Question: May one recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing the first time during the year one eats citrus fruits, such as grapefruits or oranges?
Answer: We must first preface this discussion with the law that when one eats a new fruit that one has not yet partaken of that year, after reciting the appropriate blessing on the fruit, such as “Boreh Peri Ha’etz,” one recites the “Shehecheyanu Ve’Kiyemanu Ve’Higianu La’Zeman Hazeh” blessing as well.
Regarding our question about citrus fruits, we must first discuss the well-known fact that several citrus fruits are not natural fruits which have were in existence since the creation of the world; rather, human beings have grafted several species of fruits together until the desired product was achieved. For example, the grapefruit is not a natural fruit; rather, it is the byproduct of the orange and the pomelo. Some say that even oranges themselves are not a natural fruit; rather, they are the byproduct of the grafting of several different kinds of trees (the “Chushchash” [a type of wild orange], the lemon, and the like). Therefore, some say that the “Shehecheyanu” blessing should not be recited on such fruits, for their very existence is in opposition to Hashem’s will, for He forbade us to graft different species together.
Indeed, the Sefer Halachot Ketanot writes that it is possible that one should not recite a “Shehecheyanu” on grafted fruits, for how can one recite a “Shehecheyanu” blessing on something which is man-made and is in opposition of Hashem’s will? This is likewise the opinion of many Poskim, including Hagaon Rabbeinu Yosef Haim in his Ben Ish Hai (Parashat Re’eh) who writes that the custom in Baghdad was not to recite a “Shehecheyanu” on oranges. However, Hagaon Ya’abetz (Rabbeinu Yaakov Emdin ben Tzvi) questions the Halachot Ketanot’s opinion on several counts, one of which being that if it were true that one may not recite a “Shehecheyanu” on grafted fruits, how then could one recite a “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” blessing on such fruits either, for how can one praise Hashem about something that was created in opposition to His will? We must say perforce that since Hashem has allowed us to eat from such fruits even after they were created in a forbidden manner, there must no longer be anything wrong with them and one would be able to praise Hashem about the creation of these fruits in addition to the fact that Hashem has kept us alive and given us the privilege of tasting these fruits anew every year.
The Custom to Recite the Blessing vs. The Rule of “When In Doubt, Do Not Bless”
Although there is a disagreement whether or not one should recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing on grafted fruits and one should seemingly be concerned with the opinion that holds that one should not recite a “Shehecheyanu” on grafted fruits, for we have a great rule that “when in doubt, do not bless,” nevertheless, the custom in Jerusalem was to recite a “Shehecheyanu” blessing on oranges and other grafted fruits, as the Chesed La’Alafim and other great Acharonim attest to.
The Bottom Line
Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that, halachically speaking, when there is a disagreement among the Poskim regarding a blessing and the prevalent custom is in accordance with the Poskim who rule that a blessing should be recited, the custom should be continued. Thus, in our situation, one should recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing on grafted fruits and one need not be concerned with the opinions who rule that the blessing should not be recited.
Grafting Citrus Fruits
In any case, regarding citrus fruits, we have a solid reason to rely on this opinion and recite a “Shehecheyanu” blessing upon eating them, for according to many Poskim, all citrus fruits are considered one species and it is thus not so clear-cut that there is a prohibition to graft lemon, citron (Etrog), “Chushchash,” and grapefruit trees with one another. Indeed, according to Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l (See Responsa Yabia Omer Volume 5, Chapter 19 and Halichot Olam Volume 2, page 200), one may instruct a non-Jew to graft such trees together. Based on this, their existence is certainly not in contrast to Hashem’s will and one should recite a “Shehecheyanu” on them, in accordance with the ancient custom in Jerusalem.
Summary: If one eats citrus fruits for the first time during the year and the fruits are new to that year, one should recite a “Shehecheyanu” blessing before eating them for the first time.