I did mean that and will amend the answer. – Avrohom Yitzchok Jun 3 '13 at 21:03

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