One who sees lightning recites the blessing, “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam Oseh Ma’aseh Bereshit.” One who hears thunder recites the blessing, “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam She’Kocho Ugvurato Maleh Olam.”
Until When Can One Recite these Blessings?
One must recite these blessings immediately following seeing the lightning or hearing the thunder. One may only recite these blessings within approximately two seconds (“Toch Kedei Dibbur”) of seeing the lightning or hearing the thunder; if this time has passed, one should not recite the blessing and should merely wait for another lightning or thunder.
Should One Recite the Name of Hashem Within the Blessing?
The Rishonim disagree whether the blessings on thunder and lightning should include Hashem’s name (i.e. the words “Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam”) or not. The Ra’avad is of the opinion that these blessings should be recited without Hashem’s name, for instance, “Baruch She’Kocho Ugvurato Maleh Olam.” Nevertheless, most Rishonim disagree with the Ra’avad and rule that these blessings should include Hashem’s name just like any other blessing, as the Gemara (Berachot 40b) states that any blessing which does not contain Hashem’s name and kingship is not a blessing. Maran Rabbeinu Yosef Karo rules likewise in his Shulchan Aruch that these blessings should include Hashem’s name just like any other blessing that we recite.
The Opinion of the Petach Ha’Devir and the Opinion of Maran zt”l
Hagaon Harav Chaim Binyamin Pontrimoli, author of the Sefer Petach Ha’Devir, writes that there are those who customarily recite the blessing of “Oseh Ma’aseh Bereshit” without mentioning Hashem’s name upon hearing thunder. Originally, he was perplexed about this custom, for any blessing which does not contain Hashem’s name is not a blessing. Later, however, he found a basis for this custom which is that since one must recite the blessing immediately upon hearing the thunder and if one did not do so immediately, one may only do so until approximately two seconds later and not everyone is able to be so exact in addition to the fact that there are several other disagreements regarding these blessings which require great expertise, the custom has become to omit Hashem’s name from these blessings so that the name of Hashem is not uttered in vain. He concludes by saying that if one is an expert in Halacha, one should indeed recite these blessings with Hashem’s name, as per the original establishment of our Sages.
On the other hand, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rebuffs the above and rules that since the Halachot regarding these blessings are common-knowledge in addition to the fact that no great expertise is required to realize the time limit for these blessings, the Halacha follows the original enactment of our Sages which is to include the name of Hashem in these blessings, in accordance with the opinion of the Poskim and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch. This is one of the Halachot which Maran zt”l established for generations which is that everyone should become accustomed to recite these blessings with Hashem’s name in accordance with the opinion of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch. As a result of Maran zt”l’s ruling, many have indeed changed their custom and began to recite these blessings with Hashem’s name.