Question: Should one recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing on a fragrant object which renews itself yearly?
Answer: The root of this question is based on what we rule that regarding any fruit which renews itself yearly, such as berries and pomegranates, before partaking of that fruit for the first time that year, one recites the appropriate blessing over that fruit and then recites the blessing of, “Shehecheyanu Ve’Kiyemanu Ve’Higianu La’Zeman Hazeh” as well, after which one proceeds to taste some of the fruit. We must therefore determine whether or not the same applies to pleasant smelling objects which renew themselves yearly, such as jasmine or roses which only grow during the summer months; will one also need to recite a “Shehecheyanu” blessing on them after reciting their appropriate blessing first or not?
The Radbaz, Rabbeinu David ben Zimra, writes in one of his responses that regarding a fragrant object which renews itself yearly, such as jasmine, roses, and the like, one should recite a “Shehecheyanu” blessing over them. Although we always consider a pleasant smell insignificant which creates several halachic ramifications, nevertheless, regarding the enjoyment one has from a pleasant smell for which our Sages enacted that one should recite a “Blessing over Pleasant Smells,” one should certainly recite a “Shehecheyanu” blessing on it as well, for just as one must make a blessing for the enjoyment he gets from a pleasant smell, one must likewise recite a “Shehecheyanu” blessing on this enjoyment as well. Several great Poskim quote this opinion and rule accordingly.
However, the Sefer Sheyarei Kenesset Ha’Gedolah contends this opinion based on the fact that the custom is not to recite this blessing on a fragrant object and he proceeds to bring several reasons for this. The Sefer Lechem Chamudot writes that the reason why we do not recite a “Shehecheyanu” blessing on pleasant smells is because smell only causes minor enjoyment, which is indeed the same reason why there is no after-blessing for pleasant smells, as Rashi writes. Thus, regarding “Shehecheyanu” as well, since this enjoyment is not so significant and does not gladden a person so much, one should not recite a “Shehecheyanu” blessing on a pleasant smell.
Another reason for our custom to abstain from reciting a “Shehecheyanu” on pleasant smells is quoted by the aforementioned Sefer Lechem Chamudot in the name of his colleague Hagaon Harav Moshe Levi Dayan zt”l, is that not only the body enjoys pleasant smells, as one’s soul indeed obtains most of the enjoyment, as the verse in Tehillim states, “Let all souls praise Hashem!” Thus, one cannot recite a “Shehecheyanu” blessing on something that the soul enjoys, for the essence of the soul lives forever as it is eternal unlike like the body which constantly needs to recite “Shehecheyanu Ve’Kiyemanu Ve’Higianu” (“Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and allowed us to reach etc.”). Therefore, one should not recite “Shehecheyanu” on a fragrant object which renews itself yearly, as this is predominantly an enjoyment of the eternal soul.
Nevertheless, the Responsa Pe’ulat Tzadik writes that in his youth, he observed his rabbis reciting a “Shehecheyanu” blessing on the pleasant smell emerging from roses and he writes lengthily to justify his rabbis’ custom. However, Maran Ha’Chida writes that since we have a great rule, “when in doubt, do not bless,” one should not recite “Shehecheyanu” on a pleasant smell. In addition, if the Radbaz was correct that one should indeed recite a “Shehecheyanu” blessing on a pleasant smell, it is somewhat difficult to understand why none of the Rishonim mentioned this at all. Thus, halachically speaking, one should not recite a “Shehecheyanu” blessing on a fragrant object since there is still a disagreement about this matter. Nevertheless, if one wishes to act stringently, one may recite “Shehecheyanu” on a pleasant smell without reciting Hashem’s name, i.e. “Baruch Shehecheyanu Ve’Kiyemanu Ve’Higianu La’Zeman Hazeh.”