One of the most well-known brachot in Jewish life is She'hecheyanu, the blessing that thanks God for enabling us to reach a particular milestone. Nothing quite matches the feeling of lighting the Chanukah candles or eating a new fruit – and articulating the emotional joy with the words, "Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season."

Specifically, She'hecheyanu is recited upon

  • the performance of a seasonal mitzvah
  • eating a seasonal fruit for the first time that season
  • acquiring a new garment or other item of significant value
  • deriving significant benefit from a special event

She'hecheyanu Blessing

Ashkenazi Pronunciation

Sefardi Pronunciation

 

There is another, related bracha – HaTov v'HaMeitiv – which is generally recited in situations where the "event" benefits both oneself and others:

HaTov v'HaMeitiv Blessing

Ashkenazi Pronunciation

Sefardi Pronunciation

 

We will now explore the circumstances in which these blessings apply. At the end of the class, we'll learn about a few other blessings that are related to life events.

Seasonal Mitzvah

Because Jewish holidays only come once a year, She'hecheyanu is a beautiful way to praise God for having brought us to this time.

She'hecheyanu is recited on the holidays of Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shmini Atzeret. For women, the blessing is typically said at candle lighting; men usually say it at Kiddush (except on Yom Kippur, when men say it in synagogue).1

She'hecheyanu is also said on the rabbinical holidays of Chanukah (upon lighting the menorah of the first day)2 and Purim (at the Megillah reading).3

She'hecheyanu is also said when performing mitzvot that occur only occasionally. For example:

  • Brit Milah4
  • Pidyon HaBen5
  • blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashana6
  • waving the lulav on the first day of Sukkot7
  • covering the blood after slaughtering8

New Fruit

Imagine your backyard mango tree, where every year you wait months for the fruits to ripen, so that you can once again experience the joy of that distinctive resinous sweet mango flavor. Whenever you eat – for the first time that year – a fruit that is only available seasonally, you give thanks to God by reciting the bracha She'hecheyanu.9

She'hecheyanu is said not only on fruits (i.e. which get the blessing Ha'aitz), but also on a Ha'adama food that is only available seasonally, and that brings special joy10 – for example: watermelon, strawberries and pineapple.11 Bananas and peanuts, however, since they generally available year round, do not get a She'hecheyanu.12

When saying She'hecheyanu on a new fruit, there are two different customs regarding the order of the brachot, and either of these customs is acceptable:

  • first say the blessing on the fruit, followed by She'hecheyanu, and then take a bite13
  • first say She'hecheyanu, followed by the blessing on the fruit, and then take a bite14

If you forgot to say She'hecheyanu on the "first bite," you can still say it as long as you are in the process of eating that fruit for the "first time" that year – i.e. in the same eating session.15

If you want to eat a few "new fruits" in the same sitting, only one She'hecheyanu is said to cover all of them.16

What about a fruit that comes in different varieties? Although the rules are complex and subject to some dispute, the general rule is as follows: If there is a different name, appearance and taste, then you should say She'hecheyanu on each fruit. But if the difference is merely a nuance in taste and texture, you do not.17

  • Separate She'hecheyanu blessings are said on an orange, tangerine and kumquat.
  • Separate She'hecheyanu blessings are not said on a navel orange, Valencia orange, and Jaffa orange.

What about a fruit that you eat all year long in "dried" form – e.g. raisins, prunes or dried apricots? In such a case, you still say She'hecheyanu upon eating the first "fresh" fruit of the season.18

New Purchase

There is an undeniably special feeling when purchasing a car and driving it home for the first time. Whenever acquiring a new item of value brings special joy – that you "subjectively" regard as valuable and important19 – we should thank God for enabling us to reach this milestone. For most people, this includes

  • a new garment such as a suit or dress
  • new household items such as a major appliance, car,20 or a new house itself

In these cases, there is an important rule to follow:

  • She'hecheyanu is said when the benefit of the new item accrues to you only (e.g. in the case of a new garment).21
  • The bracha Ha'tov v'Hamativ is recited when the item benefits both yourself and others (e.g. where you are married and purchase a new household appliance).22

Generally, the blessing is said not upon the actual purchase of the item, but rather upon the first use of the item.23

The bracha is also said if the item is received as a gift.24 Furthermore, even if the item is "second hand," the bracha is still said, providing that it gives you sufficient joy.25

Special Event26

For pure joy, it may be that nothing beats the birth of a new baby. Between the sense of enormous potential, and the overwhelming gratitude, this is an opportune time to say a bracha.

  • If the baby is a boy, both parents recite the Ha'tov v'Hamativ blessing.27

  • If the couple was blessed with a girl, the new father recites She'hecheyanu upon first seeing the infant, and should have intention to motzi his wife.28

At a wedding, the Sefardic custom is that the groom says the blessing She'hecheyanu over a new tallit, and has in mind that the blessing also goes on the marriage for him and the kallah.29

Wine at a Meal30

In order to thank God for our abundance of wine, the Sages ordained that the bracha of Ha'tov v'Hamativ should be recited upon drinking "new" wine after having drunk a different type of wine. This is contingent on the following conditions:

  • The new wine is not at all inferior to the original wine.31
  • The original wine is not finished.32
  • At least two people will drink from both wines.33
  • The new wine is not being used for Bikat Hamazon (Grace After Meals).34

According to many authorities, the bracha may even be said upon drinking wine after grape juice, pending the above conditions.35

Multiple people can say the bracha Ha'tov v'Hamativ at the same meal.36

If both wines are on the table simultaneously, it is proper to say Ha'gafen on the wine which is believed to be superior, despite the fact that you will no longer be able to say Ha'tov v'Hamativ.37

Hearing of a Death

The Talmud says that we should "bless God for (perceived) bad experiences just as we bless Him for the good." This means that we should humbly accept whatever God sends us, even if we cannot comprehend His justice.38

In this vein, the blessing "Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet" is recited upon the death of an immediate relative (parent, sibling, spouse or child).39

Technically, this blessing may be recited as soon as one hears of the death,40 but traditionally it is said at the funeral, immediately before performing kriyah, the ritual tearing of the garment.41 (See an instructional video of how to tear kriyah.)

Mourner's Blessing

Ashkenazi Pronunciation

Sefardi Pronunciation

 
  • Upon hearing of the death of any person, the custom is to say the words, "Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet," omitting the name of God that is part of any "official" bracha.42

Birkat HaGomel

Upon safely completing a significant journey, one should say the blessing HaGomel to thank God for the successful trip.43 This blessing is recited after any air travel44 or lengthy boat trip.45 Sefardim also recite this blessing after completing a lengthy car or train ride, but Ashkenazim only do so only if they faced particular danger along the way.46

This blessing may only be recited in the presence of a minyan,47 typically after the reading of the Torah in synagogue.48 The blessing should be said at the first such opportunity, ideally within three days of the conclusion of the journey.49 If many people need to say HaGomel at the same time, preferably one person should recite the blessing on behalf of them all.50

The HaGomel blessing is also recited by anyone who recently underwent a dangerous experience:

  • one who recovered from a serious illness51
  • a woman who gave birth
  • anyone who was in a life-threatening situation, such as an auto accident or terror attack

HaGomel Blessing

Ashkenazi Pronunciation

Sefardi Pronunciation

 

Traveler's Prayer

When undertaking an intercity journey, travelers recite a special prayer for safety and success.52 In the prayer, one may also mention anticipated perils that will be unique to his personal journey.53

This prayer is said once per day.54 It should be said toward the beginning of the trip, but only after leaving the confines of the city.55

For a technical reason, the traveler's prayer should preferably be said immediately following another bracha. For example, you could say Shehakol, take a drink of water, and then say the traveler's prayer.56

Traveler's Prayer

Ashkenazi Pronunciation

Sefardi Pronunciation


  1. Orach Chaim 619:1
  2. Orach Chaim 676:1
  3. Orach Chaim 692:1
  4. Yoreh De’ah 265:7. In Israel, Sefardim and Ashkenazim say She’hecheyanu; in the Diaspora, only Sefardim say it.
  5. Yoreh De’ah 305:10
  6. Orach Chaim 585:2
  7. Orach Chaim 644:1
  8. Yoreh De’ah 28:2; see also Biur HaGra (OC 22:1)
  9. Orach Chaim 225:3
  10. Biur Halacha 225 – s.v. Pri; Aruch HaShulchan (OC 225:12); Shu”t Shevet HaLevi 4:25
  11. Mishnah Berurah 225:18, with Biur Halacha – s.v. Pri
  12. Orach Chaim 225:6, with Mishnah Berurah 18
  13. Be’er Hatev (OC 225:6); Kaf HaChaim (OC 225:24)
  14. Mishnah Berurah 225:11; Aruch HaShulchan (OC 225:5)
  15. Mishnah Berurah 225:13
  16. Sha’ar Hatziyun 225:16; Shu”t Igros Moshe (OC 1:87)
  17. Mishnah Berurah 225:14; V’Zot HaBracha, pp. 163-4
  18. Aruch HaShulchan 225:12
  19. Mishnah Berurah 223:13, 24
  20. Shu”t Igros Moshe (OC 3:80)
  21. Orach Chaim 223:3
  22. Orach Chaim 223:5, with Mishnah Berurah 19
  23. Mishnah Berurah 223:17; V’Zot HaBracha, pg. 167
  24. Mishnah Berurah 223:21
  25. Orach Chaim 223:3, 223:6
  26. The custom of Sefardim and some Ashkenazim (from German, Austrian and Dutch backgrounds) is that the groom puts on a new tallit at the chuppah, says a She’hecheyanu, and has in mind the wedding ceremony as well (Rokeach 371; Chatam Sofer OC 55).
  27. Orach Chaim 223:1
  28. Mishnah Berurah 223:2; V’Zot HaBracha, pg. 169, citing Rabbi Y.S. Elyashiv
  29. Roke'ach 371; Birkei Yosef 8:5
  30. based on Orach Chaim 175, with Mishnah Berurah; research on this section by Rabbi Dov Lev
  31. Orach Chaim 175:2
  32. Mishnah Berurah 175:3
  33. Orach Chaim 175:4
  34. Mishnah Berurah 175:2
  35. Minchat Yitzchak 9:14
  36. Orach Chaim 175:5
  37. Orach Chaim 175:3
  38. Talmud – Brachot 60b
  39. Orach Chaim 223:2, with Mishnah Berurah 8
  40. Yoreh De’ah 339:3
  41. Gesher HaChaim 1:4:6
  42. Be’er Hatev (OC 223:6)
  43. Orach Chaim 219:1
  44. not just intercontinental air travel (Shu”t Igros Moshe OC 2:59); Halichot Shlomo 1:23:5; Tzitz Eliezer 10:10. A minimum of 72 minutes travel time is necessary to say HaGomel (Yechaveh Da'at 2:26).
  45. Piskei Teshuvot 219:2
  46. Piskei Teshuvot 219:3
  47. Orach Chaim 219:3
  48. Orach Chaim 219:3
  49. Orach Chaim 219:6
  50. Halichot Shlomo, pg. 278
  51. Orach Chaim 219:1
  52. Orach Chaim 110:4
  53. Halichot Shlomo 1:21:1
  54. Orach Chaim 110:5
  55. Orach Chaim 110:7, with Mishnah Berurah 29
  56. Orach Chaim 110:7, with Mishnah Berurah 28; Piskei Teshuvot 110:7; Torat Haderech 7:17. Even better, the traveler’s prayer should follow the saying of a “longer” bracha, such as Al Ha’michya or Asher Yatzar (see Mishnah Berurah 47:11; Siach Halacha 110:15).