It’s Spring Time: Birkat Ha’Ilanot FAQ’s
By Rabbi Moshe Pinchasi
The Gemara in Berachot states that one who goes out during the days ofNissan and sees blossoming trees should recite the following Beracha: ”ברוך אתה השם, אלוקינו מלך העולם, שלא חיסר בעולמו דבר וברא בו בריות טובות ואילנות טובות ליהנות בהם בני אדם“ “Blessed are you Hashem, our Lord, King of the universe, who has spared nothing in this world, and has created in it good creatures and good trees to benefit mankind”
Q: When should one recite Birkat Ha’Ilanot?
The Gemara says that Birkat Ha’Ilanot should be recited on Nissan, therefore, as with all Mitzvot, one should try and recite thisBeracha as soon as he can, preferably on Rosh Hodesh Nissan (if the trees have already begun blossoming). One can go on and recite the Beracha throughout the entire month of Nissan. Some Rishonim understand that the obligation of the Beracha is tied to the blossoming of the trees and not necessarily the month ofNissan. However, the Hida in Birke Yosef writes that according to Kabbala one should only recite this blessing during Nissan. If, however, one didn’t recite it in Nissan, there is a debate among the Poskim whether he may recite it in Iyar. The Ben Ish Hai andOhr L’Tziyon write that one should recite it without a Shem U’Malchut, whereas the Mishna Berura and Hacham Ovadia Yosef conclude that this Beracha can be recited as long as the trees are still blossoming (and have not borne fruit).
Q: Can one recite the Birkat Ha’Ilanot on Shabbat?
A: The Ben Ish Hai and others write that one should not recite this Beracha on Shabbat because – according to Kabbala – by reciting this Beracha one is sorting out particles of Keddusha from the trees, which is akin to sorting בורר on Shabbat. They are also concerned that one may come to detach a flower or branch from the tree. However, Hacham Ovadia Yosef asserts that the prohibition of sorting does not apply to spiritual concepts, and that we must not devise new decrees in our days. It is nevertheless advisable to try and make this Beracha on a weekday.
Q: Where should the Beracha be recited?
A: Based on the Gemara’s expression: “one who goes out” – some Aharonim understand that the Beracha should be recited in orchards outside the city. However, Ribbi Hayim Palacci writes that the custom of the Hachamim in his city was to recite theBeracha from their window. The Ben Ish Hai and Hacham Ovadia Yosef conclude that one should try and recite it outside the city, unless it is difficult or may cause Bittul Torah.
Q: Over which trees can one recite Birkat Ha’Ilanot?
A: Ribbi Yaakov Hagiz, in Shut Halachot Ketanot, writes that one should recite the Beracha over more than one tree. This is the opinion of the Hida as well. Accordingly, the Ben Ish Hai and Hacham Ovadia Yosef write that one cannot recite theBeracha over one tree. The Petah HaDevir writes that they do not have to be of two different species. One can only recite the blessing over fruit trees. If there are no more flowers on the tree one cannot recite the Beracha. Some say that one should not recite the Beracha over grafted trees. The Ohr L’Tziyon writes that this is only if that specific tree was the subject of grafting and not if it stems from a grafted species (i.e. nectarine). The Ohr L’Tziyon writes that one cannot recite the Beracha on a tree that is Orla (within the first three years of its planting, in which it is forbidden to consume and enjoy). However, the Ben Ish Hai and Hacham Ovadia Yosef write that it is not a concern.