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בִּרְכַּת הָאִילָנוֹת | The Blessing of Flowering Fruit Trees in the Spring Season, compiled by Aharon Varady

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

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).

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.

Hebrew English

לְשֵׁם יִחוּד
קוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא וּשְׁכִינְתֵּיהּ,
בִּדְחִילוּ וּרְחִימוּ, וּרְחִימוּ וּדְחִילוּ,
לְיַחֲדָא שֵׁם יוֹ״ד הֵ״י בְּוָא״ו הֵ״י בְּיִחוּדָא שְׁלִים
בְּשֵׁם כׇּל־יִשְׂרָאֵל
To encourage a uniting of His Majesty,
The Blessed Holy One with Her Immanence, the Presence:
In awe and in love, in love and in awe
To unite All-That-Could-Be to That-Which-Will-Be, the names Yod-Heh and Waw-Heh in inseparable unity
For all of Israel’s sake

וּבְשֵׁם כׇּל־הַנְּפָשׁוֹת רוּחוֹת וּנְשָׁמוֹת
הַמִּתְיַחֲסִים אֶל־שׇׁרְשֵׁי נָפְשֵֽׁנוּ רוּחֵֽנוּ וְנִשְׁמָתֵֽנוּ
וּמִלְּבוּשֵׁיהֶם וְהַקְּרוֹבִים לָהֶם
שֶׁמִּכְּלָלוּת אֲצִילוּת בְּרִיאָה יְצִירָה עֲשִׂיָּה,
וּמִכׇּל־פְּרָטֵי אֲצִילוּת בְּרִיאָה יְצִירָה עֲשִׂיָּה,
And for the sake of all beings whose Life-Force, Soul, and Consciousness
is connected at the root to our Life-Force, Soul, and Consciousness
And connected to the Enclothing/manifestations of each of these, and everything closest to these
Which are in the entirety of the Emanation-world, Creation-world, Formation-world and Action-world,
and which are from all pieces of Emanation, Creation, Formation and Action:

הֲרֵי אֲנַחְנוּ מוּכָנִים וּמְזֻמָּנִים
לְקַיֵּם מִצְוַת הַבְּרָכָה
שֶׁתִּקְּנוּ חֲכָמִים זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה
עַל רְאִיַּת אִילָנֵי דִמְלַבְלְבֵי׃
We declare ourselves ready and willing
to fulfill the commandment of the blessing
which was ordained by the sages of blessed memory
upon seeing trees in bloom.

וְיֹעֲלָה לְפָנֶיךָ יהוה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ
כְּאִֽלּוּ כִּוַּנּֽוּ בְּכׇל־הַכַּוָּנוֹת הָרְאוּיוֹת לְכַוֵּן בַּבְּרָכָה הַזֹּאת וְסוֹדוֹתֶֽיהָ,
וְתִהְיֶה חֲשׁוּבָה וּמְקֻבֶּֽלֶת וּרְצוּיָה לְפָנֶֽיךָ בְּרָכָה זוֹ
לְבָרֵר וּלְהַעֲלוֹת עַל יָדָהּ כׇּל־נִיצוֹצֵי הַקְּדֻשָּׁה הַמְּעֹרָבִים בַּצּוֹמֵֽחַ,
וְכׇל־הַנְּפָשׁוֹת רוּחוֹת וּנְשָׁמוֹת הַמְּגֻלְגָּלִים בּוֹ׃
So may [the blessing] go up before You, Adonai our God and God of our ancestors,
as if we kept in mind all of the intentions deserved by this blessing and the secrets it holds,
and may this blessing be desired and accepted and welcomed before You
to identify and elevate, through it, all sparks of the holiness mingled throughout all vegetation,
And every Life-Force, Soul, and Consciousness which may be reincarnated in vegetation.

וְאַתָּה הָאֵל בְּמִדַּת טוּבְךָ וְחַסְדְּךָ הַגָּדוֹל
תָּאִיר לָהֶם בְּאוֹר פָּנֶֽיךָ
וְתַשְׁלִים בֵּרוּרָם וְתִקּוּנָם׃
בָּרְכֶם טַהֲרֵם רַחֲמֵי צִדְקָתֶֽךָ תָּמִיד גׇּמְלֵם׃
And You, my God, through Your abundant goodness and kindness,
Light the way for them by the light of Your Face
To complete their clarification and correction.
Bless them, cleanse them, Your righteous kindness always grant them.

וִיהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶֽיךָ יהוה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ
שֶׁבִּזְכוּת הַבְּרָכָה הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר נְבָרֵךְ יְקֻיַּם בָּֽנוּ מַאֲמָר —
רְאֵה֙ רֵ֣יחַ בְּנִ֔י כְּרֵ֣יחַ שָׂדֶ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר בֵּרְכ֖וֹ יְהֹוָֽה׃(בראשית כז:כו)
And may it Your Majesty’s desire, Adonai our God, God of our ancestors,
that through the merit we gain by incanting this blessing, this statement will be fulfilled[2]or “come true” through us. through us, not for us. banu, not lanu. through us:
“See, the scent of my son is like the scent of the field that Adonai blessed.”[3]Genesis 27:27. This verse is crucial. Rei’aḥ connecting to ru’aḥ, and to the scent of flowers, and to being God’s child, and being a field that God has blessed. This is the verse that equates the soul of vegetation with the souls of us.

וּנְקַבֵּל שֶׁפַע עֶֽשֶׂר הַבְּרָכוֹת כַּכָּתוּב —
וְיִֽתֶּן־לְךָ֙ הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים מִטַּל֙ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם
וּמִשְׁמַנֵּ֖י הָאָ֑רֶץ
וְרֹ֥ב דָּגָ֖ן וְתִירֹֽשׁ׃ (בראשית כז:כח)
And may we receive abundance of ten blessings[4]The ten blessings are as follows: 1. of the dew of heaven, 2. of the fat of the land, 3. much grain, 4. much wine, 5. people’s will serve you, 6. nations will bow before you, 7. you will have power over your brother, 8. all your mother’s sons will bow to you, 9. those who curse you be cursed, 10. those who bless you be blessed. Additionally, the verse that follows has ten words. The verse after it has sixteen, making twenty-six in total, and so we are blessed with ten blessings that are God’s unified name, Yud-Heh with Vav-Heh. And so we’ve come full circle! as written:
“And God will give you of the dew of the heaven
and of the fat of the land,
and much grain and wine.”[5]Genesis 27:28.

יַֽעַבְד֣וּךָ עַמִּ֗ים
וְיִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֻ֤ לְךָ֙ לְאֻמִּ֔ים
הֱוֵ֤ה גְבִיר֙ לְאַחֶ֔יךָ
וְיִשְׁתַּחֲו֥וּ לְךָ֖ בְּנֵ֣י אִמֶּ֑ךָ
אֹרְרֶ֣יךָ אָר֔וּר
וּֽמְבָרְכֶ֖יךָ בָּרֽוּךְ׃ (בראשית כז:כט)
Peoples will serve you,
nations will bow before you,
you will have power over your brother,
and all your mother’s sons will bow to you,
may those who curse you be cursed,
and may those who bless you be blessed.”[6]Genesis 27:29.

יִ֥הְיֽוּ לְרָצ֨וֹן ׀ אִמְרֵי־פִ֡י וְהֶגְי֣וֹן לִבִּ֣י לְפָנֶ֑יךָ
יְ֝הֹוָ֗ה צוּרִ֥י וְגֹאֲלִֽי׃ (תהלים יט:טז)
May the words of my mouth and the flutterings of my heart be welcomed before You,
Adonai my Rock and Redeemer.[7]Psalms 19:16.

וִיהִ֤י ׀ נֹ֤עַם אֲדֹנָ֥י אֱלֹהֵ֗ינוּ עָ֫לֵ֥ינוּ
וּמַעֲשֵׂ֣ה יָ֭דֵינוּ כּוֹנְנָ֥ה עָלֵ֑ינוּ
וּֽמַעֲשֵׂ֥ה יָ֝דֵ֗ינוּ כּוֹנְנֵֽהוּ׃ (תהלים צ:יז)
And may the sweetness of the Master our God be upon us,
and the works of our hands be established for us;
may God establish the work of our hands.[8]Psalms 90:17.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה
יהוה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ
מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
שֶׁלֹּא חִסֵּר בְּעוֹלָמוֹ כְּלוּם
וּבָרָא בּוֹ בְּרִיּוֹת טוֹבוֹת
וְאִילָנוֹת טוֹבוֹת
לְהִתְנָאוֹת בָּהֶן בְּנֵי אָדָם׃
Blessed are You,
YHVH (haShem) our elo’ah,
cosmic majesty,
for there is nothing lacking in the world at all,[9]In the Nusaḥ ha-Ari z”l, there is a slight variation in the wording: שֶׁלוֹ חִסַּר בָּעוֹלָמוֹ דָּבָר 
and created in it: good creatures
and pleasant trees
for the children of Adam to beautify themselves through them.[10]Berakhot 43b. The variations for this blessings formulation are discussed here.

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

Some additional texts to learn 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!

As a formula, this blessing has some language in common with another blessing, the rabbinic Jewish blessing after eating all foods:
Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

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[11]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.
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.  or “come true” through us. through us, not for us. banu, not lanu.
3.  Genesis 27:27. This verse is crucial. Rei’aḥ connecting to ru’aḥ, and to the scent of flowers, and to being God’s child, and being a field that God has blessed. This is the verse that equates the soul of vegetation with the souls of us.
4.  The ten blessings are as follows: 1. of the dew of heaven, 2. of the fat of the land, 3. much grain, 4. much wine, 5. people’s will serve you, 6. nations will bow before you, 7. you will have power over your brother, 8. all your mother’s sons will bow to you, 9. those who curse you be cursed, 10. those who bless you be blessed. Additionally, the verse that follows has ten words. The verse after it has sixteen, making twenty-six in total, and so we are blessed with ten blessings that are God’s unified name, Yud-Heh with Vav-Heh. And so we’ve come full circle!
5.  Genesis 27:28.
6.  Genesis 27:29.
7.  Psalms 19:16.
8.  Psalms 90:17.
9.  In the Nusaḥ ha-Ari z”l, there is a slight variation in the wording: שֶׁלוֹ חִסַּר בָּעוֹלָמוֹ דָּבָר
10.  Berakhot 43b. The variations for this blessings formulation are discussed here.
11.  lit. something lacking

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