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Do you make a bracha when seeing Niagara falls, and, if a bracha is made, which bracha?

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for bringing your question here. I hope you stick around and enjoy the site. – msh210 Aug 14 '13 at 4:59
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Some believe that an "Oseh Ma'aseh V'reishis" should be made on the Niagara Falls because undoubtedly it is one of the most impressive natural wonders. However, after doing some research I have found that it may not be so simple because of three reasons.

1) Rav Chaim Kanievsky is quoted (V'zos HaBrachah pg. 155) saying that waterfalls do not receive a brachah since they are not in the list that the shulchan aruch gives (mountains, seas, very large rivers etc.). The sefer V'zos Habrachah comments that even so, if the waterfall is part of a somewhat large river then it may combine with the river to become a very impressive river and then deserving of a brachah. The discussion is continued in the sequel which I unfortunately do not have access to.

2) The Shulchan Aruch says that a river which has been diverted by people can no longer receive a brachah that praises Hashem for his work, because it is no longer only the work of Hashem. Niagara Falls has undergone changes for the purpose of hydro-power and tourist-attracting aesthetics. But, it is unclear how much change must occur for a river to lose a brachah and this might not count as change.

3) Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach said not to make a brachah on the Dead Sea because of the medrash that it was only formed after the destruction of S'dom and the brachah "oseh ma'aseh v'reishis" should only be said on what was part of B'reishis- Creation. It is known that the falls erodes upstream a couple feet every year. 800 years ago there may have been only one waterfall. If the erosion theory is correct, Niagara Falls at Creation was nowhere near where it is today.

So I say a brachah on Lake Ontario and have in mind to cover the Falls. This method might work. One who lives near Lake Ontario, so is desensitized, might not be able to make a brachah on Lake Ontario either and only be able to channel feelings of awe and inspirations through a brachah without Hashem's name.

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    yvalter, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for sharing the fruits of your research with us and the Internet! I hope you'll look around and find other questions to answer, perhaps elsewhere in the blessing tag. – Isaac Moses Aug 14 '18 at 15:29
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    Very nice and timely for me: I am literally looking at the Falls as I write this! A great first answer, hope to see more of you. – mbloch Aug 14 '18 at 21:21
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    +1 We asked Rabbi David Feinstein about this once and he said since the river was stopped so work could be done, it no longer qualifies for a bracha. – user6591 Aug 15 '18 at 11:33
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    user6951, thank you for asking. Do you know if perhaps Rabbi David Feinstein was referring only to the American Falls which were once stopped completely as opposed to the Horseshoe Falls which have never been completely stopped as explained here. halachaqa.blogspot.com/2012/02/niagara-falls-and-berachos.html – yvalter Aug 15 '18 at 23:19
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I believe one makes the bracha "oseh ma'aseh bereishit" upon seeing wonders of nature. Here is a discussion of Niagra specifically

http://halachaqa.blogspot.com/2011/07/niagara-falls-brachos-part-i.html

  • Waterfalls are not listed in the gemara in this category, even though they definitely knew about them – Double AA Aug 14 '13 at 1:49
  • Siach Nachum OC 13 agrees with this. – Double AA Nov 19 '15 at 5:25
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    Links should be summarized in the post – DonielF Aug 16 '18 at 1:55
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Since the question does not address which berachah/ot OP is speaking of I’ll address another relevant berachah: seeing a rainbow.

Rabbi YD Hoffman (Ke’mareh Ha’keshet (31ff.) cites multiple authorities who rule that when seeing a rainbow in the Niagra Falls one should not recite the blessing occasioned for sighting a rainbow.

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