Birchat Ha'Ilanot

The Annual Blessing over Fruit Trees in Bloom

Do It on an Ascent Hike In the Fields and Valleys Surrounding Zefat!

Rosh Chodesh Nissan (this year: Shabbat, April 2) officially ushers in the Spring season when we may recite Birchat Ha'Ilanot, the blessing upon seeing fruit trees in bloom.

This special blessing is recited only once a year. In it we praise G-d's ongoing renewal of creation. The blessing is as follows:

Boruch Ata Ad-o-nay, E-l-hainu, Melech Ha'olam,
sh'lo hasair b'olamo kloom,
ubara bo briyot tovot v'eilanot tovot,
leihanot bahem benai adam.

"Blessed be You, G-d, our G-d, King of the Universe,
that His world is not lacking anything,
and He created in it good creations and good trees
for the pleasure of mankind."

(Readings for before and after the blessing are found in some prayer books.)

It is desirable to seek the opportunity to recite Birchat Ha'Ilanot as soon as possible in the month of Nissan (unless Rosh Chodesh Nissan falls on Shabbat). It is said only upon seeing a tree in bloom for the first time. The growth of leaves alone is not sufficient to allow one to say the blessing; there must be flowers (or buds, according to some authorities).

One who saw fruit trees in bloom during Nissan, but forgot or neglected to recite the blessing, may then recite it only until the time that the fruit of the tree has (begun to have) grown.

Ideally, Birchat Ha'Ilanot should be made outside of the city limits, and only on at least two trees, and the more the better (as in an orchard). There are those who hold that these trees should be of at least two different species. Also, it is desirable that it be recited with a minyan of 10 males if possible, so that it can be followed by Kaddish.

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According to Kabbalah, this blessing has unique significance. When Jews make this blessing they are able to redeem souls who have been re-incarnated in the vegetal realm, making it possible for them to continue or complete their tikun (soul rectification). It should therefore, be said with intense concentration and kavanah (intention).

In addition, it is desirable to follow the blessing with a donation of three coins to tzedakah (charity), corresponding to the three soul levels of nefesh-ruach-neshama. Also, the Ben Ish Hai, the famous 20th century halachic authority and kabbalist from Bagdad, recommends giving 4 coins for the elevation of the soul of one's departed parents, based on the 4 letters of the Name.

"See (said Yitzchok of Yaacov), the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field that G-d has blessed." (Gen. 27:27) It is interpreted that this verse applies to anyone who recites Birchat Ha'Ilanot with the proper intention.

(produced by Yerachmiel Tilles, for Ascent of Zefat,
Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5760, 5771
based on Shulchan HaShalem,'Ohalei Tsaddikim, and Kaf HaHayim)


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