Brachot on a nice smell

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Just like it is forbidden to benefit from a food without making a Bracha Rishona, it is also forbidden to benefit from a nice smell before making a bracha.[1]

Havdalah

  1. The Ashkenaz minhag is to make Boreh Minei Besamim (בורא מיני בשמים) which is the general Bracha for nice smells at Havdalah no matter what’s being used for besamim. However, according to Sephardim, one should make the appropriate Bracha for that besamim. [2]
  2. During the rest of the week, there’s no argument that there’s a distinction between the following categories:

Boreh Atzei Besamim

  1. For tree products the Bracha is Boreh Atzei Besamim. Halacha includes any plant (above ground) that has a hard stalk, has leaves, and lasts from year to year. [3]
  2. Examples of tree products that require Atzei Besamim: Rose, Rosemary, Jasmine, Hadas (myrtle; not on Sukkot), honeysuckle (yellow and white flowery vine) [4]

Boreh Isbei Besamim

  1. For shrub products the Bracha is Boreh Isbei Besamim. Halacha includes any plant that has a soft stalk or doesn’t last from year to year. [5]
  2. Examples of shrub products that require Boreh Isbei Besamim: mint, hyacinth, daffodil (certain types). [6]

HaNoten Rayach Tov BaPerot

  1. For edible fruits that give off a strong smell (from the fruit and not from the peel) the Bracha required is HaNoten Rayach Tov BaPerot. [7] The major limitation of this category is that one should only make the Bracha for a strong smell and only if the fruit is taken to smell and not to eat. [8]
  2. Examples: Etrog (not on Sukkot), quince, apple, and melon. [9]

Boreh Minei Besamim

  1. The general Bracha for nice smells is Boreh Minei Besamim and is made for non-plant or fruit products, or for items for which there’s an unresolved dispute in the poskim. [10]
  2. Examples: cinnamon, cloves (common for Havdalah), lemon, hot ground coffee beans (taken to smell), mixture of tree and shrub products. [11] However, Sephardim hold that if the cinnamon or cloves were designated for smelling and not eating, such as is common for Havdalah, the bracha would be Boreh Atzi Besamim.[12]
  3. For synthetic smells, as is common in cheap perfumes, some say that the Bracha is Boreh Minei Besamim and some say that there’s no Bracha on such a smell. [13]

Bore Shemen Arev

  1. One should make a beracha of Bore Shemen Arev on a persimmon grown in Eretz Yisrael. [14]

A Mixture of Nice Smells

  1. One should make the beracha of Bore Mine Besamim on a mixture of nice smells. [15]

Scented Fluids

  1. One should make the Beracha of Bore Mineh Besamim on scented fluids unless it is clearly rose water. [16]

After the fact

  1. There’s a dispute whether Bracha of Shehakol covers any Bracha for a nice smell and because of the dispute, after the fact, one may not make another Bracha. [17]
  2. The Bracha of Atzei doesn’t cover the products that require Isbei and the Bracha of Isbei doesn't cover products that require Atzei. [18]

If one’s in doubt

  1. If you have a plant which has a nice smell but you personally are in doubt as to whether the Bracha is Atzei or Isbei, if it’s easy to find out the correct Bracha, one should do so, otherwise, one may make Boreh Minei Besamim. (This is different than foods where there’s an obligation to figure out the appropriate halacha instead of making Shehakol.) [19]
  2. If one is unsure whether a product has a nice or strong smell, one may smell it to check, and if it has a good smell then make the Bracha and smell it again. [20]

New Smells

  1. One should NOT make the beracha of shehecheyanu upon smelling new scents. [21]

No Bracha

  1. It is forbidden to smell a scent made for Avoda Zara and all the more so it is forbidden to make a beracha on it. [22]
  2. Certain items have no Bracha including: tavak [23]
  3. No Bracha is made on a smell that was absorbed or rubbed off a nice smelling product, but now there’s no substance of the Basamim existent. Example: perfume bottle, etrog box, tea leaves. [24]
  4. No Bracha is made of a nice smelling product that was used to remove a bad smell. For example, one does not make a bracha upon smelling the nice smell of an air freshener in a bathroom. [25]
  5. The beracha of shehecheyanu is not recited on a fragrance, even those that are renewed each year. [26]

List of Brachot

Item Ashkenazim (Vezot HaBracha, Luach Brachot) Sephardim (Birkat Hashem vol 3)
Air freshener (if taken to smell) No Bracha Minei Besamim
Black pepper Questionable [27] Minei Besamim [28]
Cinnamon Minei Besamim Minei Besamim
Cloves Minei Besamim Atzei Besamim
Daffodil Isbei Besamim Minei Besamim
Deodorant Dispute Minei Besamim
Etrog HaNoten Rayach Tov BeParot HaNoten Rayach Tov BeParot
Ground coffee beans Minei Besamim No Bracha
Hadas (myrtle) Atzei Besamim Atzei Besamim
Honeysuckle Atzei Besamim -
Hyacinth Isbei Besamim -
Jasmine Atzei Besamim -
Lemon Minei Besamim Minei Besamim
Melon HaNoten Rayach Tov BeParot -
Mint Isbei Besamim Isbei Besamim
Orange - Minei Besamim
Quince HaNoten Rayach Tov BeParot -
Rose Atzei Besamim Atzei Besamim
Rosemary Atzei Besamim -
Tavak No Bracha No Bracha
Zatar - Minei Besamim

Sources

  1. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 58:1
  2. Mishna Brurah 297:1, Vezot HaBracha (pg 181, chapter 19)
  3. Vezot HaBracha (pg 174, chapter 19)
  4. Vezot HaBracha (pg 174, chapter 19)
  5. Vezot HaBracha (pg 174, chapter 19)
  6. Vezot HaBracha (pg 174, chapter 19)
  7. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 58:2
  8. Vezot HaBracha (pg 175, chapter 19)
  9. Vezot HaBracha (pg 175, chapter 19)
  10. Vezot HaBracha (pg 175-7, chapter 19)
  11. Vezot HaBracha (pg 397, Luach Brachot).
    • Shulchan Aruch 212:2 writes that a fruit that is meant to be eaten the bracha is hanoten reyach tov bpeirot. His examples include cloves and cinnamon. The Shaar Hatziyun 212:12 writes that the Chaye Adam and Derech Chaim question Shulchan Aruch since cloves and cinnamon aren't meant to be eaten. The Shaar Hatziyun only accepts their claim regarding cloves but for cinnamon argues that it should be hanoten reyach tov bpeirot because cinnamon is eaten as a spice in foods. Nonetheless, he adds that it could be better to just make borei mini besamim since that cover it in any case. The Vezot Habracha p. 175 concludes that it is preferable to recite mini besamim for this reason.
  12. Birkat Hashem 3:12:17. See Shulchan Aruch 216:2.
  13. Vezot HaBracha (pg 182, chapter 19) quotes a dispute between Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg who says that synthetic products have a Bracha, and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach who holds that no Bracha is made. Rabbi Eli Mansour quotes Chacham Benzion Abba Shaul (Sh"t Or Litzion volume 2: pg. 137) as well as Chacham Ovadia Yosef (Chazon Ovadia Berachot pg. 313) that a beracha should be recited. He adds that even though Chacham David Yosef (son of Chacham Ovadia) says that he convinced his father that a beracha shouldn't be recited, nevertheless, one may recite a beracha or use it for havdalah.
  14. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 58:6
  15. BI"H, VaEtchanan, 8
  16. BI"H, VaEtchanan, 11
  17. Vezot HaBracha (pg 176, chapter 19)
  18. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 58:7, Mishna Brurah 216:39, Vezot HaBracha (pg 176, chapter 19)
  19. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 58:7, Vezot HaBracha (pg 176, chapter 19)
  20. Vezot HaBracha (pg 180, chapter 19), Halachically Speaking quoting Ben Ish Chai (VaEtchanan#2), Rav Chaim Kanievsky quoted in Sefer Brachos K'Hilchasan pg. 150
  21. BI"H, VaEtchanan, 1; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 59:18
  22. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 58:14
  23. Vezot HaBracha (pg 397, Luach Brachot)
  24. Vezot HaBracha (pg 180, chapter 19)
  25. Vezot HaBracha (pg 179, chapter 19)
  26. Mishna Brurah 225:16
  27. The Mishna Brurah 297:1 rules that since there is a dispute among the poskim (whether one should make any bracha on it) one shouldn't make a bracha on it. The Vezot HaBracha (pg 179) agrees and adds that due to this dispute one should refrain from smelling it.
  28. Kaf HaChaim 297:5, Rav Moshe HaLevi (Menuchat Ahava (vol 1 9:24) and Birkat Hashem (vol 3, 12:17), Ish Matzliach (commentary on Mishna Brurah 297:1)