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Weekly Halacha

Selected Halachos Related to Parshas Vayishlach

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.



QUESTION: When is one required to recite a blessing before smelling a pleasant fragrance?

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 explain:

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 recited(3).
  • 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.

9 Harav Y.Y. Fisher (Vezos ha-Berachah, 4th edition, pg. 177).

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.

15 Mishnah Berurah 217:10; 216:41; Aruch ha-Shulchan 217:5.

16 Harav C.P. Scheinberg (Vezos ha-Berachah, 4th edition, pg. 179).

Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 2001 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc.

Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra



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