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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, 2013 at 4:59

4 Answers 4

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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, 2018 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, 2018 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, 2018 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, 2018 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

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  • Waterfalls are not listed in the gemara in this category, even though they definitely knew about them
    – Double AA
    Aug 14, 2013 at 1:49
  • Siach Nachum OC 13 agrees with this.
    – Double AA
    Nov 19, 2015 at 5:25
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    Links should be summarized in the post
    – DonielF
    Aug 16, 2018 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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HaRav Chaim Bleier in this week's Chukei Chaim (Parshas Vaeschanan 5781) - brings an interesting source.

In the Sefer Vayehi Binsoah, perek 14, he'oro 26 it writes that Rav Chaim Kanievsky ruled differently with Niagara over other waterfalls.

It writes there (my translation):

In the Sefer HaBracha V'hilchosecha (siman 49) it quotes in the name of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky shlita* - But on Niagara Falls which is on the border of Canada and America, the great Rabbonim have the custom to make a bracha (oseh maaseh bereishis) as it is recognisable that no human hand has touched it (i.e. no human intervention) and it has been around since the Six Days of Creation (I heard from HaGaon Rav Y"Z Pollock shlita)

*I looked up the sefer on the Otzar HaChochma site and it notes in the footnotes (see screen shot below) that Rav Chaim's general view towards waterfalls is not to say a bracha (as per his quotation in Vezos HaBrocho mentioned above) but he held differently with Niagara as per this Rav Pollock who the author of Vayehi Binsoah quotes.

enter image description here

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