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בִּרְכַּת הָאִילָנוֹת | The Blessing of Flowering Fruit Trees in the Spring Season

Image: Rows of Fruit Trees by rkramer62, license: CC-BY 2.0

Hebrew English

When the spring (Aviv) season arrives, a blessing is traditionally said when one is in view of at least two flowering fruit trees.[1]Source: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 226:1 In the northern hemisphere, it can be said anytime through the end of the month of Nissan (though it can still be said in Iyar). For those who live in the southern hemisphere, the blessing can be said during the month of Tishrei (and into the month of Marḥeshvan).

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה
יְיָ אֶלֹהֵינוּ
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
שֶׁלֹא חִסַּר בָּעוֹלָמוֹ כְּלוּם,
וּבָרָא בוֹ בְּרִיּוֹת טוֹבוֹת וְאִילָנוֹת טוֹבִים,
לְהַנּוֹת בָּהֶם בְּנֵי אָדָם׃
Blessed are you,
YHVH (haShem) our elo’ah,
cosmic majesty,
for there is nothing lacking in the world at all,[2]In the Nusah ha-Ari z”l, there is a slight variation in the wording: שֶׁלוֹ חִסַּר בָּעוֹלָמוֹ דָּבָר 
and good creatures and good trees were created in it,
through which pleasure is brought to the children of Adam.

Barukh atah
Adonai Eloheinu
melekh ha-olam
shelo ḥiseir ba-olamo k’lum
uvara vo briyot tovot v’ilanot tovim
l’hanot bahem b’nei Adam

As a formula, this blessing has some language in common with another blessing, the rabbinic Jewish blessing after eating all foods:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה
יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ
מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
בּוֹרֵא נְפָשׁוֹת רַבּוֹת
וְחֶסְרוֹנָן עַל כָּל מַה שֶּׁבָּרָא(תָ)
לְהַחֲיוֹת (בָּהֶם) נֶֽפֶשׁ כָּל חָי:
בָּרוּךְ חַי הָעוֹלָמִים:‏
Blessed are you,
YHVH (haShem) our elo’ah,
Cosmic Majesty,
who creates a diverse multitude of creatures,
with ḥesronan (lit. something lacking) in all of them
through which their being is animated with the Spirit of Life.
Blessed is the Life of the Worlds.

Rabbi David Seidenberg (neohasid.org) writes:

The language of the blessing recalls part of the borei n’fashot blessing for food, which thanks God for creating “many souls and all their deficiencies” ḥesronan, yet here we say that there is nothing missing or lacking. One could say that the things we lack are themselves the essence of creation, calling us to weave relationships with all forms of life. The gift of fruit, however, embodies an even greater sense of pure abundance and blessing than almost anything else we encounter.

We have a unique intimacy with fruit trees. In scripture that goes back to Gan Eden and the tree of knowing. The connection is even more powerful in the midrashic interpretation of the statement in Deuteronomy 20, Ha’adam eitz ha-sadeh, “A person is a tree of the field” (that is, a fruit tree). (The statement in context is really a question.) For the Kabbalah, a fruit tree is as true an image of God as a person (see below as well as the blessing from P’ri Ets Hadar). The Sefirot, “the Tree of Life”, are thought of as a fruit tree. The reason why is that a fruit tree embodies the principle of sharing, and is a more perfect model for how God interacts with the world than human beings can be.

Why do we need to see two trees rather than just one to say the blessing? I haven’t heard an explanation, but one reason is that the trees need each other to reproduce, at least on the species level (most fruits—except dates and a few others that are gendered by tree—can also fertilize themselves). The halakhah (religious rules) specifically forbids saying the blessing over trees that are grafted from one species onto another – there is an idea of appreciating the awesome reality of this world in itself, separate from human ḥokhmas (wisdom) and power.

Here are some additional texts about fruit trees from Tanakh, Midrash and Kabbalah:

שיר השירים ז:ח-יא
ח זֹ֤את קֽוֹמָתֵךְ֙ דָּֽמְתָ֣ה לְתָמָ֔ר וְשָׁדַ֖יִךְ לְאַשְׁכֹּלֽוֹת׃ ט אָמַ֙רְתִּי֙ אֶעֱלֶ֣ה בְתָמָ֔ר אֹֽחֲזָ֖ה בְּסַנְסִנָּ֑יו וְיִֽהְיוּ־נָ֤א שָׁדַ֙יִךְ֙ כְּאֶשְׁכְּל֣וֹת הַגֶּ֔פֶן וְרֵ֥יחַ אַפֵּ֖ךְ כַּתַּפּוּחִֽים׃ י וְחִכֵּ֕ךְ כְּיֵ֥ין הַטּ֛וֹב הוֹלֵ֥ךְ לְדוֹדִ֖י לְמֵישָׁרִ֑ים דּוֹבֵ֖ב שִׂפְתֵ֥י יְשֵׁנִֽים׃ יא אֲנִ֣י לְדוֹדִ֔י וְעָלַ֖י תְּשׁוּקָתֽוֹ׃
Song of Songs 7:8-11
This one, your body, was like a palm tree, and your breasts clusters [of dates]. I said, I will climb up that palm tree, I will grab its branches. May your breasts be like clusters [of grapes] on the vine, the scent of your breathing like apples. And your mouth like good wine, going straight to my lover, lubricating sleepers’ lips. I am my lover’s, and his desire is upon me.

ספרי דברים רג
ר׳ ישמעאל אומר מכאן חס המקום על פירות האילן ק״ו מאילן. ומה אילן שעושה פירות הזהירך הכתוב עליו פירות עצמם:‏
Sifrei Devarim 203
R’ Yishma’el said: The compassion of the Maqom [מקום, literally, Place, i.e. God] is on the fruit of the tree….For if scripture cautions you [not to harm] the tree that makes fruit [Deuteronomy 20:19], all the more so the fruits themselves.

סנהדרין צח א
ואמר רבי אבא אין לך קץ מגולה מזה שנאמר ואתם הרי ישראל ענפכם תתנו ופריכם תשאו לעמי ישראל וגו’‏ (יחזקאל לו, ח)‏
Sanhedrin 98a
R’ Abba taught: There is no greater revelation of redemption than that which the verse states: “And you, mountains of Israel, you shall give forth your branches and you shall bear your fruit for my people Israel, for they shall soon come.” [Ezekiel 36:8]

זוהר ב:טו ב
דכד הוה חמי רבי אבא חד אילנא דאביה אתעביד עופא דפרח מניה, הוה בכי ואמר, אי הוו בני נשא ידעי למאי רמיזאן, הוו מבזען מלבושיהון עד טבוריהון למאי דאתנשי חכמה מנהון, כל שכן בשאר מה דעבד קודשא בריך הוא בארעא.‏
Zohar 2:15b
When R’ Abba saw a tree whose fruit turned into a bird and flew away, he wept and said: If men only knew to what these things alluded, they would rend their garments!

Vanessa Paloma documented a communal blessing over the flowering fruit trees made by the Jews of Casablanca in 2008.

Today, the first morning of Ḥol HaMoed Pesaj many people in Casablanca gathered to say the blessing over the fruit trees and then we enjoyed a delicious breakfast and the sun in the garden. There were different waves of people, and as you see it was low on women! In Tangier many people have the tradition to say Birkat HaIlanot the day after the end of Pesaj (Mimouna)… and in Israel I remember we would say it before Pesaj.

The Ba’al HaBait told me his father had the same tradition, it’s been a tradition in the family for 90 years to have this gathering on the first day of Ḥol HaMoed. When they built the house they planted the fruit trees before starting to build so that they would be able to have this gathering for the community.

Rabbi Yosef Israel told me that in Tetouan when he was growing up it was a tradition to go to someone’s house that overlooked the whole city of Tetouan and spend the first day of Ḥol HaMoed in the garden and gathering as a community.
In Portugal the community in Belmonte goes out for a picnic during the days of Ḥol HaMoed as well. Ḥag HaAviv–Passover is also called the Spring Holiday–beginning to enjoy the trees, the sun and the outdoors.

See also neohasid.org’s pages on Tu biShvat and on Shavuot first fruits.

Notes   [ + ]

  1. Source: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 226:1
  2. In the Nusah ha-Ari z”l, there is a slight variation in the wording: שֶׁלוֹ חִסַּר בָּעוֹלָמוֹ דָּבָר

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