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Birkhas HaIlanos – To Bless is to Blossom

Peach Orchard, Kfar Yuval, Golan, photo by Dror ben Dovid

Peach Blossoms in the Golan

Rabbi Nachman taught:

“Every flower of the field yearns to be part of our tefilos (prayers).” So an orchestra of color joins in as we say:

ברוך אתה ד’ אלהינו מלך העולם, שלא חסר בעולמו כלום, וברא בו בריות טובות ואילנות טובים, להנות בהם בני אדם.

“Baruch atah Hashem, Elokeinu Melech Haolam, shelo chisar b’olamo klum, u’vara vo b’riyos tovos v’ilanos tovim l’hanos bahem b’nei adam.

“Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, Master of the universe, Whose world lacks nothing, and Who created within it beneficial creatures and beneficial trees to bring enjoyment to people.”

Only the best of us are compared to a fruit tree: “The righteous shall flourish like a date-palm…” (Tehillim, 92:12) while even the lowliest of fruit trees is protected by the Torah. (Devarim, 20:19). Like them, we draw strength from our roots, we need water and nutrients to live, we respond to the changing seasons, we grow upward reaching toward the light, and—we bear fruit.

The more trees, the better…

…but even one is enough. (Teshuvos Halachos Ketanos 2:28) According to most authorities, the Birkhas Hailanos is made during daylight hours of any weekday in the month of Nissan (Sdei Chemed, Berachos 2:1 and Kaf ha-Chayim, 126:1). Not all fruit-bearing trees qualify. They cannot have been grafted and they need to be more than three years old.

The brachah is preferably recited on two different types of fruit trees, though even one type of tree is valid. The blossoms should be open, yet before the fruit appears (Chida, Moreh b’Etzba 198).

A Time-Bound Mitzvah?

Similar to a woman’s obligation to bring first fruits — bikurim — to the Beis Hamikdash, this commandment is not considered “time-bound.” It is a “season-bound” opportunity for everyone, man or woman, to open all our senses, drawing inspiration from the harmony of nature that goes far beyond words.

Rav Abba taught: There is no greater revelation of redemption than that which the pasuk 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.” (Yechezkel 36:8, Bavli Sanhedrin, 98a). The geulah, then, resembles the blossoming of fruit branches.

Is the World Lacking… or Not?

To understand what Rav Abba is telling us, consider the wording of the brachah itself: “…Whose world lacks nothing.” Meanwhile, in the blessing “borei nefashos” that we say after eating, we thank Hashem who fulfills the “lack” in His “living creatures”. So, is there a lack or isn’t there?

Blossoming Fruit Trees - Ayalon Valley, Eretz YisraelBirkhas Hailanos holds the answer. This unique blessing reminds us of the distinction between Hashem’s creatures and Hashem’s world. Creatures have a sense of lack – we get hungry, thirsty, or lonely. But Hashem’s world itself has no lack.

This is the distinction between the state of galus — exile — and the state of geulah — redemption. When we focus only on our lack, we feel distant from Hashem. When we focus on His provision of what we lack, we feel His Presence, His love. As we say in Lecha Dodi on Shabbos evening: “Karva El nafshi, gealahWhen Hashem is close to my soul, redemption!”

Believing in Hashem only in our minds is not enough.

If we don’t feel His Presence in our heart and through our senses, we’re still in exile. When we draw our experience of Hashem into our deepest awareness (through learning, praying, and doing mitzvos), we feel He’s close to us and we bring our personal redemption closer. Our voice is a key to this process.

“They shall inherit the Land forever; the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, in which I glory.” (Yishaya 60:21) The surge of new life bursting forth in nature reassures us that ultimately nothing is lacking.

We have each been “planted” by Hashem in the best circumstances for our soul to reach that feeling of closeness to Him. When we perceive His miracles of life and renewal “right in our own backyard” the darkness of exile recedes.

As we say the blessing this year, may everything become possible again, for the People of Israel who are “the planting of His hand” and who blossom through giving voice to His miracles.

(c) 2017 by A.S. Morgenstern,

Apple Blossom

Sources: Berakhos 43b; Rambam (Berakhos 10:13); Rokeyach, p. 235; Ohr Zarua 1:179; Avudraham Berakhos; Tur and Shulchan Aruch O.C. 226; Siddur Rav Yaakov Emden; Chayei Adam 63.

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