Based off the gemara on Berachos 58b, the Shulchan Aruch in Orach Chaim 225:8-9 writes:

for seeing a person with a dark, very red, or albino white complexion- or a person who is bent over because of obesity, a midget, a person with a lot of warts, a person with hair that clings to each other...

... for all these one should recite the blessing of "Meshaneh Habriyos" ("who makes creatures different").


As this beracha would seem to be offensive and could potentially cause pain to another human being, how can one understand such a beracha?

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    You should probably mention, that this is only applicable to birth defects (Which seemingly makes things very much worse as you noticed).
    – Al Berko
    Jul 9, 2019 at 5:12
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    Isn't it wonderful that we celebrate the diversity of G-d's creations?
    – Menachem
    Jul 9, 2019 at 6:31
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    Actually, משנה means "to change". So, this implies that something was one way, and God "changed" it. Placing things in context of the Shulchan Aruch, one may argue that blacks were considered "unusual". Rabbi Karo lived in Spain, and while Spaniards are dark, they're not exactly black. So, it's possible that blacks were unknown then. (FWIW, my aunt, who lived in Holland & Belgium pre-Holocaust said that she never knew what a black person was until she came to New York City. At first, she didn't quite know what to think of it.)
    – DanF
    Jul 9, 2019 at 14:55
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    @Menachem Blessing G-d for making others suffer?
    – Al Berko
    Jul 9, 2019 at 21:44
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    I posted a related question: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/105454/…. Maybe we could find some hints there.
    – Al Berko
    Jul 9, 2019 at 22:06

1 Answer 1


One point to consider is that Halacha disapproves of making this Beracha when it stands to embarrass the person:

The Hebrew Wikipedia article on "ברכה משנה הבריות" brings the following in the name of R' Shalom Schwadron (@רבות מחשבות's loose translation):

הלבנת פנים

אין לברך ברכה זו כאשר יש חשש לפגיעה בזולת. הרב שלום מרדכי שבדרון הביא מעשה ששמע מפי עד ראייה ומגנה אותו.

ומעשה בחסיד שוטה שהחשיב עצמו למדקדק בהלכה וראה בין אנשים רבים ננס אחד, נדחק ורץ אליו חטפו בידיו ובירך בקול רם ובשמחה גדולה ברוך אתה ה' אלקינו מלך העולם משנה הבריות (עובדא אמיתית שסיפר עד ראיה)‏

— הקדמת דעת תורה מאמר "שכל טוב לכל עושיהם עמוד י"ד.‏

Embarrassing someone:

One should not make this blessing when there is a concern for harming another. Rabbi Shalom Mordechai Schwadron brought a story that he heard from an eyewitness, and disparaged it:

There was a story with a foolish pious person, who considered himself to be meticulous in Halacha, and saw a midget among a large group of people. He pushed and ran to him, grabbed him in his hands, and said in a raised voice and with great hapiness "Baruch Atah... Meshaneh Haberiyot!" (A true story that an eyewitness told)

--Introduction to Daat Torah, Ma'amar "Sechel Tov..." Page 14.

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    "Also, I don't think it should be said immediately." Source? Do we ever delay a Bracha to a later time? One of the basic principles of Brachos are that they are said Over L'Asiyasan. Jul 9, 2019 at 12:39
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    @AlBerko Of course you say it after you see, but it still has to be immediately after (i.e. Toch Kedei Dibur. See for example Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 60:2, near the end: sefaria.org/…). Your answer implies that you see the person, then do something like walk to another room, and then make the blessing. It would be difficult for something to be within Toch Kedei Dibbur and still do an action that avoids the problem of the person in question being offended. Jul 9, 2019 at 19:41
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    @AlBerko When did I criticize the author? I commented on the post only. While I think it is inappropriate to do so (because I think removing content that I don't agree with is not what edits are for), I will edit your post to improve it. Jul 9, 2019 at 19:49
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    While this is not proof to what Rav Shwadron said, I recall the Talmud story (can't recall where or who the Rav was) who unintentionally insulted someone by saying, "Is everyone from your city as ugly as you?" Granted, that the rav erred in making this comment, but, I'd be surprised if he said this bracha either in front of him, or even NOT in his presence.
    – DanF
    Jul 9, 2019 at 21:43
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    @DanF תענית כ ב he.wikisource.org/wiki/…
    – Al Berko
    Jul 9, 2019 at 21:51

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