A person should make a blessing before he enjoys a fragrance. Chazal based
this on the verse (Tehillim 150:6) “All the neshamah will praise
G-d.” What is it that the neshamah, but not the body, enjoys?
Fragrance. Even though fragrance is a physical pleasure, the inner delight
we get from a fragrance lasts much longer. Because it is a physical pleasure
that passes immediately, we don’t say an after-blessing on fragrance, just
as we don’t say an after-blessing on food once it has been digested.
For the same reason, we do not say “Shehechianu” over fragrance, even
if the spice grows fresh every year. It is not appropriate to say
“Shehechianu” for a pleasure which pertains largely to the nefesh because
the nefesh is eternal.
The blessing over fragrance is recited no matter how small the quantity of
If a person cannot smell a fragrance, (as when he as a cold) he may not
recite the blessing over fragrance for others in havdalah . The use of
spices in havdalah is a custom of the Sages (if he doesn’t have spices, a
person is not required to make an effort to get them). Just as in all
blessings that are recited before enjoying a physical pleasure, a person
cannot recite the blessing for others if he does not himself partake of the
pleasure for which the blessing is recited. Nevertheless, he can recite the
blessing for his children who have reached the age of education.
If a person isn’t sure whether he can smell the fragrance, or if the
spices are still good, he should smell them to see if they have a fragrance,
and then – if they do – make the blessing and smell them again.
If a person forgot to recite a blessing before smelling spices, he should
recite a blessing and smell them again. If he can’t smell them again, he
may recite the blessing if he does so immediately afterwards (toch
Regarding fragrant fruits, there are poskim in our generation who are
doubtful about reciting a blessing over their fragrance because nowadays
fruits are used for eating, not for their fragrance.
There are poskim who hold that just as a person fulfils the requirement of
reciting a blessing on many kinds of foods by reciting the blessing shehakol,
he also fulfills the requirement of reciting a blessing over fragrance with shehakol.
There are many poskim who hold that when the recitation of the blessing over
fragrance is in doubt, a person can avoid doubt by reciting shehakol
on food with the intention of relating the blessing to the fragrance as
No blessing should be recited over perfumes because they usually are made
from things which would not require a blessing, as when they are produced
synthetically by chemical processes. No blessing is recited on air
fresheners or fragrant soaps because they were manufactured primarily to
remove bad smells, not for their fragrance.