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In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 12, 2004 / 21 Iyar, 5764

Blessing the tree of life

By Sharon First

How a simple posting to a local electronic bulletin board brought throngs to the writer's front door in an effort redirect attention to the good and glory of our world

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | What blessing is recited only once a year, in the spring?

The answer is the blessing upon first seeing a tree in bloom, a blessing known in Hebrew as "Birchas Ha-Ilan" (the blessing of the tree).

According to the Jewish tradition, when you first see a fruit-tree in bloom in the spring, you recite a special blessing. This blessing praises G-d for His ongoing renewal of creation and thanks Him for creating good trees in the world, for man to enjoy.

At a time of year when the world is suffused with beauty, our tradition calls upon us to stop and give thanks for the glory of G-d's creation. We are surrounded with colorful blossoms: the magnolia trees blush pink, the cherry trees are adorned with pink and white blooms, and the lilacs are studded with lavender blossoms. We take a moment to leave the confines of our offices, classrooms and homes and make our way to our yards and fields and drink in this beauty and give thanks.

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We have a fruit-bearing apple tree in our yard, and each spring, our family gathers in the yard and recites the blessing on first seeing its lovely pink and white blossoms.

This year, thanks to our local electronic community bulletin board, many more people came to our yard to make the blessing on the tree.

A few weeks ago, our community bulletin board asked people to post locations of blooming fruit-bearing trees in our area. While we have a plethora of blooming trees in our area, it's difficult to know which of them are fruit-bearing. The blessing should not be made over a barren tree, so it's a help to know which ones are suitable.

This year also saw a late spring that made it hard to find a blooming tree in time. The blessing is optimally recited in the Hebrew month of Nissan, the month when Passover falls. This spring, Nissan was almost over, and our apple tree still showed no blooms. While the prayer can be recited after the end of Nissan, Nissan is preferable.

On the second to last day of Nissan, bright pink blossoms began to peek out from under the leaves of our apple tree, and I dutifully posted to our bulletin board. For the next few days, people dropped by to make the blessing over the blooming tree. It was not hard to discern which visitors had seen the post to the bulletin board — they would be the ones holding the computer print-outs, walking up and down our driveway, scrutinizing the tree for blossoms.

People dropped by hurriedly by on their way to or from work, and we had a delegation from one local company that came en masse during their lunch break.

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The blessing on fruit-trees is recorded in the Talmud and found in many prayerbooks, and it is translated roughly as follows: Blessed are You, Hashem, Our G-d, King of the Universe, for nothing is lacking in His universe, and He created in it good creatures and good trees, to cause mankind pleasure with them.

Translitered, the blessing is: Baruch Ata A-do-nay E-lo-hei-nu Melech Ha-Olam She-lo Chisar B'Olamo Davar U-Vara Vo Beriyos Tovos V'Ilanos Tovim L'Hanos Bahem B'nei Adam.

Most prayerbooks list it amongst all the blessings of praise and gratitude to be recited over various phenomena and events, such as the blessing over seeing lightening or upon seeing a rainbow.

The preferred time to recite the blessing is the Hebrew month of Nissan, immediately upon seeing the tree in bloom (meaning, the flowering of the tree, not the appearance of the leaves). If one forgot or neglected to say the blessing , it can be recited any time until the fruit of the tree has begun to grow. Likewise, if the tree bloomed in Nissan and one didn't see it till later, he can say the blessing, as long as the fruit of the tree has not yet ripened.

Some traditions dictate that when one recites the blessing, there must be at least two trees, but others say one tree is sufficient. The ideal way to recite the blessing is in a blooming orchard planted outside the city limits, in the presence of a minyan followed by Kaddish. In Israel, groups of school children go to the fields with their classes, to recite the blessing.

The main idea is that one put oneself in a context where he can feel inspired by the glory around him. Many people who dropped by our home to make the blessing on the tree said Birchas Ha-Ilan is one of their favorite prayers, because they feel G-d's love for mankind and can give thanks for it.

As the text of the blessing says, we are giving thanks to G-d for creating trees from which man can take pleasure. The delight of the beauty we see is available to all kinds of people - even the most impoverished person or debased criminal is treated to the same beauty as anyone else, as he traverses the world. It's a gift from G-d to Man, just because he is a "ben adam," a descendent of Adam, one of G-d's creations. It's a testament to G-d's love, that He gives even when one doesn't deserve it.

One cannot help but wonder — why does the text of the blessing refer to good creatures as well as good trees? According to the Ben Ish Chai, a kabbalist and leader of the Jewish community of Baghdad a century ago, seeing the blooming of the tree teaches us an important lesson. When seeing how the tree, which was during the winter dry and withered, is now in full bloom, we, and even the most hopeless person, can be revitalized. When we watch the transformation of nature, we gain the courage and inspiration to lift us out of our despair and it reminds us that G-d has given us the tools to revitalize ourselves.

We live in a time when it's a struggle to keep hope alive. The trees in our neighborhoods, whether fruit-bearing or simply deciduous, are tied with yellow ribbons that have been on so long they are sun-bleached and faded. All that is decent in mankind seems to be up against forces so irrational and evil that peace seems to be beyond what any human leader can negotiate.

And yet…the trees give us a message of hope. They show us how after a period of barren emptiness, there is a stirring of life and a new beginning, how even in the seeming barrenness of the winter of our lives, the process is already in motion which which will usher in the flowering of a new season. A G-d who can bring blossoms to a barren tree can bring an era of redemption. Our tradition calls us out to the fields, so we can bear witness to the way G-d loves all mankind, whether we deserve it or not. We give thanks, and perhaps a silent prayer, with a flutter in our hearts full of hope, that an era of redemption will sprout as the barren branches give forth blossoms, and we and our children will live to see an era of peace.

More information on this blessing can be found at: http://www.ou.org/torah/tt/5763/metzora63/seder.htm#hallanot

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JWR contributor Sharon First is a freelance writer. Comment by clicking here.


© 2004, Adapted from an article that originally appeared in the New Jersey Jewish Standard