This weekend, the Jewish people celebrated the beginning of the month of Nisan. This month marks the beginning of spring, the upcoming Passover holiday, and the rejuvenation of the world. Anyone walking the streets of Israel today will see trees beginning to bloom with the most phenomenal flowers and fruits. It is truly awe-inspiring.
The Talmud states, “If one goes outside during the month of Nisan and sees trees that are blooming, he recites a blessing.” (Tractate Brachot 43b). The blessing is as follows: “Baruch atah Adonay Elohaynu melech haolam shelo chasar b’olamo klum u’bara bo b’riyot tovot v’elanot tovim l’hanot bahem b’nay adam.” – “Blessed are you Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, who did not allow anything to lack in His world, and who created within it good creatures and good trees to give pleasure to mankind through them.”
It is preferred to say the blessing on the first day of the Hebrew month of Nissan upon first seeing a tree in bloom. If the first of Nisan falls on Shabbat, one should wait until the next day to say the blessing. Keep in mind that the blessing should be said upon seeing a bloom for the first time, and not merely leaves. It is customary to leave the city to a place where you will see many blooming trees, preferably of several different types. To make it a more special experience, a group of ten men can recite the blessing together, followed by Kadish.
As the world begins to renew, the weather begins to warm, the days get longer, the flowers blossom, and the air becomes fragrant with the smell of flowers and fruit beginning to bloom, we leave the confines of our homes and workplaces in order to take it all in and give thanks to the Creator.
A blossoming almond tree, AY Katsof, Aish Kodesh
As it says in Deuteronomy 20, “Man is compared to the tree in the field.”
Evil inclination came into the world when Adam and Eve ate from the Etz Hadaat, the Tree of Knowledge. With the blessing of Birkat HaIlanot, we are granted the opportunity to rectify their mistake, by doing something positive with the tool that caused their sin.
According to the Kaballah, it is possible for souls to be trapped in trees or vegetation. Reciting the blessing of Birkat HaIlanot frees those souls, allowing them to continue on to their final resting place. Therefore, the recitation of this blessing is considered a great act of kindness.
The lifecycle of fruit and vegetation affects the Jewish calendar and the holidays. The Jewish holidays correspond to the harvests of the plants. For example, Chag HaKatzir, the Holiday of Harvest is another name for the Jewish festival Shavuot. Chag Ha’Asif, the Holiday of Gathering, corresponds to the gathering of the harvest, and is another name for Succot. Due to the significant impact that vegetation has on the Jewish nation, it makes perfect sense to have a blessing to mark the beginning of the season of blooms, after the desolation of winter.
Take a moment to head outside with your loved ones. Look around at the transformation that the world is undergoing, and thank God for the beauty that surrounds you.