Rav Chaim Kanievsky: Birchas Hachammah or Birchas Ha’illanos? How About Bris Milah?


rav-chaim-kanievskyOnce every twenty-eight years, on April 8th, we recite the bracha of Birchas Hachammah upon seeing the sun, which on this day returns to the position in which it was placed at the time of creation. This will occur this year (5769/2009) on Erev Pesach.

If a bris milah is held in shul on the day of Birchas Hachammah, which of these two mitzvos takes precedence? Should the kehillah first go outside to recite Birchas Hachammah, or should they perform the bris milah and then go recite Birchas Hachammah?

Generally speaking, bris milah certainly takes precedence over Birchas Hachammah.  For one thing, the rule of todir vesheino tadir tadir kodem requires giving precedence to the more frequent mitzvah, and bris milah of course occurs more frequently than Birchas Hachammah. Additionally, bris milah constitutes a Torah obligation, whereas the recitation of Birchas Hachammah is Miderabonon. For both these reasons, precedence should, as a rule, be given to bris milah.

The exception to this rule is a situation where delaying Birchas Hachammah may result in missing the mitzvah altogether. For example, if the hour is late, and there is concern that the bris milah may not be completed until after the third hour of the day, at which point one can no longer recite Birchas Hachammah, then Birchas Hachammah should be recited before the bris. Similarly, if it is a cloudy day and the sun temporarily appears, the congregation should recite Birchas Hachammah to take advantage of the sun’s visibility, even before performing the bris.

This is the ruling of Rav Pinhas Zevihi, in his work on Birchas Hachammah (p. 240).

Another interesting question concerns Birchas Illanos, the bracha recited each year during the month of Nissan upon seeing trees in bloom. 

Twenty-eight years ago, the last time Birchas Hachammah was recited, Rav Chaim Kanievsky happened to see that morning trees in bloom for the first time that season, before he recited Birchas Hachammah. He thus faced the question of whether to afford precedence to Birchas Illanos or to Birchas Hachammah. On the one hand, we might claim that precedence should be given to Birchas Illanos, which we recite each year, as opposed to Birchas Hachammah, which we recite only once every twenty-eight years. Alternatively, however, one might argue that Birchas Hachammah should take precedence because it is confined to a very limited time-frame – the first three hours of the day – whereas Birchas Illanos may be recited at any point during the month of Nissan.

Rav Chaim concluded that Birchas Hachammah should take precedence, because in reality, it is recited more frequently than Birchas Illanos. The bracha recited upon seeing the sun is “Oseh Ma’aseh Beireishis,” the same Beracha which we recite upon seeing other phenomena, such as lightning. Since this bracha is recited several times throughout the year, it is considered more frequent than Birchas Illanos, which we recite only once each year.

Rav Chaim compared Birchas Hachammah in this respect to the bracha of Sheheheyanu recited when one sits in the sukkah for the first time on the first night of Sukkos. Rashi, in Maseches Sukkah, comments that one recites Sheheheyanu before the bracha over the sukkah (“Leshev Basukkah“), because it is recited more frequently.  Although the bracha of Sheheheyanu is not recited over the sukkah more frequently than the bracha over the sukkah, it is considered more frequent because it is recited in many other contexts. Similarly, Rav Kanievsky contended, Birchas Hachammah is considered more frequent than Birchas Illanos, since the bracha is recited in other contexts several times a year.  Hence, Birchas Hachammah should be recited before Birchas Illanos.  This is indeed the conclusion accepted by Rav Zevihi.

Summary: If a bris milah is held in the shul on the morning of Birchas Hachammah, it should be performed before Birchas Hachammah, unless this would pose the risk of missing Birchas Hachammah altogether. If one had not recited Birchas Illanosbefore the morning of Birchas Hachammah, and he sees trees in bloom, he should first recite Birchas Hachammah and then Birchas Illanos.

{Daily Halacha by Rabbi Eli J. Mansour, Edited by Dovid Bernstein-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Maybe I’m missing something but…

    Why is bris mila todir? Doesn’t it only happen once in a person’s life?
    If you’ll say that its the father’s mitzva, who is to say how many sons (brisim) he will be zocheh to in his lifetime? Maybe this will be his only son?
    Are we talking in a situation where the father already has sons?
    Is it just that in general the mitzva is performed more frequently- not necessarily the mitzva for the individual?

  2. This is from Rav Pinchos Zvichi, a great Talmud Chachom from Eretz Yisroel. He authored a sefer on Hilchos Birchas Hachama