The Proper Time for the Blessing of the Trees
Our Sages, who have established the Blessing of the Tress, write that the proper time for this blessing is during the month of Nissan, for it is then that trees begin to blossom and buds come forth. It would seem from the words of our Sages though that this blessing may only be recited during the month of Nissan and not at any other time.
Countries where the Trees Blossom at other Times
A problem exists in the United States, for not always Nissan do the trees begin to blossom during the month of Nissan. Therefore, the question becomes whether or not one is permitted to recite the Blessing of the Trees in the month of Iyar.
The Sefer Ha’Eshkol (authored by Rabbeinu Avraham Av Bet Din, one of the great Rishonim, page 68) writes that one should recite the Blessing of the Trees during the month of Nissan, however, this does not mean that the blessing must be recited specifically in Nissan; rather, this refers to the first time that year that one sees the trees blossom. Similarly, the Ritba (Rabbeinu Yom Tov ben Avraham Elasvili) in his commentary on Tractate Rosh Hashanah (11a) writes: “This does not necessarily mean Nissan; rather, every place based on when the trees blossom there.” Many other Poskim rule likewise.
Thus, one may recite the Blessing of the Trees based on whenever the blossoming of the trees occurs in one’s current location, for there is no specific requirement for the blessing to be recited in the month of Nissan; the only requirement is the spring blossom, which usually occurs during Nissan.
Reciting the Blessing of the Trees on Shabbat
The Poskim disagree whether or not the Blessing of the Trees may be recited on Shabbat. We have already written about this topic in the past. Halachically speaking, according to Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, it is permissible to recite this blessing on Shabbat according to the letter of the law especially on years when Rosh Chodesh Nissan coincides with Shabbat and there is a concern that if this blessing is not recited by the entire congregation on Shabbat, there may be those who will treat this blessing lightly and not recite it later at all. In such a situation, it is certainly preferable to recite the Blessing of the Trees on Shabbat. Indeed, Maran zt”l behaved this way in his older years when he and the members of his synagogue would walk down the road and recite the Blessing of the Trees on Shabbat. Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l behaved likewise. Similarly, if, for whatever reason, one has not yet recited the Blessing of the Trees and then sees blossoming trees on Shabbat, one should recite the blessing right away so as not to miss saying the blessing entirely.
On Which Trees One May Recite this Blessing
One may only recite this blessing on fruit-bearing trees and it may not be recited on barren trees. Nevertheless, if one mistakenly recited this blessing on a barren tree, one should not repeat it upon seeing a blossoming fruit-bearing tree.
Some say that one may only recite this blessing when seeing a minimum of two blossoming fruit trees. Others rule that seeing one tree is sufficient. In pressing circumstances, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that one may recite the blessing on one tree. Nevertheless, it is especially praiseworthy to recite the blessing on several different kinds of fruit trees.
Regarding trees that are grafted from two different species, for instance, a tree grafted from Etrogim (citrons) and lemons, some are of the opinion that one should not recite the Blessing of the Trees upon seeing them since their existence is against the will of Hashem; thus, one should not thank and praise Hashem for them. Others argue and write that since this blessing pertains to the entire creation in general, one may even recite it upon grafted trees. Although if one wishes to recite this blessing on such a tree there is no need to protest, it is nevertheless preferable not to recite the blessing on such a tree due to the famous rule, “When in doubt regarding a blessing, do not bless.”
However, there is much room for leniency in this matter regarding trees which are not so clearly forbidden to graft, such as citrus trees including citron, lemon, “Chushchash” (wild oranges), and grapefruits, for 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 with one another. Based on this, the existence of such trees is certainly not against Hashem’s will and the Blessing of the Trees may be recited on them just as it is customary to recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing on such fruits, as we have explained in another Halacha.
One may recite the Blessing of the Trees upon a tree within its first three years of being planted, for although it is Orlah and forbidden to benefit from, since it was not planted in a prohibited manner (as all trees are forbidden to benefit from during their first three years of being planted), this blessing may be recited upon it.
Reciting the Blessing Outside of the City
Hagaon Rabbeinu Chaim Palagi writes in his Responsa Lev Chaim (Volume 2, Chapter 45) and Sefer Mo’ed Le’Kol Hai (Chapter 1, Section 6) that one should preferably recite the Blessing of the Trees specifically outside the city. He derives this from the words of the Gemara and the Rambam which state that this blessing was instituted for “one who goes out during the month of Nissan”; it is therefore improper to recite this blessing inside one’s home. Several great sages followed this practice, among them the great Geonim and luminaries of Yeshivat Porat Yosef Harav Yehuda Tzadka, Harav Mansour Ben-Shimon, Harav Ben-Zion Abba Shaul, Harav Yosef Ades, Harav Yehuda Moalem who would travel to an area near Bet Shemesh every year to recite this blessing. Nevertheless, many great Poskim did not customarily follow this stringency quoted by Rabbeinu Chaim Palagi and even he writes that his grandfather, Hagaon Harav Yosef Refael Chazzan, Rishon Le’Zion, author of Responsa Chikrei Lev, and one of the greatest luminaries of the generation, would customarily recite this blessing in the courtyard of his home. Similarly, the great sages of Istanbul would recite this blessing while looking out their window at the trees outside. Maran zt”l and those who prayed in his synagogue would likewise recite the Blessing of the Trees close to his home and he would not travel outside of the city to do so.