A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
SELECTED HALACHOS RELATING TO PARSHAS VAYISHLACH
BLESSINGS FOR PLEASANT FRAGRANCES
QUESTION: When is one required to recite a blessing before smelling a
DISCUSSION: Just as one may not derive pleasure from food or drink before
reciting a proper blessing, so too, one may not enjoy a pleasant fragrance
before reciting the appropriate blessing(1). Certain limitations apply,
however, as to when and where this blessing should be recited. Let us
A blessing over a pleasant fragrance is recited only over an object whose
purpose is to exude a pleasant fragrance. If the object is primarily for
another purpose - even if the object is sweet-smelling - no blessing is
recited(2). Some examples:
One enters a kitchen while food is being cooked or baked. Since the
purpose of the cooking or baking is not to create an aroma, no blessing is
Flowers in a vase exude a pleasant fragrance. Since people usually buy
flowers for their beauty, one who walks by and smells them does not recite a
blessing. If, however, the flowers are picked up and smelled, a blessing
must be recited. [If the flowers are roses, the blessing is Borei atzei
besamim, since a rose bush is considered to be a "tree" in regard to the
laws of blessings(4).]
The fragrant smell of a backyard garden, etc. does not require a blessing.
This is because a garden is usually planted for its beauty, not for its
smell. If, however, one bends over and cups a flower in his hands in order
to smell it, a blessing must be said(5). [If the flower is classified as a
"grass," the blessing is Borei isvei besamim.]
Many florists display flowers so that their fragrance will attract
customers. In such a case, the proper blessing must be recited over the
fragrance even if one did not pick the flowers up and even if he has no
intention of smelling them(6). If, however, the flowers are displayed just
for their beauty, or are packed up for storage, no blessing is said even
though the flowers smell good(7).
A cup of coffee is poured for the purpose of drinking. No blessing is said
over the aroma since the purpose of pouring the coffee is for drinking and
not for its aroma. If, however, one specifically opens a fresh jar of coffee
in order to smell it, a blessing is recited(8). No blessing should be
recited over instant coffee(9).
A sweet-smelling fruit, such as an esrog, requires the blessing of
Ha-nosen rei'ach tov ba-peiros(10). Many poskim rule that nowadays, when
fruits are generally grown for their taste and not for their smell, one
should avoid smelling these fruits, since it is questionable if a blessing
is required(11). On Sukkos, the esrog should not be smelled at all(12).
Many poskim rule that no blessing is recited over perfume, since its
fragrance is derived by chemical means, not natural ones(13).
On Motza'ei Shabbos, the proper blessing is Borei minei besamim - no matter
what type of fragrance is being used(14).
No blessing is recited over air purifiers, deodorants, soaps, etc., since
their purpose is to remove foul odors(15).
One who does not enjoy a particular fragrance does not recite a blessing.
One who needs to smell an item to test if it is fit for purchase does not
recite a blessing(16).
1 O.C. 216:1.
2 O.C. 217:2. See also Mishnah Berurah 217:1; 216:11.
3 Sha'ar ha-Tziyon 216:46.
4 Mishnah Berurah 216:17.
5 Ruling of Harav Y.Y. Fisher (Vezos ha-Berachah, 4th edition, pg. 178); Az
Nidberu 10:11. See further for the view of Chazon Ish.
6 Mishnah Berurah 217:1,2.
7 If they are picked up in order to be smelled, a blessing is recited. See
note "8" for the view of Chazon Ish.
8 Mishnah Berurah 216:16. Chazon Ish (O.C. 35:5-7), however, rules that if
the coffee jar is going to be returned to the kitchen, then no blessing may
be recited over it. In his view, a blessing is recited only when the spices
are designated for smelling only and serve no other purpose.
10 This is the proper nusach which is quoted by most poskim and all
siddurim -unlike Mishnah Berurah 216:9.
11 See Chazon Ish O.C. 35:5-7, and Vezos ha-Berachah, 4th edition, pg. 177.
12 Mishnah Berurah 216:53. See Beiur Halachah, that this is so throughout
the entire Yom Tov, not only at the time the mitzvah is fulfilled.
13 View of Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (quoted in Vezos ha-Berachah, 4th edition,
pg. 181, Yashiv Moshe, pg. 18) and Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos
K'hilchasah 61 note 32). Harav M. Feinstein is also quoted as ruling not to
use perfume for Havdalah (The Radiance of Shabbos, pg. 132).
14 Mishnah Berurah 297:1. Even if fruit is used - Aruch ha-Shulchan 297:4.