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Most of us associate lightning with thunderstorms. But there are other ways "lightning" can be caused:

  • static discharge such as what you may see when you rub your feet on a rug on a cold dry day, and when touching someone, a spark jumps from your finger. This is a form of lightning.
  • The lightning created by those wonderful science machines / experiments shown in museums. (Similar to what you see in Frankenstein movies.)
  • Volcanic lightning.

Can or should one say the bracha on any of these (and similar) forms of lightning? Why or why not?

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    The whole point of the Bracha is עושה מעשה בראשית.
    – HaLeiVi
    Jun 18, 2015 at 16:52
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    I was once in a car with a Rebbi of mine and there was some heat lightening, and he said we don't say the Blessing on that. I believe that's why you don't say the blessing on lightening until you've already heard a thunder, and said the blessing on it. Jun 18, 2015 at 16:53
  • @Salmononius2 I'm not sure that your rebbe was completely correct. See MB. I'll see if I can locate it, later if u can't find it. IIRC there is machloket.
    – DanF
    Jun 18, 2015 at 17:15
  • @HaLeiVi I'm unclear what you're conveying.
    – DanF
    Jun 18, 2015 at 17:36
  • We make the Bracha Maaseh Bereishis because these things remind us of how Hashem created the world. They are all impressive items, or at least something seldom seen. They are all natural phenomena. You don't make the Bracha on man made items.
    – HaLeiVi
    Jun 18, 2015 at 23:22

2 Answers 2

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According to note 34 on 59a3 in the Schottenstein edition of Masechet Brachot,

"Rashi comments that barka connotes a flash, a light. His comments may bear upon the view of Chayei Adam (cited in Mishna Berurah 227:3) that lightning arising from heat alone does not warrant a blessing."

The gemara there discusses lightning in the context of clouds so (IMHO) that would also eliminate static discharge and van de graaff generators or tesla coils.

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  • It seems you have a typo in the 1st sentence, and I can't quite decipher your intent. Please edit. Thanks for providing the scientific name for those Frankenstein machines. Seems that while I was describing them, the lightning zapped my braini :-) If possible, at some point, answer about volcanic lightning. It is in the sky, and the ash is a "cloud", but it is not a typical condensation cloud. I think the mechanics are different from thunderstorm lightning (which BTW, no one completely understands how or why it happens.)
    – DanF
    Jun 19, 2015 at 14:35
  • @DanF I also wasnt clear about what he was saying. After checking that Mishna Berurah I'm guessing that the Artscroll note is trying to say Rashi would disagree with what the Chayei Adam said. That notwithstanding, Danno adding his humble opinion that even Rashi doesn't require a blessing when it's source its from somewhere other than clouds. I would tend to agree with his humble opinion. That's why there is an up vote:)
    – user6591
    Jun 19, 2015 at 16:36
  • @DanF According to this article from Chabad.org quoting the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the blessing for a volcano, which would include the static discharge in the cloud of dust is the same as for thunder (שכחו וגבורתו מלא עולם). chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1192645/jewish/… Jul 7, 2017 at 18:30
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    @rosends Feel free to add the volcano blessing info to your answer if you would like to. Jul 7, 2017 at 18:36
  • @rosends See ^^. The bounty ends in 3 days, and I'd be happy to award it!
    – DanF
    Jul 7, 2017 at 20:25
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+50

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch in 60:3 סימן ס - דין ברכות הראיה says that lightning caused by heat - that happens without accompanying thunder - are not real lightning and don't warrant a Bracha.

וְהַבְּרָקִים שֶׁנִּרְאִים בְּלֹא רַעַם אֶלָּא מֵחֲמַת הַחֹם, אֵינָם כִּבְרָקִים מַמָּשׁ וְאֵין מְבָרְכִין עֲלֵיהֶם

He doesn't explain why.

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  • That would seem to make sense in light of the last comments I made to rosends answer above. The blessing for lightning would not apply, meaning (שעושה מעשה בראשית). Do you have an Encyclopedia Talmudit? I would love to actually see what the Rebbe points to there on this subject. Jul 10, 2017 at 14:01
  • I'd need to read some further commentary on the above paragraph. What is commonly called "heat" lightning does not fit the definition of the Kitzur. Heat lightning is a mistaken name for lightning that is distant such that the thunder cannot be heard in your area. However, heat alone does not cause lightning. It's caused by the differences in polarity between parts of a cloud or between the cloud and the ground. So, a cloud as well as vapor or ice needs to be involved. In short, even "heat lightning" has thunder. It's just that you don't hear it where you are.
    – DanF
    Jul 10, 2017 at 14:39
  • @YaacovDeane See ^^^ for what "heat lightning" really is. You can confirm this definition by Wikipedia, among other sources.
    – DanF
    Jul 10, 2017 at 14:41
  • This may be a case where current science disputes what was known at the time that the Kitzur's halacha was issued. I don't know the exact halachic rules of changing the halacha under such situations.
    – DanF
    Jul 10, 2017 at 14:43
  • @DanF It isn't a matter of changing the halacha. The blessing was fixed by Chazal. Their source is from what they received from Moshe Rabbeinu. The assumption is that what Moshe received from HaShem is correct, meaning the blessing is correct for each circumstance. The problem is that we may not understand, in any given generation, the details of why it applies to a given situation. The more I consider the comments to rosends answer, the more it seems to fit. (Heat lightning notwithstanding. Would have to think about that one more.) Jul 10, 2017 at 14:51

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