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Birkhas HaIlanos – To Bless is to Blossom

Blossoming Fruit Trees - Ayalon Valley, Eretz Yisrael

“If one goes outside during the month of Nissan and sees trees that are blossoming he recites a blessing” (Berakhos 43b).

Every year the Torah invites us to venture into the great outdoors, find some fruit trees in bloom and say Birkhas Ha’Ilanos:

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.”

The more trees, the better…

The Birkhas HaIlanos is made during daylight hours of any weekday (not on Shabbos) in the month of Nissan (Sdei Chemed, Berachos 2:1 and Kaf ha-Chayim, 126:1).

The brachah is recited on seeing two different types of fruit trees, though saying it on seeing even one type of tree is valid. At least some of the blossoms should be open (Chida, Moreh b’Etzba 198).

A Time-Bound Mitzvah?

Women are usually exempt from time-bound mitzvos. However, similar to a woman’s obligation to bring bikurim (first produce) to the Beis Hamikdash, this commandment is not considered “time-bound.” It’s a “season-bound” chance for everyone to draw inspiration from witnessing how Hashem renews His world.

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.

Cherry BlossomsIs the World Lacking… or Not?

To understand Rav Abba’s message more fully, consider the wording of the brachah itself: “…Whose world lacks nothing.” How can we say this, when in the blessing “borei nefashos” said after eating, we thank Hashem who fulfills the “lack” in His “living creatures”. Why the seeming contradiction? Is there a lack or isn’t there?

Birkhas 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 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.

Apple BlossomEach one of us has been “planted” by Hashem in the best circumstances for our soul to reach a 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 each one of us who are “the planting of His hand” and who blossom through quietly adding our voice to the song of creation.

(c) 2017 by A. Morgenstern, www.BreslovTorah.com
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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