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Indian grocery stores have several aisles containing many fragrant spices that are packaged in plastic bags. Should I say Borei Minei B'Samim? If so, should I say it upon entering the store or only when I am in the spice aisle?

Assumptions / Motivation

  • I am browsing the store and have no specific intention to smell the spices when I walked in. But, I do get pleasure from the smell

  • The smell is a general mixture from various spices, but I can't tell exactly which spices they are coming from, other than what I know about what Indian stores sell, in general.

  • The spices are all in bags or sacks. Only when I enter the aisle do I actually see what's there. Do I have to take a specific spice out of the bag, or can I smell it through the bag?

  • Can I make the bracha on the spicy "air" knowing that the smell comes from spices whether I see them or not?

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Being that these spices are processed for cooking, not smelling, its quite possible that one should not make a blessing. See Mishna Berurah siman 217 #2.

  • This may be true, but there is a limit to how the kavana of the manufacturer can effect the status of their saleable product. For instance, once the person purchases the object, then the da'as of the manufacturer is entirely batel to the new owner. One might argue that since have a fragrant scent is a selling point for spices, the shopkeeper (present owner of the spices) specifically WANTS them to smell, and thus one would make a bracha on the ones on display. – Isaac Kotlicky Feb 20 '15 at 20:04
  • I really need to study that, better,esp. with regard to cloves which is a huge ingredient in many Indian spices. Cloves are used in certain curry powder mixes as well as Garam Massala. Granted, in most of these, the cloves are ground. Yet, cloves are one of the most common besamim spices used for Havdallah and we make a bracha on these! – DanF Feb 20 '15 at 20:05
  • @IsaacKotlicky - I've been to Indian stores quite a bit. Offhand, I don't think that's the seller's intention. First of all, all the different spices are next to each other, so what you smell is a mix, really, unless you put your nose to a specific bag of stuff or go in a certain area. Also, they tend to have more of certain items than others based on what people use most (marketing and demographics, I assume.) Lastly, certain spices are strategically placed closer to the lentils (dal), in particular. I think it is based mainly on cuisine and usage more than the smell factor. – DanF Feb 20 '15 at 20:11
  • @DanF Yes, but if you picked up a packet of spices to purchase and it had no smell, then you would (rightfully) assume they were old and probably would not buy them. It isn't about "crafting" a smell as much as it is about providing sensory stimulation as a draw for customers. The same MB says "Even if one enters the store for a purpose other than to smell or buy spices, if they are smelled even without intention to do so, a Bracha is recited." – Isaac Kotlicky Feb 20 '15 at 20:37
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1) One who enters a spice store and smells their pleasurable fragrance, if smelling the “samples” that are displayed at the entrance to the store a Bracha must be recited, as they are placed there for the purpose of smelling for those passing buy to attract them to enter the store to make a purchase. (See Shulchan Aruch Siman 217:1 and Mishna Berura S”K 1....

Even if one enters the store for a purpose other than to smell or buy spices, if they are smelled even without intention to do so, a Bracha is recited. (Mishna Berura 217:2. See Kaf HaChaim 217:2 where he writes that if one is in such a situation it is best to specifically have in mind to want to enjoy the smell.)

However, if one smells the spices that are in their closed containers/boxes, or if one smells the aroma of the spices from the back room or the storage room, no Bracha is recited as in this state they are meant for selling/trade and not for smelling. (Mishna Berura 217:1)

2) The aforementioned is only if one smells it unintentionally, then we say that since it wasn’t meant to be smelled no Bracha is required. However, if one picks up the closed container/box with the intention to smell it, it is then considered as meant to be smelled and a Bracha will indeed be required. (Ruling of the Mishna Berura ibid. The Chazon Ish Orach Chaim Siman 35:1 argues and maintains that if it is intended for sale, even when it is picked up and smelled no Bracha is required. See also Aruch HaShulchan Siman 216:6)

Similarly if the owner of the store hands over a sample to smell, a Bracha will be required. (See Sha’ar HaTzion [sic] 217:1)

Source

  • But this isn't a olfactory spice store. It's a gustatory spice store. – Double AA Feb 20 '15 at 20:43
  • @DoubleAA "Even if one enters the store for a purpose other than to smell or buy spices, ..." Like to buy other items sold in the store. It isn't muchrach that the store's SOLE purpose must be for selling spices (few such single purpose stores exist nowadays), only that selling spices is part of the store's intent. For an Indian store moreso than a general grocery store, the unique spices are part and parcel of the draw. – Isaac Kotlicky Feb 20 '15 at 21:02
  • I agree the store doesn't have to only sell spices. Why are you telling me this? – Double AA Feb 20 '15 at 21:42
  • @DoubleAA Because the halacha quoted denies the distinction you attempt to make between an "olfactory spice store" and a "gustatory spice store." – Isaac Kotlicky Feb 22 '15 at 0:23
  • How could it deny it when it doesn't even address it? – Double AA Feb 22 '15 at 1:38

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