Halacha for Monday 9 Kislev 5778 November 27 2017

Synthetic Perfume

In the previous Halachot we have discussed that one must recite the appropriate blessing before smelling any fragrant object.

A Fragrance Which Has No Basis
Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 217, Section 3) writes: “Regarding smoked perfume absorbed by clothing, one should not recite a blessing on the fragrance absorbed by the clothing for this smell has no basis.” This means that one may not recite a blessing on a fragrance which is present when its basis, i.e. the object which emanated the fragrance, is not present. One may only recite a blessing on the actual fragrant object and not on the fragrance which has wafted from it and has become absorbed by something else.

Thus, if one puts perfume or cologne on one’s hand which has already dried up but the pleasant smell remains, one may not recite a blessing on the fragrance emanating from one’s hand since this is considered a fragrance which has no basis as the hand is dry and the perfume has already evaporated.

Nevertheless, as long as the perfume is still present, such as if it stored in a bottle, one may certainly recite a blessing on it since the basis is present.

Synthetic Perfume
Several modern-day Poskim disagree regarding perfumes manufactured nowadays which have no innate pleasant smell and are merely chemically altered to emit a pleasant scent whether “Boreh Minei Besamim” should be recited on them for at present, they do indeed give off a good smell, or should one not recite a blessing on them, for originally, they did not emit a pleasant scent and this should be considered a fragrance which has no basis.

Indeed, the Sefer Shemirat Shabbat Ke’Hilchata rules in the name of Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l that it seems that one should not recite a blessing on perfume made through chemical alteration since it was made in a purely artificial manner. Hagaon Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l rules likewise.

Nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes (in his Chazon Ovadia-Berachot, page 313) as follows: “Halachically speaking though, it seems to me that one need not be concerned with their opinion and one should recite ‘Boreh Minei Besamim’ on perfume regardless of whether or not the ingredients in the perfume originally required a blessing on fragrant objects, for the Rambam and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch write, ‘Olive oil which was pressed or ground until it emanates a pleasant smell requires a Boreh Atzeh Besamim blessing,’ although the oil originally did not have a good smell and this was only brought about by pressing or grinding it.” Hagaon Harav Ben-Zion Abba Shaul zt”l, Hagaon Harav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg zt”l, and Hagaon Harav Moshe Levi zt”l rule likewise.

Thus, halachically speaking, one should recite the “Boreh Minei Besamim” blessing before smelling perfumes or colognes manufactured nowadays. Indeed, Maran zt”l would sometimes recite the blessing of “Boreh Minei Besamim” in Havdala on a bottle of cologne. (See Chazon Ovadia-Yamim Nora’im, page 287 and Halacha Berura, Volume 11, page 84.)

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