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Is There a Blessing For a Volcano?

Is There a Blessing For a Volcano?

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Question:

I've been following the latest natural disaster, the ash-spewing Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. I know that there is a blessing for thunder and lightning. But is there a blessing for seeing a volcano?

Answer:

This volcano will go down in history for having grounded a U.S. President, a slew of European leaders, and millions of travelers on both sides of the Atlantic. But historical significance alone does not warrant a blessing. So what does?

The Talmud and Code of Jewish Law discuss various natural phenomena that require special blessings. These include thunder and lightning, as you wrote. Shooting stars and earthquakes also make the list. The common denominator is that they remind us of the Conductor who stands behind the perfectly-orchestrated show we call nature.

Smoldering lava and steaming ash at the rate of 7500-tons-per-second spewing forth from the massive aperture of a volcano is such a phenomenon; it reveals G‑d's earth-shattering might. The appropriate blessing is therefore:

Baruch atta Ado-noy Elo-hai-nu melech ha'olam shekocho ugevurato malei olam.
translation: Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, whose power and might fill the world.

In June 1991, the Stratovolcano on Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines Islands roared to life, hurling columns of ash to astonishing heights of 34 km. Many hangars at the nearby US Clark Air Base were destroyed by the ash fall, and the eruption sent tephra as far away as Vietnam and Cambodia.

On June 15th, at a Shabbat gathering, the Rebbe discussed the blessing for a volcanic eruption and its spiritual effect. He spoke at length about the power of a Jewish person's blessing.

The Rebbe remarked: "Recently, there has been a volcanic eruption in a remote corner of the world; those few Jews who witnessed the event and made the blessing of '…His strength and might fills the world' used the effect of the volcanic eruption to bring G‑dliness to the entire world. And these sentiments are certainly felt in the United States, whose servicemen have been involved in the relief efforts there."

One thing you'll want to keep in mind: While the images displayed on your HD television may have you feeling like you're at the foot of the mountain, Halachah requires that you actually be there and see the volcano in order to make the special blessing.

Should you have the opportunity to get a glimpse of Eyjafjallajökull, one of the smaller glaciers in Iceland, that brought an entire continent to a standstill, most definitely make that special blessing.

Eyjafjallajökull opened a window, inspiring many people to think and rethink where they are and where they're going. It conveyed a lesson in G‑d's power and absolute control of all that happens, ruling the world on His own terms. "His strength and might fills the world."

Rabbi Yosef Zaklos has traveled to more than fifteen countries on five continents to inspire isolated Jewish communities. He also assisted in the Chabad Tsunami disaster relief activities in Phuket, Thailand. Currently, he resides in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife and daughter. He is also a contributing author to the JLI “Torah Studies” courses.
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Anonymous Greenwich, CT/USA via jewishlarchmont.com March 1, 2013

Blessing upon seeing a volcanic eruption I don't understand the syntax of this blessing. Shouldn't it read either "shekocho ugvurato memal'im et haolam" or "shehaolam malei kocho ugvurato"? Reply

Phillip T Laslett Mole Valley , UK May 15, 2010

The power of God, Genesis 1 and volcanoes If, as it is written, the interior of the planet is water, 'abyssal water', that was released through the wellsprings of the deep at the great Flood, and NOT molten material, as the scientists theorise when they have only gone down by 2 miles into the Earth's surface, does this not make the power of God even more awesome and yes, miraculous, that all these massive events are just on the surface! Reply

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