Blessing the Trees

Birkat Ha-ilanot 5773

Today is Rosh Chodesh Nisan.

Rosh Chodesh Nisan has a special place in Jewish history.

We read at the end of Shemot / Exodus (Judaica Press translation):

Shemot 40:17

It came to pass in the first month, in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the Mishkan was set up.

There are two aspects to the special character of Rosh Chodesh Nisan. Some aspects apply in general Rosh Chodesh Nisan and some apply to that day when the Mishkan / Tabernacle was setup.

Flowering Apricot
A flowering apricot tree in French Hill.
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Ten Events

The Gemara (Shabbat 87b) explains:

1. That Rosh Chodesh Nisan was on the first day of the week. In other words, the Tabernacle was erected and first started operating on the same day of the week as the first day of creation.

2. The leaders of each tribe began offering their special offering to dedicate the Mishkan. Their offerings are detailed in Numbers 7:10-88.

3. For the first time Aaron and his sons performed the service.

4. For the first time the communal offerings were brought.

5. The fire came from God and consumed the offerings.

6. That was the first day that the meat of the offerings needed to be consumed in a special place.

7. The Divine Presence (Shechina) dwelt on the Mishkan.

8. The Priestly Blessing was recited for the first time.

9. Private altars were no longer permitted.

10. Rosh Chodesh Nisan is the first of all the months.

Nisan as Spring

Another Gemara (Berachot 43b) makes a brief mention of the month of Nisan:

Rav Yehuda said: “A person who goes out in the days of Nisan and sees blossoming trees says, ‘Blessed [are You Hashem our God, King of the world, Who did not leave anything lacking in His world, and created in it good creations and good trees to give pleasure to people.'”

This Gemara is accepted as the halacha and is essentially quoted in the Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim 226. You can see all the details of this halacha there.

Saying Birkat Ha-ilanot

After breakfast this morning, we set off to say Birkat Ha-ilanot.

Branches of an Apricot
This is the companion of the apricot tree pictured above.

The apricot trees we had spotted earlier were waiting for us. This pair of trees still have many blossoms though it is also easy to see the beginning of leaves and the fruit.

We had some other choices.

There is a cherry tree in a small park near the grocery store. However, it just has buds, not actual flowers yet. Also, it is considered preferable (when possible) to say Birkat Ha-ilanot when you can see two trees.

Cherry Tree with Buds
This cherry tree will bloom soon, but we didn’t want to wait for it.

Also, earlier this week we spotted some trees in bloom that might be plum trees. However, since we’re not positive, it wouldn’t be a good idea to say the beracha over them. We plan during the coming weeks to watch these trees and see if indeed they produce plums.

What About You?

Have you said Birkat Ha-ilanot yet? What fruit trees are growing near you that you can use to fulfill this beracha?

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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