Halacha for Sunday 8 Kislev 5778 November 26 2017

Blessings on Pleasant Smells-Plants, Fruits, and an Interesting Incident Involving Maran zt”l

In the previous Halachot we have discussed that before enjoying a pleasant smell, one must first recite the appropriate blessing. These blessings are classified as “Blessings on Pleasant Smells.”

There are four blessings included in this category: “Boreh Atzeh Besamim,” “Boreh Isbeh Besamim,” “Boreh Minei Besamim,” and “Ha’Noten Re’ach Tov Ba’Perot.”

In the previous Halacha we have discussed which fragrant objects require the “Boreh Minei Besamim” and “Boreh Atzeh Besamim” blessings. Let us now discuss which items require the “Boreh Isbeh Besamim” and “Ha’Noten Re’ach Tov Ba’Perot” blessings.

Boreh Isbeh Besamim
Peppermint and spearmint leaves require a “Boreh Isbeh Besamim” blessing, for these leaves are forms of plants. (Chazon Ovadia-Berachot, page 321)

Regarding roda (a plant commonly known as “fringed rue” and used for mystical purposes), which many people enjoy smelling, the Poskim disagree whether its blessing is “Boreh Atzeh Besamim” or “Boreh Isbeh Besamim.” Thus, in order to avoid all doubt, the Halacha Berura (Chapter 216, Subsection 22) writes that one should recite the “Boreh Minei Besamim” blessing on it, for this blessing exempts all fragrant objects.

Ha’Noten Re’ach Tov Ba’Perot
On oranges, etrogs (citrons), pineapple, and any other fruit which gives off a pleasant scent and one takes them in order to smell them, one recites the blessing of “Ha’Noten Re’ah Tov Ba’Perot.” Indeed, it occurred that Maran zt”l did not have any Besamim for Havdala and instead he took a fruit and recited “Ha’Noten Re’ach Tov Ba’Perot.”

If one takes a lemon in order to smell it, one must recite the “Ha’Noten Re’ach Tov Ba’Perot” blessing. Nevertheless, Hagaon Harav Moshe Levi zt”l writes in his Sefer Birkat Hashem writes that one should recite the “Boreh Minei Besamim” blessing on lemons, for the primary fragrance comes from the peel and the peel is not considered a fruit that one can recite “Ha’Noten Re’ach Tov Ba’Perot” on.

Nevertheless, Maran zt”l rebuffs this opinion (in his Chazon Ovadia-Berachot, page 308) and writes that one should certainly recite “Ha’Noten Re’ach Tov Ba’Perot” on a lemon, for the peel is attached to the lemon and the lemon and the peel are all part of the same fruit. Maran zt”l concludes: “Indeed, my custom is to recite “Ha’Noten Re’ach Tov Ba’Perot” on a lemon every Shabbat in order to complete one-hundred blessings and I am not concerned about his words.” Thus, halachically speaking, if one wishes to smell a lemon, one recites “Ha’Noten Re’ach Tov Ba’Perot.”

As we have mentioned, it was indeed Maran’s custom to recite many blessings in order to complete the daily quota of one-hundred blessings. On his porch, he grew several kinds of fragrant plants and trees in order to be able to smell them and recite blessings. When Maran’s wife, Rabbanit Margalit, was still among the living, she would tend the garden for her husband every day. Towards the end of her life when she became ill though, she hired a gardener to come and tend to the plants by pruning them, watering them, and the like.

After the Rabbanit passed away in 5754 (1994), the gardener was unaware of this sad news and he no longer arrived to tend to the plants since the Rabbanit would not invite him and request his services. All of the plants and trees shriveled up and died.

Several weeks later, the gardener knocked on the door of the house and recounted to Maran zt”l how the Rabbanit had appeared to him in a dream the night before and asked him why he had stop tending to the plants for the rabbi like he used to. She told him that the rabbi now had no plants to recite blessings on every Shabbat and this caused him much angst. The gardener therefore awoke early in order to find out if there was any truth to the dream. From then on, the gardener had returned to tend to the garden faithfully as he had when the Rabbanit was still alive.

In the next Halacha we shall discuss whether or not a blessing is recited on the synthetic perfumes and colognes commonly found nowadays.

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