Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stop and Smell the Roses

There is no common word for people with an impaired olfactory system (anosmia, for those who wish to know) such as there is for one with impaired vision or impaired hearing. Smell, however, is just as important and pleasurable a sense as sight or sound.

Rabbi Zutra ben Tobiah said in the name of Rav: Whence do we learn that a blessing should be said over sweet odors? Because it says, ‘Let every soul praise the Lord’ (Psalms 150:6). What is that which gives enjoyment to the soul and not to the body?--You must say that this is a fragrant smell (Brachot 43b).

Just as various categories of food require different blessings (bread, cake, fruit, etc), there are different blessings for fragrances, which are determined by the source of the smell. Here is a basic overview:

(Note: Each blessing begins with Ba’ruch Ah’tah Ah’do’nai, Eh’lo’hay’nu melech ha’o’lam/ Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe.)

1) Asher natan ray’ach tov b’payrot/ Who gave a fragrant scent to fruit is recited when smelling any fruit, whether on or off the tree. This blessing is only recited if one intends just to smell the fruit. If one happens to smell it while eating it, cooking or just handling it, the blessing is not necessary.

2) Boray ah'tzay v’sameem/ Who created fragrant woods is recited on fragrances from a tree or tree-like plant. Tree-like is defined as a perennial with a hard stem and includes plants such as myrtle and roses.

3) Boray eesvay v’sameem/Who created fragrant herbs is recited over scents from soft plants.

4) Boray meenay v’sameem/ Who created various kinds of fragrances is recited over non-plant fragances. Boray meenay v’sameem is the most familiar of these blessings since it is included in the Havdallah ceremony after Shabbat. Like the Sheh’hah’kohl blessing over food, Boray meenay v’sameem is used when one does not know the proper blessing over the scent.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.


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