Blooms, Blizzards & Blessings: Some Halachos Pertaining to Birchas Ha’ilanos this Year, Courtesy of The Halacha Hotline


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Q) Due to the cold weather in the Northeast United States, the trees have not yet begin to blossom. Now that the month of Nisan has ended, may I still recite the b’rachah of Birkas Ha’ilanos (the blessing over trees in blossom) when I later see a fruit tree in blossom?

 

A) Yes.

Most Poskim (halachic authorities) agree that although the Gemara and Shulchan  Aruch write that the b’rachah of Birkas Ha’ilanos is recited during the month of Nisan, one may recite the b’rachah during other months (but see note 6).

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Understanding the p’sak (halachic ruling)

The Gemara[1] writes that one who goes out during the days of Nisan and sees trees that are in blossom recites a b’rachah.[2] The Shulchan Aruch[3] writes that this b’rachah is recited only once a year. The purpose of this b’rachah is to inspire mankind to perceive G-d’s renewal of Creation during the springtime.[4] Most Poskim agree that although the Gemara and Shulchan Aruch write that the b’rachah is recited during the month of Nisan, that is simply because trees generally begin to blossom in warm climates during Nisan (see also note).[5] One may, however, recite the b’rachah during other months (but see note).[6]

Additional halachos regarding Birkas Ha’ilanos
Although the Gemara and Shulchan Aruch do not specify such, the Poskim agree that the b’rachah is recited only upon seeing fruit-trees that blossom.[7] The Aruch HaShulchan[8] adds that Chazal[9] instituted this b’rachah only upon seeing the blossoming of fruit-trees, not of grains or vegetables, to emphasize that G-d provides us even with food items that are not essential to the human body. It is for this reason that the b’rachah is recited upon seeing the blossoms, for at that time it is recognizable that the tree will bear fruits.

One should recite the b’rachah only upon seeing the actual blossoming of a fruit-tree;[10] if one sees merely a growth of leaves one may not recite the b’rachah.[11]

According to the Shulchan Aruch,[12] one may not recite the b’rachah upon seeing fruits growing on trees, even if one did not previously see any trees in blossom that year. Other Poskim,[13] however, rule that one may recite the b’rachah upon seeing fruits growing on trees, if one did not previously see any fruit trees in blossom that year and the fruits have not yet finished growing (see note).[14]

The Poskim discuss whether one who saw a fruit tree in blossom from up close[15] but neglected – or forgot – to recite the b’rachah may recite the b’rachah at one’s next sighting of a fruit tree in blossom. Some Poskim[16]

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Sources:

[1] Brachos 43b.
[2] The standard text of the b’rachah (per Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 60:1) is as follows:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹקֵינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁלֹּא חִסַּר בְּעוֹלָמוֹ כְּלוּם, וּבָרָא בוֹ בְּרִיּוֹת טוֹבוֹת וְאִילָנוֹת טוֹבִים לְהַנּוֹת בָּהֶם בְּנֵי אָדָם.
Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, who did not cause anything lacking in His world, and created in it good creations and good trees to benefit people through them.
[3] Orach Chaim 226:1.
[4] Shitah M’kubetzes, Brachos 43b.
[5] Another cogent argument for saying such is that the Gemara did not write “the month of Nisan,” but “the days of Nisan,” which could refer to the tekufah (season) of Nisan, which could include other months as well (Sh”ut Vay’chi Ya’akov O.C. #8).
[6] Machatzis HaShekel chapter 226; Mishnah Berurah 226:1. According to Kabbalah, one recites the b’rachah only during the month of Nisan (Chid”a in Birkei Yosef 226:2 and in Moreh b’Etzba #198). (See Kaf Hachayim who suggests that one who wishes to recite the b’rachah after Nisan may do so by omitting Hashem’s Name from the b’rachah.) However, the accepted halacha among Ashkenazim is to recite the b’rachah in months other than Nisan (M.B. 226:1). Nevertheless, to satisfy all opinions, one who thinks one will be able to see fruit trees in blossom during the month of Nisan should l’chatchilah (initially/preferably) not recite the b’rachah in Adar and should wait until Nisan. See also note 19. Similarly, one should endeavor to recite the b’rachah before the end of Nisan (i.e., before the second day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar).
According to Kabbalah (see sources above), one recites the b’rachah only upon seeing at least two trees. The consensus among the Poskim, however, is that if one has access to only a single fruit tree in blossom, one may recite the b’rachah upon seeing that one tree (see Chazon Ovadyah Hilchos B’rachos pp. 447-448 with note 1, and T’shuvos V’hanhagos vol. 1 chapter 191).
[7] Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 60:1; Aruch HaShulchan O.C. 226:1; M.B. 226:2.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Our Sages, may their memories be blessed.
[10] That is, the blossom from which a fruit will grow.
[11] M.B. 226:2.
[12] O.C. 226:1; Beis Yosef O.C. chapter 226, citing Mordechai and Hagahos Maimoni.
[13] M.B. 226:4, citing Eliyah Rabbah and GR”A;  Aruch HaShulchan 226:2.
[14] However, if one saw a fruit tree in blossom and did not recite the b’rachah, the consensus of the Poskim is that one may not recite the b’rachah upon seeing fruits on a tree, even if the fruits are not yet finished growing (M.B. 226:4; see Eliyah Rabbah 226:2).
[15] Such that one saw the blossoms on the tree.
[16] Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 60:1; Machatzis HaShekel chapter 226.
[17] Sh”ut Maharil 143; M.B. 226:5; Halichos Shlomo 23:31.
[18] As explained earlier (see note 14), this ruling applies only if one later sees a fruit tree in blossom, not when one later sees fruits growing on a tree.
[19] When we combine the l’chatchilah mentioned here with the l’chatchilah mentioned in note 6, the resultant ruling is that one who thinks one will be able to see fruit trees in blossom during the month of Nisan should l’chatchilah not look at blossoms on a fruit tree during Adar and should wait until Nisan and then recite the b’rachah at one’s first sighting.

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