Blessing on a Fruit Tree

Judaism has special rituals for springtime, Nissan, and Passover.

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A 16th century legal code mentions that the blessing over fruit trees is said only once annually and only on fruit-bearing trees. If one delays, the blessing cannot be made even if there is fruit on the tree. The idea is to capture the moment when the tree is flowering, beginning its majestic process of regrowth. My friend Nathan made me aware that the blessing is not recited in Nissan if fruit trees outside of Israel first flower earlier or later. The requirement is not about the month but about the season. We must mark spring whenever and wherever it arrives.

Some rabbis rule that this blessing should not be said on fruit trees that are grafted because they were created against God’s natural plan for the universe. Others believe that fruit from grafted trees is still worthy of a blessing because although we recite the prayer in the presence of a fruit tree, the tree is, in essence, representing all of creation. We also make blessings on the fruit from such trees before we eat them so it is easy to understand that we can bless the flower just as we can bless the fruit.

One legal opinion states that the ideal time to make the blessing is when we take our very first look at a flowering tree. It is then that the majesty of the season hits us in all of its splendor. It’s funny how we wake up one day and realize suddenly that the seasons have changed even though it is usually a gradual process. Although this same rabbi permits the blessing to be said after the first look but before the fruit forms, his statement of the ideal demonstrates that blessings remind us to stop and take a moment to watch the world around us show off a little. It’s the pause that refreshes.

 

Answer Key: Candle lighting on Yom Kippur, the blessing on the burning of chametz and the blessing recited during the afternoon service of Tisha B’av on the destruction of Jerusalem.

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Erica Brown

Dr. Erica Brown is the Director for Adult Education at The Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning and consults for The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. She is an author-winning author and the recipient of the 2009 Covenant Award. Erica has served as an adjunct professor at American University and George Washington University. She lectures on subjects of Jewish interest and leadership.