Ask the Rov: This year, Rosh Chodesh Nissan is Shabbos. May we recite Birkas Ha’ilanos on Shabbos?
By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah
The Gemara teaches that if you walk outside during the days of Nissan and see trees that are blossoming, you recite a bracha, known as Birkas Ha’ilanos. You are not technically obligated to search for such trees, but there is special significance and reward for endeavoring to say this bracha.1
The bracha is made specifically when the tree has actual blossoms, and not just leaves.2 Although some poskim hold that it must be a tree that produces edible fruit, the Rebbe notes that there isn’t a clear implication from the Alter Rebbe either way.3
Once the fruits are grown, it is too late to recite the bracha. It is understood from the Alter Rebbe that the bracha must be recited before the fruit even begins growing.4
According to halacha, the bracha may be recited on a single tree. Based on the Gemara’s wording of “trees” plural, poskim write that it is preferable to have multiple trees. But one shouldn’t forgo the mitzva if there is only a single tree available.5
The time period when this bracha is to be made is during the “days of Nissan.” Many hold the bracha may be recited throughout the spring season even after the month of Nissan, but from the Alter Rebbe it seems clear that the bracha with Hashem’s name may only be said during Chodesh Nissan.6 It is proper to recite the bracha at the first possible day, since zerizin makdimin lmitzvos and to avoid the possibility of forgetting.
May the bracha be recited on Shabbos?
Many poskim permit, and even encourage doing so, since it will help supplement the daily goal of one hundred brachos on Shabbos when many of the weekday ones aren’t applicable.7 Others argue that is forbidden on Shabbos, due to a concern that a person may pick fruit or branches from the tree. In addition, the elevation of the divine sparks from the tree accomplished by saying the bracha is a spiritual act of “Borer,” which is not appropriate for Shabbos.8
The bracha is recited specifically at the first time looking at a blossoming tree. If you looked at such a tree and did not recite the bracha, you may not recite it with Hashem’s name at a later point.9 If you noticed the tree but do not gaze at it, you may still recite the bracha.
This year, Rosh Chodesh Nissan falls on Shabbos. Since there is debate whether the bracha may be recited on Shabbos, one should not look at blossoming trees on Shabbos so that you can recite the bracha after Shabbos.
See Sources (open PDF)
From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash