Rabbi Yitzchak Neria
Former Rosh Kollel in Montreal
Birkat ha’ilanot (literally, the blessing of the trees), which is recited during the month of Nissan, has great spiritual and halachic significance. This article will discuss the brachah’s laws as well as its spiritual underpinnings.
The source is the Gemara (BT Brachot 43b):
“One who goes out during the days of Nissan and sees trees in bloom says, ‘Blessed is He Who did not omit anything from His universe and created in it good creatures and good trees, to benefit mankind with them.’”
There are several reasons why righteous individuals and men of action strive to recite birkat ha’ilanot as soon as possible – i.e. on Rosh Chodesh – and as part of a congregation.
The brachah is recited upon seeing a blossoming fruit tree. While the poskim disagree whether or not one may recite the brachahover a tree which was formed using hybridization or grafting, the accepted practice is to refrain from reciting the blessing over such a tree. As the Ramban explains with respect to the prohibition against kila’im (hybridism), if HaKadosh Baruch Hu did not create something, humans should not then produce that same thing. Similarly, reciting the brachah over hybrid trees – whose fruit may be consumed but which were formed against Hashem’s will – is problematic.
As noted above, ideally, the brachah should be recited as part of a congregation and on Rosh Chodesh Nissan itself. Some Achronim rule that the brachah may not be recited on Shabbat – lest one come to pick the fruit and also based on esoteric considerations (sod). However, Rav Ovadiah Yosef permits the brachah to be recited on Shabbat.
According to the Gemara (BT Sanhedrin 98a), when the mountains of Eretz Yisrael yield fruit in abundance:
“There is no clearer [indication] of the keitz (the ‘End’) than this.”
In other words, the Geulah (Redemption) which we are experiencing is evidenced by the state of the fruit trees.
As it turns out, the facts speak for themselves. If we examine the scientific data available, we can discover astonishing evidence of the incredible brachah bestowed by Hashem upon the trees: The annual yield of an average date tree is approximately 17 kilograms. In stark contrast, Israeli date trees yield 182 kilograms a year! Unbelievable but true.
Let us thank Hashem for all the good He has bestowed upon us. Just as we our witnesses to the trees’ blossoming, may we merit to witness the revival of our nation and the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash.