Talmud Tips

For the week ending 30 October 2021 / 24 Cheshvan 5782

Rosh Hashana 9 - 15

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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A Blessing on Blossoming Fruit Trees

Rav Yehuda said, “A person who goes outside during the days [of the month] of Nissan and sees trees that are blossoming says, ‘Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who did not omit from His world anything, and created in it good creations and good treesto give pleasure to people.’ ”

This special bracha, known as “birkat ha’ilanot,” is codified with its halachic parameters in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 226. An interesting textual disagreement in the bracha’s wording is in the phrase “sh’lo chiseir ba’olamo klum.” According to the Gaon of Vilna, the word davar (“a thing”) is said in place of klum (“nothing” in Modern Hebrew, but apparently carrying the same meaning as “davar” in the context of this bracha.) Any grammarians who wish to share their thoughts on this?

What is the significance of the “month of Nissan” that is mentioned in the gemara? And does the mention of this month exclude all other times, such as Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees? Due to the special significance of the Land of Israel and its fruits, the time for bracha was established as being the time of year when the fruit trees blossom there — i.e. in Nissan.

However, if one does not live in Eretz Yisrael, many halachic authorities rule to say the bracha at the time when the fruit trees begin to blossom in that location — e.g. in the month of Tishrei in the Southern Hemisphere. The Aruch Hashulchan writes that in countries where fruit trees begin to blossom somewhat later than Nissan, those months would be the appropriate time for saying this bracha. Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank (1873-1960), renowned Dayan and Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, writes that a person in a country where trees blossom earlier than Nissanmay say the bracha even earlier than Nissan.

Here are a few sample halachic details. One should say this bracha only when the trees bear edible fruit. Ideally, one should say the bracha only when seeing at least two trees since the wording of the beracha is “ilanot” — in the plural. Some Poskim say that one should try to say the bracha over two different types of fruit trees. Preferably it should be said during the week and not on Shabbat to avoid any concern of using, shaking or breaking a part of the tree on Shabbat. As with any halachic matter, one should learn the relevant halachic texts and consult with a local halachic authority in order to not be in doubt about the correct time, place and manner for saying this bracha.

An interesting point is that women are obligated in the mitzvah of saying this bracha despite their being exempt from time-dependant mitzvahs as a general rule.

There are numerous fascinating Kabbalistic teachings and practices regarding this bracha. For example, Chacham Yosef Chaim of Bagdad, (Ben Ish Chai, 1832-1909) relates an important lesson to be learned from this bracha and its timing. During the winter, the tree is dry and withered, but in the spring it is in full bloom. A person who sees this revitalization in nature is also internally revitalized in his very being. Upon observing this dramatic transformation in the natural world, a person grows in his own personal inspiration and courage to climb up from any despair. It is a powerful reminder that Hashem has given us the wherewithal for self-renewal and growing closer to Him.

  • Rosh Hashana 11a

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