We are beginning Klal 61, which discusses the brachos made on smell.
The Chayei Adam begins by writing that one is forbidden to derive benefit from a good smell without making a bracha. We know there is a general rule, also learned from a pasuk, prohibiting benefit from this world without a bracha, but the Gemara learns out the chiyuv to make a bracha on smell from a different pasuk, the pasuk of kol haneshama tehalel kah. The Gemara expounds this pasuk as referring to the pleasure of smell, because smell is uniquely connected to the neshama since they are both intangible.
It is interesting to note that Chazal needed to find a unique pasuk for smell, and did not subsume this chiyuv under the general prohibition mentioned above. However, the truth is that there are many pleasures in this world upon which we do not make a bracha, such as on listening to music, bathing, or anointing. Chazal modeled brachos after the only bracha deoraysa–birkas hamazon–and therefore anything which is not related to eating is not included in the general source. Therefore, Chazal needed to find a separate source for smell.
One must make the bracha before experiencing the smell, similar to any other scenario of pleasure. If one is not sure whether the item still has a good smell (e.g., old besamim), one may smell it first to see if it still has a smell, and then make a bracha and smell it again
One should hold the item in their dominant hand, to demonstrate chashivus. (See shiur 1170 for more on this point.)
Although birchas hareiach is parallel to brachos on foods, there is no bracha achrona made after smell. The Chayei Adam explains that the pleasure of smell is not a significant enough amount of pleasure for Chazal to institute a bracha achrona.
The Aruch Hashulchan gives a second approach. We know there is a shiur achila (minimum amount of food) necessary for one to consume in order to make a bracha achrona. Since consumption is not applicable to birchas hareiach, there is no bracha achrona.
A third approach is that just as there is a shiur ichul (time of digestion) for food, there is a “shiur ichul” for smell, in that just as a bracha achrona on food must be made before the body has digested the food, in theory, a bracha achrona on smell would need to be made before the body has fully “digested” the smell. However, since the pleasure is ephemeral, there is no time for digestion, so Chazal never instituted a bracha achrona.
On the third approach, the Chazon Ish raises the question as to how Bnei Yisroel made a bracha achrona in the midbar. Since the man was absorbed instantaneously in Bnei Yisroel’s bodies, the shiur ichul should also be instantaneous. However, the Gemara explicitly writes that Bnei Yisroel recited birkas hamazon on the man. Therefore, Chazon Ish disagrees with the third approach, and prefers the first approach. Others defend that even when food is absorbed, a person still feels the benefit of food even after it has been absorbed, as opposed to the benefit of smell which is completely gone instantaneously.
- One must make a bracha on a good smell before smelling it.
- One should hold the item in their dominant hand.
- No bracha achrona is made on birchas hareiach.