Once, on a short chol hamoed day, my wife and I took our kids to a botanical garden not far from the house. We simply walked through the gardens taking in the fresh air and enjoying the diversity of the various blooming trees. On the way home, we appropriately stopped by a fruit tree in the neighborhood to make Birkas HaIlan, the Blessing over trees.
The blessing over trees is mentioned in the Talmud (Brachos 43b) and can be found in most siddurim in the section of brochos listed after Birkas HaMazon (Grace after Meals). It is a blessing that is made only once a year and the optimum time to make the blessing is in the month of Nisan. The blessing is only made on fruit bearing trees and can only be made after the tree has begun to blossom, preferably before the fruit has begun to grow. The Blessing loosely translates as: Blessed are You, Hashem, Our G-d, King of the world, for nothing is lacking in His world, and in it He created good creatures and good trees, in order for mankind to take pleasure in them.
There are three things that have always struck me as interesting about this blessing. First, why, of all blessings, does this one state that â€œnothing is lacking in His Worldâ€? Second, why does the blessing on trees mention â€œgood creaturesâ€? Third, what does making good trees and creatures have to do with â€œmankind taking pleasure in themâ€?
I have heard it explained that the reason that it is preferable to say the blessing after the tree has begun blossoming but before the fruit has begun to grow is that we are thanking G-d for the beauty of the blossoms. G-d could have easily created a fruit tree that is ugly and simply squeezes out fruit. But G-d wanted the world to be beautiful for us â€œto take pleasure inâ€. So, we thank Him for providing us these beautiful often aromatic, flowers. That is why the blessing says â€œnothing is lacking in His worldâ€ and that is why the blessing says that these things were created for mankind to take pleasure in.
The Ben Ish Chai (Chacham Yosef Chaim, Chief Rabbi of Baghdad in the mid to late 19th Century and renowned Sephardic Halachic decisor) explains why the blessing for trees includes the statement that Hashem created â€œgood creaturesâ€. The Ben Ish Chai explains that just as dry, withered and seemingly lifeless trees burst forth with beautiful flowers and bountiful fruit, so too can we as individuals shake off our spiritual slumbers and stagnating depressions to a blossoming, reinvigorating renaissance.
First Published 4/23/2006