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Tammuz 5763 – Bracha on Thunder and Lightning

1 Tammuz 5763

L’chvod HaRav,

What is the halacha in terms of making a bracha on lightning and thunder? Do you have to wait to encounter both of them or can you make the brachos one at a time?

Thank you very much.
Name & Seminary Withheld

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Dear Name Withheld,

Thanks for your questions. This issue is discussed in the Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chaim 227:1 and the Mishna Berura there (5), as well in the Kitzur Shulchan Oruch 60:2. Based on what it says there, it seems that the correct way to make the Beracha is as follows:

If you see lightning, the Beracha of “Oseh Maaseh Beraishis” should be recited. Upon hearing the thunder afterwards, the Beracha of “Shekocho U’Gevurosos Molay Olam” should be said. If the thunder and lightning come simultaneously, or with the thunder immediately following the lightning only one Beracha should be said on both of them. Both Berachos are effective on thunder and lightning, so the Mishna Berura states that although the preferred Beracha in this case is “Oseh Maaseh Beraishis,” if you made a “Shekocho U’Gevurosos Molay Olam” you have fulfilled your obligation to make a Beracha.

It seems clear from the Mishna Berura and the Kitzur that, according to Halacha, they can and should be made one at a time, and there is no need to wait for both of them. It seems to me that the prevailing Minhag is to
actually wait for both, and then make both Berachos. I’m not sure what the source of this is. Perhaps, since there is no obligation to make a Beracha on heat lightning which does not have accompanying thunder, as stated in the Chayei Adam quoted in the Mishna Berura there, the Minhag has developed to wait for the thunder to be certain that a Beracha is required on the lightning.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler