Trees in the Ground vs. Trees on Trucks – Looking at a New Form of Birkas Ha’Ilanos – משאית הסובב בעיר עם עצים לברכת אילנות – לכתחלה או בדיעבד?

While we have discussed and examined various הנהגות here for years, usually the practices have been around for some time already – whether years, decades, centuries, or even longer. At other times, we actually see new practices develop in our times, however.

One example of such a new practice is the collection of “sheimos”, with “sheimos trucks” circulating in some large Jewish neighborhoods before פסח. That has been going on for a while already (though perhaps not at all, or only in a limited fashion this year). It fits in well with the practice of people cleaning their dwelling places well before that יום טוב, and the need to deal with the modern profusion of printed matter, including religious texts at times, that can sometimes seem to threaten to overwhelm domiciles. It is a not a practice that seems potentially problematic, or controversial (if done properly). It seemingly meets a need of some people, so it is what it is.

Another interesting springtime practice seems to have just been born, this year, in recent weeks, seemingly first in ארץ ישראל and then quickly, within days (thanks to modern communications) spreading to, being imitated in the United States of America.

What do I refer to? An ingenious effort by some in the waning days of this past ניסן to bring flowering trees for ברכת האילנות (the blessing on flowering fruit trees usually recited in spring mentioned in the גמרא) to people at home, via potted plants in the bed of a truck or trailer, to enable them to say the ברכה before the opportunity passed (some hold that the ברכה should be recited דווקא, specifically, in חודש ניסן, though that is by no means universally accepted). Since many people’s movements were limited during that season this year, due to conditions of מגיפה, ה’ ירחם, some who normally went to sites of flowering fruit trees for such purpose were hard pressed to do so. Enter some creative minds who came up with the aforementioned solution.

According to a report here, the practice may have started in ביתר עילית (larger report in Hebrew here). It later appeared in New York, as well as in Chicago.

The question is, however, if such a method of bring the trees to the people is a good idea, under normal circumstances at least.

לענ”ד, while it might be permissible בשעת הדחק, it is generally לכתחלה not advisable, for the following reason.

The גמרא that teaches us about this ברכה speaks about someone going out in the period of ניסן, seeing trees in bloom, and then reciting the effusive blessing, thanking הקב”ה for creating a beautiful world complete with nice creations and trees to bring pleasure to people. The impression given is of someone going out and being overwhelmed by a profusion of spring blooms, blooms of trees (some say that it should be made on דווקא more than one tree together based on that), as part of the general spring “rebirth of nature”. Think of large trees, with many large blooming branches. On the other hand, small potted trees, towed around in vehicles, present much less of a visual spectacle, are less moving (quite possibly leading to less כוונה והתרגשות כשמברכים), and the blooms may even be difficult to see at a distance. Since people were told to say the ברכות from a distance, from porches, for example, it is definitely not an ideal situation and might even be קרוב לברכה לבטלה in some cases.

Based on the above, לעניות דעתי, such a practice should not become a regular springtime scene in Jewish neighborhoods for the masses under normal conditions. If some פוסקים allow it, בשעת הדחק, those who follow such authorities can do so presumably, but it should by no means replace the age old practice of people going out and seeing large blooming trees flourishing in Hashem’s good earth. Small potted specimens are no match for glorious large in-ground trees.

ליותר עיון ראה פה, בפרט סעיפים לא, לח, לט.

May we be זוכה to make this beautiful ברכה for many years, outside, בבריות גופא ונהורא מעליא.

א גוטען, געזונטען חודש

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