- General Questions on Brachot
Besides for Brachos on food there are many other Brachos. What are they? When are they said? Are they all applicable today? (eg. If you haven’t seen an elephant in (30?) days there’s a brocha. Would you actually say it?) Also, would you say the Brocha that you say when you see a king when you see a queen? (Eg. Queen Elizabeth II) How much power does the king have to have and does he actually have to be called ’king’? (Prime minister) Would you say the Bracha that is said when you see a wise man apply to when you see a wise woman and how wise must the person be? I would really appreciate if you could answer these questions as soon as possible.
ב"ה Shalom Yes there are many types of Berachot not just for things you eat. We have Berachot for mitzvoth, we have Shehecheyanu, we have berachot for things we see, smell (e.g., during Havdala for example), and hear (e.g., thunder). As far as things we see, they are categorized as "birkot "Hari'iya", meaning Berachot for things we see. Indeed, going to the zoo and seeing elephants and monkeys is not just an experience of nature, but can be putting berachot into practice. The Shulchan Aruch (אוח סי' רכה) says that upon seeing an elephant or monkey one should say "Baruch Ata …Melech ha'olam meshaneh Habriyot." In practice, customs vary. According to the Sephardi custom, the Beracha is said only the very first time when the elephant or monkey are seen since the first time it is a striking phenomenon. The Askenazi custom is to say the bracha after every 30 days upon seeing them again, however the second time the bracha is said without the name of Hashem, just "Baruch Meshaneh Habriyot." As far as kings and queens you verification of their authority is in place. There are two main criteria for determining the type of position which requires the Bracha. 1. There is no authority higher than the king. 2. The king or queen have the authority to sentence death upon their subjects. Since in democratic countries today, these conditions are not met, although there is a king or queen, the supreme authority does not rest in their hands alone and therefore the Bracha is not said. Thirdly, for the very reason you mentioned, i.e., that the standards for who is considered wise were not clarified, in our time, many simply do not say the bracha with Hashem's name. (ערוך השולחן רכד:ו). However some say you may say the complete Bracha for a great Rabbi who is a great Halachic authority, even in our time. (שו"ת יחווה דעת ד,טז) Baruch Hashem, I was happy to have been able to answer as soon as I received your question, however not always are we able to. All the best and Chag Same'ach.