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What Bracha should you say on a hurricane? Oseh Ma'aseh Vereishis? You say Birchas Gomel if you travel over the sea; do you also say it if the sea travels over you?

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I don't know if your question was supposed to be funny, but I actually laughed out loud for longer than usual. Nicely phrased :) –  Shimon bM Oct 30 '12 at 14:12
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For sepharadim, Birkat HaGomel is said if you were in prison, bedridden for 3 days, or when you travel for more than 72 minutes outside the city (which seems to cover both the midbar and the yam). So just having a hurricane pass through doesn't make you chayav (or permitted, since safek berachot l'hakel) to say HaGomel.

Upon seeing/feeling uncommonly strong winds (a hurricane would qualify), on feeling an earthquake, lightning, or thunder, the Shulchan Aruch says to say Oseh Ma'aseh vereshit, and "if you want" Shekocho u'gvurato malei olam. (OC 227) The nosei kelim there say that the custom is to say Oseh Ma'aseh vereshit on lightning, and Shekocho u'gvurato malei olam on thunder. (The mishan berura's psak there is a little more complicated about thunder and lightning. Follow the link and scroll down to December 10, 2009 to see it.) The mishnah berurah (s.k. 4) says that you say Oseh Ma'aseh vereshit on winds and an earthquake.

Probably what you want to do is make the berachot on the lightning and thunder that will inevitably come along with the hurricane.

I haven't found a Sephardi posek who directly addresses earthquakes and winds. I would hope that Halacha Berurah vol 11 covers it, but I haven't visited a shul with a copy of vol 11 all week. If anyone else can look this up, please tell me what he says (I'm interested in both earthquakes and hurricanes), otherwise I'll try and find a copy over the next couple days.

Update: the Birkei Yosef (OC 227:5) says that you only say shekocho u'gvurato malei olam on wind if the wind is strong enough to shatter stones and mountains. Otherwise you say oseh ma'aseh vershit.

Update: I had a chance to look at Halacha Berurah vol 11 (OC 227), and here's the upshot. The Shulchan Aruch mentions 5 things on which one says oseh ma'aseh vershit and continues "or if he wants, he can say shekocho u'gvurato malei olam". Here are the 5 things, and what Halachah Berurah has to say about them:

  • Shooting stars or comets: Halacha Berurah says you only ever say oseh ma'aseh vershit on these. Shooting stars and comets differ in how long you're patur from saying oseh ma'aseh vershit again: for shooting stars, you're patur all night. For comets (which remain visible in the sky over a period of days or weeks) you're don't say the bracha again unless it's a different comet or you haven't seen it for 30 days.
  • Earthquakes: Halacha Berurah says you may say either beracha on this (but not both). In the footnotes, he brings sources that seem to differentiate between strong and weak earthquakes, but he doesn't say this in his halacha l'maaseh, so I'd personally be incined to say oseh ma'aseh vershit on an earthquake that just rattles the windows, and shekocho u'gvurato malei olam on something that moves the ground enough to be scary or cause damage. (But I'm not a posek.) If the ground stops moving long enough to have hesech hada'at, and then starts moving again (including, but not limited to an aftershock) then you say the beracha again.
  • Strong Wind: There are 3 types of wind. Ordinary wind that one encounters on a windy day, you do not say any beracha. For strong wind, he brings the same halacha as the Birkei Yosef: weaker strong winds (I speculate this may refer to the kinds of winds that knock down branches or trees in an ordinary thunderstorm) one says oseh ma'aseh vershit for "wind that is strong enough to shatter stones and mountains" (and Halacha Berurah specifically mentions tornadoes and hurricanes as an example of this), you say shekocho u'gvurato malei olam. If the wind stops long enough to have hesech hada'at and then starts up again, you say the beracha again.
  • Lightning: The minhag is to say oseh ma'aseh vershit. You're patur from saying another beracha for the rest of the storm.
  • Thunder: The minhag is to say shekocho u'gvurato malei olam. You're patur from saying another beracha for the rest of the storm.

The laws of when thunder and lighting come together are a bit complicated, you should read what he has to say. I've come to the conslusion from this that you should say a separate shekocho u'gvurato malei olam over the winds of a hurricaine, in addition to one for any thunder you might hear.

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Baruch Hashem, I've never actually been in a hurricane (despite having lived on the east coast). Though I have felt earthquakes, they've never been strong enough for me to be sure they were earthquakes without hearing about them on the news (despite having lived in California.) –  Chanoch Aug 28 '11 at 3:19
    
Thunder and lightning ALWAYS come together... lightning causes the thunder... –  avi Aug 30 '11 at 8:25
    
Yes, but it's not uncommon to hear thunder when you didn't see the lightning and I suppose it's possible to see lightning but not hear the thunder. –  follick Aug 30 '11 at 12:06
    
I can often see a lightning flash from an approaching storm before the storm is close enough to hear the thunder. You don't need to see the lightning bolt itself to say the beracha - even seeing the flash on the walls of the room you're in is sufficient. –  Chanoch Aug 30 '11 at 13:35
    
I've seen sidduring listing the b'rachah for an earthquake as oseh ra'ash gadol. I also thought one had to see the actual bolt of lightning in order to say the b'rachah for lightning. Does anyone have sources for either of these issues? –  Shemmy Mar 26 '12 at 1:27
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Many people say Birchas Gomel if they feel their life was in danger. (car accidents are a common case) So if you feel that the ocean is comming to you, and you are in danger and you escape, birchas hagomel is appropriate.

If you only witness the huricane from afar (you leave before it hits or you are in no danger at all) then Ma'aset Bereshis is appropriate.

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However, if you are in a tornado, you will want to say the bracha: either, "Shelo Asani Oz" or "Shelach li m'Oz hazeh" :D –  avi Aug 26 '11 at 7:39
    
Does it apply outside of Kansas though? (Chutz La-Kansas). –  geoffc Aug 26 '11 at 12:21
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It would be best if you'd quote sources for these recommendations, given that you're dealing with invocations of God's name. –  Isaac Moses Aug 26 '11 at 12:36
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Upon encountering an extremely fierce wind, recite the following blessing: Baruch atah Hashem … osei ma’asei bereishis. Alternatively, you may recite: Baruch atah Hashem … she-kocho u-gevuraso malei olam. Due to a number of halachic considerations, the first blessing is preferable.

The definition of an extremely fierce wind is a matter of debate among the halachic authorities. If you are in doubt, recite the blessing without Hashem’s name (Baruch osei ma’asei bereishis).

Source:

http://collive.com/show_news.rtx?id=22383&alias=there-are-hurricane-halachos

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