Right Trees, Wrong Month
I was asked an interesting question over Shabbos that was complicated by the questioner’s Sephardic heritage. The Gemara (Berakhos 43b) states that when you see fruit trees blossoming in the month of Nissan, you recite a special blessing thanking God for creating items that are useful and pleasant but not essential. Since Nissan this year was very early, what do you do if you did not see a fruit tree blossoming during that month? Can you recite the blessing in the subsequent few weeks?
The Ritva (Rosh Hashanah 11a sv. hai) says that the month is not binding, just the season of fruit trees blossoming. The Rokei’ach (342) writes “for example, in Nissan,” implying that another month is also acceptable. The Mordekhai (Berakhos 148) does not even mention the month.
The Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Berakhos 10:13) and Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 226:1) quote the Gemara’s specific mention of Nissan. Perhaps they only allow recitation of this blessing during that month. However, it seems more likely that they are directly quoting the Gemara’s language and not implying anything beyond that.
Therefore, standard Ashkenazic codes allow recitation of this blessing earlier and later than Nissan. For example, Kitzur Shulchan Arukh (60:1), Chayei Adam (63:2) and Mishnah Berurah (226:1) all rule, either implicitly or explicitly, that you need not recite the blessing specifically in Nissan.
However, the Chida in Birkei Yosef (Orach Chaim 226:2) states that kabbalah requires the blessing to be recited specifically in Nissan. Kaf Ha-Chaim (226:1) follows this kabbalistic ruling, as does R. Mordechai Eliyahu (Darkhei Halakhah 60:1; Ma’amar Mordekhai Le-Mo’adim U-Le-Yamim, p. 31).
It would seem that this is a simple Sephardic-Ashkenazic split. Ashkenazim may recite the blessing even after Nissan and Sephardim only in Nissan (or after but without God’s name). That is how R. Shlomo Aviner (Commentary to Kitzur Shulchan Arukh 60:1) rules. However, R. Ovadiah Yosef devotes his very first responsum in Yechaveh Da’as (1:1) to this subject. He concludes that you should try to recite this blessing in Nissan but, if you cannot for any reason, you may recite it fully afterward. He also quotes R. Bentzion Uzziel (Mishpetei Uzziel 1:OC:6) as ruling similarly.
Since the person who asked is Sephardic, I told him that the answer is not clear cut and he should ask his rabbi. Truth is, I would have told him to ask his rabbi anyway.
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