- Question: [Sunday, 8th Teves, 5782]
I, and many people I know, have been taught, perhaps erroneously, that the Ashkenazi custom is to always say the blessing of Minei Besamim by all spices whether they come from a tree or from the ground. Recently, someone else told me that this is not correct. What is in truth the correct law?
It depends. By Havdalah, it is correct to say that the Ashkenazi custom [as opposed to Sephardi] is to always say the blessing of Minei Besamim no matter what the spice is, [although initially one should try to use for Havdalah a spice whose blessing is Minie Besamim, such as cinnamon or cloves]. However, whenever one smells a spice during the regular day, outside of Havdalah, then it’s correct blessing is to be recited, whether it be Atzei, Isvei, or Minei, and there is no custom even amongst Ashkenazim to avoid saying the particular blessing of that spice. On the contrary, one is to try to verify its correct blessing and recite it, and only if one is unsure is the blessing of Minei Besamim to be recited.
Explanation: From the letter of the law, just as we have different blessings recited over a fruit, versus a vegetable, versus a piece of meat, so too regarding spices we recite different blessing for spices that grow on trees, versus spices that grow as herbs, versus spices that come from animals such as musk. Now, just as the blessing of Shehakol is a general blessing that includes all foods, and hence if one said this blessing even over bread he is Yotzei Bedieved, so too, the blessing of Minei Besamim is a general blessing that includes all spices and if this blessing was said over spices of a different blessing, nonetheless one fulfills his obligation. Now, by Havdalah, the Ashkenazi custom became to even initially say the blessing of Minei Besamim no matter what the spice is, being that everyone needs to smell spices during Havdalah and not everyone is knowledgeable of what correct blessing is to be said on a given spice. Therefore, in order to avoid people making a mistake in the blessing, the custom simply became to always say the blessing of Minei Besamim which at least Bedieved covers all the other blessings. Nonetheless, this custom was only accepted and is only to be followed during Havdalah, otherwise, one should follow the regular law and recite the specific blessing that each spice is to receive. Only in the event that one is unsure of the blessing should he say the blessing of Minei Besamim.
Sources: See regarding the different blessings over spices: Admur 297:3; Seder Birchas Hanehnin 11:2-3; Michaber 216:2; Brachos 43b; See regarding Ashkenazi custom during Havdalah to always say Minei: Admur 297:3 “The custom of the world is to say on Motzei Shabbos the blessing of Minei Besamim on all spices”; M”A 297 [Hakdama]; Shlah; P”M 297 A”A Hakadama; M”B 297:1; See regarding the Sephardi custom: Kaf Hachaim 297:31