Yesterday was Rosh Hodesh Nissan, the first of the Hebrew month of Nissan. There is a wonderful blessing traditionally recited this month – and only during this month – when seeing the first blossoms on fruit-bearing trees. The source for this blessing, known as birkat ha’ilanot, is in the Babylonian Talmud (B’rachot 43b). The context of this passage in the Talmud is a blessings to be said over sweet-smelling oils, fruits and blossoms:
Rav Yehuda said: One who goes out during Nisan and sees trees that are blossoming recites: Blessed…who has withheld nothing from His world, and has created in it beautiful creatures and trees for human beings to enjoy.
And so, for at least the last 1,800 years, Jews have looked forward to this date in order to observe this very time-sensitive custom.
Out here in the Californian desert we’re blessed with an abundance of citrus trees that are still blooming. Go out to your yard or down the street (of course, while keeping at least 6 feet distance from others!), find a blossoming tree and just take it in – the smell, the sight, the moment – and try reciting the following:
Baruch atah Adonai Elohaynu Melech haOlam shelo hisar b’olamo k’lum, u’vara vo briot tovot v’ilanot tovot leihanot bahem b’nei Adam.
Praised are You Eternal our God ruler of the Universe, who has left nothing lacking in the world and who has created in it goodly creatures and goodly trees, through which people may benefit.
This, like all blessings over food, smell, sight and sound in our tradition, is meant to aid us in our everyday mindfulness. Perhaps now, more than ever, we are all in need of opportunities to enjoy the little things in life, to stop and smell the …. Blossoms of flowering fruit trees!
Hodesh Tov – May it be a good new month,