Kashrus Kurrents, Spring 2023
Shehecheyanu is a bracha that is said on special occasions, which the Gemara defines as something that only “happens from time to time.” We say Shehecheyanu not only on religious occasions, such as the Yamim Tovim, but also to express our appreciation for new experiences and pleasures. Unlike the obligatory Shehecheyanus said on the zmanim and their mitzvos, these brachos are voluntary; perhaps that is why people are not always careful to say them in every situation that would warrant it.
The Shulchan Aruch writes, “One who sees a fruit which grows anew every year says Shehecheyanu, even if he sees it in his friend’s hand, or while still on the tree.” In other words, the primary motivator for the bracha should be the sight of the new fruit. This is indeed how the halacha was originally codified by the Rambam. However, the Mechaber concludes, “The custom is to wait to say the blessing until the fruit is eaten.”
Why the change? Why wait until it is eaten? One reason given is that many people are much happier to eat the fruit than to just see it, so it is preferable to say Shehecheyanu at the time of greatest joy. Rav Moshe Heinemann shlita, STAR-K’s Rabbinic Administrator, has suggested that it is preferable to delay this bracha, since that way the Shehecheyanu will include a longer portion of life and be a vehicle to express even more gratitude.
Since we wait until the fruit is eaten, Shehecheyanu may be said on a fruit that is primarily consumed in a pureed or cooked form, such as rhubarb, even if one never saw the whole fruit, although this is not usually relevant, as such products are generally available year-round.
Shehecheyanu should ideally be said before the bracha on the fruit is made, or after the first taste of fruit. If one says Shehecheyanu between the bracha on the fruit and eating it, it is not considered an interruption.
A separate Shehecheyanu is said for each species of fruit. Two fruits that appear similar but have different names and tastes, such as oranges and tangerines, are considered separate species for this halacha. Two varieties of the same fruit with different tastes, such as green apples and red apples, may also be considered different species; one who is happy to enjoy the different varieties available may make a bracha on each. If the fruits are eaten at the same time, one Shehecheyanu suffices for all of them, regardless of the species.
Contemporary logistics make it possible for many fruits to be available to the consumer year-round, either fresh or frozen. Since the seasonal cycle is avoided, such fruits are ineligible for Shehecheyanu. Rav Heinemann has said that if a particular fruit has not been available in local stores for at least a month, one may say Shehecheyanu upon its return.
This bracha should be said on any seasonal fruit, even if it is a Borei Pri Ha’adama, such as pineapple.
Although one need not say Shehecheyanu when he first sees the fruit, and may wait until eating it, if he forgot to say it when eating the fruit for the first time, it should not be said the second time he eats it.
The great 16th-century Egyptian posek, Rabbi David ibn Zimra, was asked why people do not say Shehecheyanu on the scent of seasonal plants, such as roses and jasmine. He responded that, on the contrary, one should say Shehecheyanu, and describes how he himself would do so. Later authorities disagreed for a variety of reasons. Some write that pleasure from a fragrance is minimal, and does not warrant a Shehecheyanu. Others give a fascinating reason not to say Shehecheyanu: fragrances give pleasure directly to the neshama, which is eternal. Since the neshama is not bound to the cycles of life, it is thus inappropriate to say “Shehecheyanu v’kiyimanu” on its pleasures.
One who acquires new clothing says Shehecheyanu. If the clothing requires tailoring, then the bracha should be said the first time the clothing is worn. If it was not said then, it may be said the second time it is worn, as long as the wearer is still enjoying the newness of the clothing.
Shehecheyanu should only be said on something significant, such as a new suit or sheitel, and not on more mundane items, such as socks or stockings. Since the joy of a purchase is largely subjective, a good rule of thumb is that only items which the buyer is happy to have, but would not buy more than once a year, require Shehecheyanu. The clothing need not be brand new, as long as they are new to the wearer, and he or she is happy to have them.
Shehecheyanu (or Hatov v’Hameitiv, when others benefit)should be said on other significant purchases – such as a new home or vehicle – as well. When purchasing a new home, the appropriate bracha should be said at closing, since that is when one typically takes legal possession of the new residence. If one does not take possession at the time of closing (due to rent-back agreements or the like) the bracha should be said when one moves in. When renting a new home or leasing a new car, Shehecheyanu is not said.
Although, technically, one ought to say Shehecheyanu even on smaller purchases – like furniture or tableware – the general custom is not to say Shehecheyanu on such items. Nevertheless, if a person is truly happy with the purchase, it is appropriate to express this joy with the bracha of Shehecheyanu.
Regarding new sefarim, the Magen Avraham writes that it is not appropriate to say Shehecheyanu, since mitzvos lav lehanos nitnu – mitzvos were not given for our benefit.
Rabbi Yaakov Emden makes an impassioned argument that this principle is limited to a legal sense of ownership of the physical pleasure that can accompany mitzvos, but it certainly does not preclude enjoying the mitzvah, for there is no greater intangible pleasure than that which comes from the mitzvos. Perhaps drawing on his career in publishing, he also points out that there is a physical pleasure in a beautifully written and bound sefer, which is unrelated to the mitzvah.
The Chayei Adam makes a similar argument, writing that the bracha is on the joy of acquisition and not on the use of the sefer.
In theory, one should say Shehecheyanu when seeing a close friend whom they have not seen for thirty days. Practically, modern communication technology has made the requirement for this bracha obsolete, since if one has been in contact with their friends during this time, or has heard that they are well, it should not be said. As such, the general custom is not to say it.
On meeting a friend for the first time, Shehecheyanu is not said, even if they have been in correspondence, and consider themselves friends from afar, since a long-distance relationship does not create the same level of closeness as an in-person relationship. If, however, one is meeting an immediate family member for the first time, such as a newborn daughter, it is appropriate to recite Shehecheyanu.
It would seem appropriate to say Shehecheyanu on one’s birthday, especially the seventieth, when one reaches the age mentioned in Tehillim. We find that the Chavos Yair was once asked to define what exactly constitutes a seudas mitzvah. In that discussion, he writes, “It is doubtful that a seventieth birthday party should be considered a seudas mitzvah even if the celebrant says Shehecheyanu, which I believe he should.” Since no earlier authority mentions an obligation to say Shehecheyanu on the seventieth birthday, it is appropriate to acquire a new fruit or article of clothing to obligate oneself in the bracha on that occasion.
A Time of Sorrow
It is inappropriate to say “Shehecheyanu… lazman hazeh” during the Three Weeks, which are a time of sorrow, although on Shabbos one may say Shehecheyanu without compunction.
Since Shehecheyanu should not be said, one should refrain from eating new fruits or wearing new clothes during this time. If waiting will cause one to lose the opportunity to say Shehecheyanu, suchasif the fruit will not be available later, or will cause a mitzvah to be delayed (such as for a pidyon haben), one may say Shehecheyanu as normal. One who needs to eat a new fruit immediately due to a medical necessity should do so, but without saying Shehecheyanu.
Although some customs of mourning are in effect during Sefirah, Shehecheyanu may be recited then as normal.
There is a startling Yerushalmi: “A person will need to give an accounting and justify not eating every food he saw.” Considering all Chazal have said about avoiding immersion in the pleasures of this world, one might think that this statement is an outlier, and is not meant to be taken literally.
Nevertheless, the Gemara relates that Rabbi Elazar took this
statement very seriously and describes how he put it into practice: “He saved
his pennies so that he could eat from every kind of produce once a year.” He
saw a different message here: one should seek out and pay attention to all the
good things Hashem has put in this world, such as the many different types of
food available, and use them as an opportunity to praise Him and thank Him, Shehecheyanu
v’kiyimanu v’higiyanu lazman hazeh!
 Eruvin 40b.
 Refer to Kashrus Kurrents, Fall 5783 (Vol. 45 No. 4), Shehecheyanu: A Timely Blessing, for a guide to reciting Shehecheyanu on zmanim and mitzvos.
 Eruvin 40b. Rema 223:1. See also Magen Avraham (ad loc., 5) that since these are not recurring events, they do not fit the criterion of ba’in m’zman l’zman, cyclically recurring.
 O.C. 225:3.
 Hilchos Berachos 10, 3. See also Rashi Eruvin 40b s.v. Akra.
 M.B. 225:11, Teshuvos Radvaz 1:297 See also Aruch Hashulchan 225, 7.
 Rav Moshe Heinemann.
 M.B. ibid.
 M.B. ibid., 14. See, however, Shaar Hatziyun 18 that it is preferable to say Shehecheyanu on a new fruit that is unquestionably a separate species, and to include this one in the bracha. It seems that on the second night of Rosh Hashana, one may certainly rely on the opinions that differing tastes require separate brachos.
 See Igros Moshe O.C. vol. 3, 34.
 M.B. ibid., 13. It seems that as long as one has not finished the fruit, Shehecheyanu may still be said.
 Teshuvos Radvaz 1:297. See Magen Avraham 225:12.
 Magen Avraham 216:1 quoting Lechem Chamudos.
 Elyah Rabbah 216:2, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 59:18.
 O.C. 223, 4.
 O.C. 223, 6.
 Rav Moshe Heinemann.
 Rav Moshe Heinemann, based on O.C. 223:3. See M.B. 12 regarding renovations.
 Rav Moshe Heinemann.
 Mor U’ketziah 223.
 O.C. 225:1. If a year has passed, he should instead say Mechaye Meisim.
 M.B. 225:2. See Shaar Hatziyun 3 regarding a friend who has fallen ill.
 See Aruch Hashulchan 225:3. Rav Heinemann explains: Since Shehecheyanu is only said upon seeing close friends, people may feel slighted when they realize that it is not said upon seeing them. To avoid giving offense, the custom developed to never say this Shehecheyanu.
 O.C. 225:2 and M.B. 5. This author is unsure if a Zoom meeting is sufficient to create the necessary level of friendship.
 The Mishnah Berura 223:2 writes that one should say Shehecheyanu upon seeing a newborn daughter for the first time, since it is certainly as joyous as seeing an old friend. It seems that familial feelings override the lack of familiarity.
 90:10: “The days of our lives are seventy years, and with strength, eighty years.”
 Chavos Yair 70.
 Rav Moshe Heinemann. See Kaf Hachaim 223:28, and ibid.,29 regarding the sixtieth birthday. See also Ginzei Yosef 4 that it is appropriate to do so on every birthday.
 O.C. 551:17 and M.B. 98. See Shaar Hatziyun 99 regarding Rosh Chodesh.
 O.C. ibid.
 M.B. 551:99.
 Kiddushin 4:12.