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According to this page, Chaza"l intentionally omitted solar and lunar eclipses from the list of natural phenomena upon which we make a bracha. The following explanation is given:

The Hebrew term for eclipse [is] LIKUI - defect. The Talmud states that a likui of the sun is a bad sign for the world; a lunar likui is a bad sign for Israel. Being associated with bad signs, the eclipse was not assigned a bracha. [...] During an eclipse, we witness the powerful, constant light and energy of the sun being diminished. Or the light of a full moon paling to a feeble glow. In both cases, we can read the chilling reminder that it is in G-d's Hands as to whether we live in light or suffer in darkness.

However, brachot are still made on earthquakes, thunderstorms, and winds strong enough to shatter stones and mountains. Surely these events are also chilling reminders that it is in G-d's Hands as to whether we live, suffer, or die. They threaten our individual, if not our collective existence, in a much more concrete way than any eclipse. Surely that much was known even in the time of our Sages.

So why make a bracha on these dangerous events, but not on an eclipse? Is the essential difference that the eclipse threatens our existence as a human race, whereas the others only threaten us as individuals? What of the fact that it is actually G-d, not the sun, Who gives us life?

EXTRA CREDIT: Why make a bracha on a rainbow but not on an eclipse? Rainbows are also considered a "bad omen," and yet we make a bracha on them. In 'light' of that fact, why don't we also make a bracha on an eclipse? Does it just come down to "Because Chaza"l said so?" (Thanks to Double AA for pointing out this aspect.)

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    You can also ask about rainbows, which are also a 'bad omen' judaism.stackexchange.com/q/10065/759
    – Double AA
    Jun 6, 2012 at 14:27
  • @Double AA, very good point. Separate question or here? (I worry about making my questions too multifarious as I have been called out on it in the past...)
    – SAH
    Jun 6, 2012 at 14:52
  • IMO you can add it in here. I you feel it belongs separately, then consider waiting for an answer here before posting another question, in case they end up having the same answer.
    – Double AA
    Jun 6, 2012 at 16:48
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    @RabbiKaii Aside from being a stretch (since it was diminished during the ימי בראשית) that doesn't hold since we say the same blessing on the sun and moon in a different context he.wikisource.org/wiki/…
    – Double AA
    Apr 5 at 16:10

4 Answers 4

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My own thoughts. Eclipses are predictable and can be calculated in advance to the moment where it will happen and when it will happen. However hurricanes and earthquakes, no one can predict that a hurricnane or earthquake will happen at this precise moment in a year from now.

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    I'd have to assume Chazal weren't up 100% on the calculations (or at least didn't expect the people to be), because otherwise I find it hard to understand why they (or the people) thought it was a bad omen.
    – Double AA
    Jun 6, 2012 at 17:21
  • Followup question: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/16891
    – msh210
    Jun 6, 2012 at 18:51
  • So you think calculability would tend to imply we don't say a b'racha: do you fit that into that reason cited in the question (and if so then how), or are you differing with the latter?
    – msh210
    Jun 6, 2012 at 18:54
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    @DoubleAA They most certainly did know how to calculate eclipses. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism
    – avi
    Jul 7, 2012 at 18:36
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    This doesn't answer why an eclipse is a bad omen, and why that is a reason to not make a beracha, but instead it assumes a new reason not asked about. That reason is also quite suspect, as these comments have shown. There are other predictable natural phenomena we make a beracha on, e.g. comets (OC 227:1)? Mountains and oceans are also pretty predictable!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Apr 5 at 15:17
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Regarding the difference between rainbows and eclipses, the beracha on rainbows is a specific invocation of the covenant which they symbolize in the Torah: זוכר הברית ונאמן בבריתו וקיים במאמרו. It is not a generic blessing on natural phenomena, i.e., עושה מעשה בראשית. Even though rainbows are considered a negative symbol, they nevertheless invoke this positive covenant. However, an eclipse is considered a negative omen, but it is not associated with a positive covenant. Thus we can understand why they wouldn't receive a blessing.

An earthquake is a frightening experience but that is no reason for it not to receive a blessing; on the contrary, the beracha of שכחו וגבורתו מלא עולם expresses our experience of God's might through the earthquake. It is specifically a curse which does not receive a blessing. For a similar idea, the Mishnah says that אין מפסיקין בקללות, i.e. we do not divide the Torah reading of the Tochachah. One opinion in the Gemara (Megillah 31b) explains that this is because we don't make a blessing specifically on the reading of the curses: רֵישׁ לָקִישׁ אָמַר לְפִי שֶׁאֵין אוֹמְרִים בְּרָכָה עַל הַפּוּרְעָנוּת.

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Its hard to say no bracha on eclipse since predestined since birkas hachama is also predestined and theres a bracha. I heard some people suggest since its a bad omen no bracha is recited. Yet by a rainbow we do make a bracha, but that bracha isn't on beuty of rainbow, oseh maiseh biriushish, rather a bracha on remembering the bris, which is entirly different type of bracha. One can also perhaps say there was no bracha on eclipse because its dangerous to look at one, so chazal didnt misaken oseh maise bireishish on something person shouldn't look at.

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  • A lunar eclipse isn't dangerous
    – Heshy
    Apr 8 at 22:13
  • @Heshy its dangerous for other reasons. Acc to kabbala one shouldn't stare at rainbow or the moon. So anything one shouldn't stare at, weren't misaken bracha of oseh maise bireishish.
    – Shlomy
    Apr 8 at 22:42
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I'll note even more so - we do in fact make blessings on bad news (Berakhot 54a and Shulhan Arukh 222:2).

Nevertheless, your specific question makes certain assumptions, such as "we don't make a blessing/berakha on a solar eclipse," and that "the reason why is because it is a bad omen," which may be debatable:

  • Although most1 halakhic authorities are opposed to blessing on the eclipse, maybe not all of them are. Rabbi Elazar Melamed (Peninei Halacha: Brachot 15:6 note 5) sounds like a person at least has the option of doing so. See here, also, where Rabbi Dov Linzer encourages a person to make such a blessing. And as a pseudonymous random guy on the internet, I'm certainly not going to tell you whether or not these rabbis count as "halakhic authorities."
  • While the article you quoted suggested that the reason why ecplipes do not warrant blessings is because they are a bad omen, there are other opinions and possibilities, detailed below.

Even with the spirit of the article in question, however, we can explain the difference. The Gemara (Berakhot 40b) actually has a dispute between the sages and R. Yehudah as to whether or not one makes a blessing on something that is a "bad omen" in the sense that evil comes along with the religious inspiration - the dispute in question is whether or not to make a blessing upon eating grasshoppers that cause famine - and the predominant view among the sages is that yes, one does make a blessing on such a case. I believe that there's still a significant difference between being a "bad omen" in the sense of a portending evil yet to come, or a "bad omen" in the sense that it is reflective of some specific spiritual flaws in the generation, as delineated by the Gemara (Sukkah 29a):

תנו רבנן: 'בשביל ארבעה דברים חמה לוקה: על אב בית דין שמת ואינו נספד כהלכה, ועל נערה המאורסה שצעקה בעיר ואין מושיע לה, ועל משכב זכור, ועל שני אחין שנשפך דמן כאחד

Our Rabbis taught: A solar eclipse occurs on account of four things: Because the Av Beit Din died and was not properly eulogized, because a betrothed woman was raped in a city and none came to rescue her, because of [male] homosexual acts, and because of two brothers who were murdered together.

To be sure, this is just one rabbinic source among a few delineated in the Gemara there (in Sukkah), but it might be this opinion that makes the solar eclipse different from other 'bad signs'. The solar eclipse is a specific kind of bad omen; it's a sign that the community has sinned in a particularly egregious manner. Although the Torah teaches that there is a relationship between sin and human suffering, this relationship is famously hard to tease out in practical terms. A person can appreciate the might of God upon seeing deadly storms and earthquakes, which incidentally can be quite deadly, but a blessing cannot be said upon witnessing the mark of human wrongdoing. (There are many follow-up questions one might have on this explanation, but it appears to me to most correctly reflect the thinking of the Sages)2

Having said that, there are plenty of other reasons why the sages might not have instituted a blessing for this phenomenon. Among them:

  1. Maybe because the eclipse is actually not seen: it is an absence of light, rather than a presence.
  2. Maybe one cannot say "'oseh ma'aseh bereishit', referring to the act of creation, because there was no eclipse at the time of creation (but there were earthquakes, I guess? I heard this idea from Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz in the name of R. Ari Bergmann)
  3. I think it's likely because before modern methods (such as those cheap eclipse glasses that libraries in the United States gave away for free) it wasn't really possible to see anything about the eclipse besides for a temporary sky darkening, which is not so impressive.

1 See this nice article written in anticipation of a 2017 solar eclipse by Dr. Jeremy Brown, author of the excellent Talmudology blog (plus a few books), which has lots more posts about eclipses. There's also an article in the periodical Tehumin, vol. 24 on the topic

2 I'll note that not everyone thinks this way; Dr. Brown quotes the Lubavitcher Rebbe, R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who wrote in 1957 that the reason for not making a blessing is because the eclipse is indeed a portent (I daresay, a "foreshadowing") of trouble to come:

ידוע הכלל אשר אין לחדש ברכה שלא הוזכרה בש"ס (ב"י או"ח סמ"ו). וי"ל הטעם דאין מברכין ע"ז מפני שהוא סימן לפורעניות הבאה (סוכה כט, א). ואדרבה צריכה תפלה לבטלה וצעקה ולא ברכה. (Iggerot Kodesh 15:1079.)

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    On (3), you can see a total eclipse or a lunar eclipse without the glasses
    – Heshy
    Apr 8 at 20:18
  • @Heshy yeah that's true; the glasses are more for safety anyways Apr 8 at 21:16

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