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I had a debate regarding Kiddush Levana with a yeshiva bachur.

From my recollection, Kiddush Levana is not meant to compensate or "simulate" Kiddush Hachodesh where witnesses had to see the moon and testify to the Sanhedrin what they saw. Therefore, one shouldn't have to see the moon. The yeshiva bachur claims that Kiddush levana IS to commemorate Kiddush Hachodesh.

I think the yeshiva bochur's reasoning is wrong. There is some other reason why you have to physically see the moon to do Kiddush Hachodesh, but I don't know what it is.

  • Why do you have to see a rainbow to say a bracha on it? – Double AA Jul 4 '14 at 3:08
  • @DoubleAA - I think I expanded on my premise in my question. We know the moon is there even if we don't see it. Do we know that the rainbow is there if we or someone else didn't see it? Curious - Your inherent initial reaction seems to doubt everyone's question. Why is that? – DanF Jul 4 '14 at 3:13
  • @DoubleAA The Bei'ur Halacha (OC 426, s.v. v'nehenin mei'orah) has an interesting discussion on the exact function of the b'racha, and halachic implications (such as if a blind person may recite the blessing, or if one may start it immediately after the moon is obscured by clouds). – Fred Jul 4 '14 at 3:15
  • @Fred - if you can summarize its main points and post as an answer, that would help. – DanF Jul 4 '14 at 3:16
  • @DanF Perhaps in a bit. In the meanwhile, here's a Hebrewbooks link. – Fred Jul 4 '14 at 3:18
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It's not so clear whether the function of kiddush levanah is meant to be a praise for the existence of the moon, or more similar to a birkas hanehenin (like the brachos on food), that we can't benefit from anything without first making a beracha, including moonlight.

Regarding whether or not one has to see the moon: as the Biur Halakha points out, that if the bracha is a birkas hanehenin, then like all birkos hanehenin, one needs to get some benefit from the object of the bracha. According to the Mishna Berurah there (426:3), one does indeed need to get benefit from the moon before making the bracha, which he defines as being able to recognize the moon's light on the ground.

The relationship of kiddush levanah to benefiting from moonlight doesn't necessarily mean that one needs to see the moon. The Mishna Berurah also writes (426:1) that a blind person must make kiddush levanah because he benefits from the moonlight via other people who can see and help him. In addition (M.B. 426:3) if there are clouds covering the moon, kiddush levanah can still be made as long as the moon's light shines through enough that it's useful as moonlight. If not, however, the bracha can't be made, because then nobody (around you) is benefiting from the moonlight.

  • At the beginning of your answer, you indicated "it's not so clear if...", and you cited Mishnah Brurah which indicated that you or someone else must derive some benefit from the moon. What are the opposing opinions? Any idea who opposed this? – DanF Jul 4 '14 at 18:15
  • @DanF The M.B. thinks that the Maharshal might – הנער הזה Jul 4 '14 at 18:17

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