The Baal Shem Tov, or Besht —  the founder of Chasidism — 
met the soul of the Messiah during an ascent to heaven. 
The Besht asked him, "When will the Master come?" 
The Messiah answered, "When your wellsprings break forth to the outside!" 
(from a letter written by the Besht to his brother-in-law about one of his soul ascents) 

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Birkat Ha-ilanot


The month of Nisan is filled with remarkable moments, but one of the moments that touches me the most deeply is the blessing of the fruit trees. This blessing is traditionally said when one is in view of at least two flowering fruit trees, anytime through the end of the month of Iyyar (or in Tishrei down under—in a climate where you can say it in Nissan it's considered best to do so). It's also a beautiful thing to teach at your Tu Bish'vat seder. The brakhah goes like this:

"Blessed be You, Yah/Adonai our God ruler of all space-and-time, for there is nothing lacking in God's world, and created in it good creatures and good trees, giving pleasure through them to the children of Adam."

ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם שלא חסר בעולמו כלום וברא בו בריות טובות ואילנות טובים להנות בהם בני אדם

Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha`olam
shelo chisar ba`olamo k'lum uvara' vo briyot tovot v'ilanot tovim
lehanot bahem b'nei Adam

Some versions of the blessing have chaseir ba`olamo rather than chisar b`olamo. That would mean “who caused there to be nothing lacking”. Another variant is that some versions say l’hit’anot להתאנות or l’hit’aden לנתעדן instead of lehanot להנות. L’hit’aden means something like “to luxuriate in” and refers to the pleasure the first humans had form the trees in the Garden of Eden. L’hit’anot could mean that we cause ourselves to have pleasure through witnessing the trees.

Click here to read a report from Vanessa Paloma about saying the blessing in Casablanca. Halevai we should have this much consciousness about blessing the trees here in North America.
The language of the blessing recalls part of the borei n'fashot blessing for food, which thanks God for creating "many souls and all their lacks" chesronan, implying that it is part of the essence of each creature that it lacks something. Yet here we say that there is nothing missing or lacking. The borei n'fashot blessing continues, “to bring to life through them” l’hachayot bahem – meaning, through all those things that are lacking – “the soul of all Life” nefesh kol chai. One blessing says that the world lacked nothing, the other, that everything in the world is lacking something. It is only because what one creature lacks another provides that we can say that the world “lacks nothing”. Together all the creatures weave the web of Life. One could say that the things each creature lacks are themselves the essence of Creation, calling all of us to weave relationships that form ecosystems and abundant blessing. The gift of fruit which we bless through birkat ha-ilanot embodies pure abundance and blessing to a greater degree than almost anything else we can encounter.

GET A HANDOUT TO USE FOR BLESSING THE TREES with transliteration, teachings, Earth prayers, and more, HERE.

We have a unique intimacy with fruit trees. In scripture that intimacy goes back to Gan Eden and the tree of knowing — and the word “knowing” itself also means intimacy. The connection is even more powerful in the midrashic interpretation of the statement in Deuteronomy 20, Ha'adam eitz ha-sadeh, "A person is a tree of the field" (that is, a fruit tree). (The statement in context is really a question.) The Sefirot, "the Tree of Life", are thought of as a fruit tree. For Kabbalah, a fruit tree is a true image of God, just as a person is (see below as well as the blessing from P'ri Eitz Hadar). A fruit tree embodies the principle of sharing, and more specifically, the divine principle “of giving without needing to receive anything in return", which is why a fruit tree is seen as a model of how God interacts with the world. In more evolutionary terms, fruit trees are a perfect embodiment of mutualism and reciprocity.

Why do we need to see two trees rather than just one to say the blessing? I haven't heard an explanation, but one reason is that the trees need each other to reproduce, at least on the level of evolution of species (most fruits—except dates and a few others that are gendered by tree—can also fertilize themselves). The halakhah specifically forbids saying the blessing over trees that are grafted from one species onto another – there is in this rule the idea of appreciating the awesome reality of this world in itself, separate from human "chokhmas" (cleverness) and power.

Here are some quotes about fruit trees from Tanakh, midrash and Kabbalah:

This one, your body, was like a palm tree, and your breasts clusters [of dates]. I said, I will climb up that palm tree, I will grab its branches. May your breasts be like clusters [of grapes] on the vine, the scent of your breathing like apples. And your mouth like good wine, going straight to my lover, lubricating sleepers' lips. I am my lover's, and his desire is upon me. Song of Songs 7:8-11

R' Yishma'el said: The compassion of the Place Maqom מקום [God] is on the fruit of the tree....For if scripture cautions you [not to harm] the tree that makes fruit [Deut. 20:19], all the more so the fruits themselves. Sifrey Deuteronomy Pisqa 203

R' Abba taught: There is no greater revelation of redemption than that which the verse states: "And you, mountains of Israel, you shall give forth your branches and you shall bear your fruit for my people Israel, for they shall soon come." [Ez. 36:8] Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 98a

When R' Abba saw a tree whose fruit turned into a bird and flew away, he wept and said: If men only knew to what these things alluded, they would rend their garments! Zohar 2:15b

See also's pages on Tu Bish'vat and on Shavuot first fruits.



Design in progress © Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg 2006