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Reuniting with Friends

 

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

The Talmud teaches that one who hasn’t seen a good friend in over a month should recite a special blessing – the shehecheyanu blessing- upon seeing them again.[1] A “friend” in this context refers to a person with whom one is exceptionally close, and whose presence brings one great happiness.[2] In the event that an entire year has gone by since one last saw such a friend, one recites the blessing “mechaye hameitim“.  Similarly, one also recites the shehecheyanu blessing when being personally received by a great person, particularly a renowned Torah scholar, who is rarely accessible for private audiences.[3]

The blessing of mechaye hameitim is only recited if one did not even hear from one’s friend over the course of an entire year. If the two friends had been in some form of contact, however, only the shehecheyanu blessing is recited – even though they had not actually seen each other for an entire year.[4] The difference between the shehecheyanu blessing and the mechaye hameitim blessing is that the former is essentially recited in honor of the pleasure one experiences upon seeing a good friend after a lengthy absence, while the latter represents thanksgiving that the friend is still alive.[5] There is no difference between men or women for the purposes of these blessings and they may even be recited when it concerns a member of the opposite sex.[6] 

For some reason the custom of reciting a blessing upon seeing a special friend has fallen into disuse for the most part. Some authorities explain this to be because even one’s closest friends simply do not bring enough happiness to warrant the blessing. Other authorities suggest that the practice of reciting a blessing upon seeing a friend has become a shallow facade of inappropriate flattery.[7] One may also want to consider reciting the shema when seeing a long lost friend after a lengthy absence just as Yaakov Avinu had done when he was reunited with Yosef.[8] 

Nevertheless, many individuals continue to recite the shehecheyanu blessing upon meeting a close friend whom they have not seen for quite some time, and there is certainly ample justification for this practice. In order to evade the dispute whether or not these blessings should be recited, some authorities suggest that they be recited without mentioning God’s name or to recite them in one’s mind rather than audibly.[9] In the event, however, that one encounters a friend whom one has not seen for quite some time and who recently recovered from a serious illness, the blessings may be recited in their entirety without hesitation.[10]


[1] Berachot 58b

[2] O.C. 225:1

[3] Rivevot Ephraim 6:104

[4] Kaf Hachaim 225:4

[5] Aruch Hashulchan 225:2

[6] Rivevot Ephraim 6:104, Kaf Hachaim 225:2

[7] Rivevot Ephraim 1:161. See Minhag Yisrael Torah 225:1 and Piskei Teshuvot 225 note 18 for more explanations as to why this is so.

[8] Rashi;Bereishit 46:29

[9] Kaf Hachaim 225:6

[10] Shaar Hatziun 225:3

 
 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

28 Responses

  1. YC says:

    I only saw this bracha said bshem umalchus once
    Rav Yoel BinNun at a public forum

  2. Skeptic says:

    “One may also want to consider reciting the shema…”

    Is this your personal suggestion?

  3. MP says:

    Do any poskim bring the idea of reciting shema, or is this your own interpretation?

  4. SF2K1 says:

    What if you haven’t seen your wife in a long time due to a long business trip or something like that? Do the same halachos apply?

  5. Ari Enkin says:

    SF2K1-

    L’echora, yes. Why not?

    A

  6. Ari Enkin says:

    MP-

    My own chiddush.

    -[blush]-

    A

  7. Mike S. says:

    Actually, although I will ask my Rabbi for p’sak I expect to see a friend who is a well-known, brilliant, scientist and an unknown, but outstanding, Torah scholar, for the first time in a few years in a couple of months. What is the proper order of brachot?

  8. Ari Enkin says:

    Mike-

    ….ask your rabbi that too. ‘-)

    Ari Enkin

  9. Michael Feldstein says:

    The blessing of mechaye hameitim is only recited if one did not even hear from one’s friend over the course of an entire year. If the two friends had been in some form of contact, however, only the shehecheyanu blessing is recited – even though they had not actually seen each other for an entire year.[4] The difference between the shehecheyanu blessing and the mechaye hameitim blessing is that the former is essentially recited in honor of the pleasure one experiences upon seeing a good friend after a lengthy absence, while the latter represents thanksgiving that the friend is still alive.[5]
    ——————————————————–

    Rabbi Enkin,

    Just speculating now…hundreds of years ago, if someone did not see or hear from someone for a long time, there might be good reason to question whether or not that person was still alive. Today, with the methods of communication so much more prevalent, the news of a friend’s death would certainly reach a person quickly, which in my mind would make the need to say mechaye hameitim (even if you have not seen or heard from a friend for a year) inappropriate, because you can assume that if God forbid he did die, you would have heard about it.

  10. Ari Enkin says:

    Michael-

    The sevara sounds legitimate, but are you saying that in the olden days a person was “dead until proven alive”? It sounds like something that would not be halachcially admissible.

    Also — even according to your approach — why would the mechaye hameitim be marginalized? Sure news spreads faster, but bottom line — the guy is alive when you see him.

    Ari Enkin

  11. Shlomo says:

    Another question is whether phone conversations or email count as seeing the person for purposes of this halacha.

  12. Michael Feldstein says:

    Michael-

    The sevara sounds legitimate, but are you saying that in the olden days a person was “dead until proven alive”? It sounds like something that would not be halachcially admissible.

    Also — even according to your approach — why would the mechaye hameitim be marginalized? Sure news spreads faster, but bottom line — the guy is alive when you see him.

    Ari Enkin

    —————

    Not dead until proven alive, but back then there was enough of a reason to believe he could have been dead to say the bracha, whereas now there seems to be no legitimate reason to think he wasn’t alive.

  13. JS says:

    I’ve always thought that in today’s day and age, if you haven’t had any contact with this friend for a year, then that friend does not meet the condition of “a person with whom one is exceptionally close”.

  14. Anon says:

    ARI-

    Where can one buy the Rivevos Efraim (other than by R’ Greenblatt)?

    Thanks

  15. Anon says:

    Sorry, Rabbi Ari that is (see post above this one)

  16. Anon says:

    “One may also want to consider reciting the shema when seeing a long lost friend after a lengthy absence just as Yaakov Avinu had done when he was reunited with Yosef.[8]”

    Wasn’t Yakov saying Kerias Shema because it was Z’man Kerias Shema?

  17. Shalom Spira says:

    Yi’yasher kochakha, R. Enkin. In Contemporary Halakhic Problems II, in the chapter on Entebbe, RJDB cites ROY to the effect that we no longer recite the blessings of “Shehechiyanu” or “Mechayeh hametim” in the present era, thanks to improved telecommunications. However, where one was aware that his friend was in danger (e.g. his friend was captured in Entebbe), then it is appropriate to recite the blessing (Shehechi’yanu or Mechayeh mateim, as the case may be) the next time one sees one’s frined.

    R’ Anon, the good news is that one can see the eight volumes of Reevivot Efraim at Hebrew Books. [I definitely agree with you all the same that it is advantageous to acquire the books for purposes of Shabbat & Yom Tov. For that, I don't know the retailer answer.] Regarding the Shema, my teacher R. Shmidman suggested that Ya’akov Avinu specifically timed his recitation of Shema for the rendez-vous with Yosef, because until then Ya’akov did not understand what it means to love HKB”H with all his soul. [A similar explanation appears in R. Abraham Twerski's "Living Each Week".] Ergo, I can understand R. Enkin’s proposal that one say the Shema on all such future occasions.

  18. Anon says:

    R’ Shalom-

    Yes, I know that I can find it on HebrewBooks. That website is truly a blessing. But it is nice to have the sefer to take it around as I am not always with a computer. Shabbos and Yom Tov is another factor.

    ” Regarding the Shema, my teacher R. Shmidman suggested that Ya’akov Avinu specifically timed his recitation of Shema for the rendez-vous with Yosef, because until then Ya’akov did not understand what it means to love HKB”H with all his soul. “”

    How did his reunion with Yosef generate that understanding?

  19. Ari Enkin says:

    Anon-

    “…..other than by R. Greenblatt?”

    What can be better than getting the latest edition of R.E., at cost price, directly from the author?????

    Ari Enkin

  20. Ari Enkin says:

    Shlomo-

    Here is another excerpt from “Reuniting With Friends” from my book “Halacha Bilvad”-

    There are a number of authorities who maintain that one should not recite any blessing upon seeing a friend with whom one has been in regular communication, no mater what the circumstance or how long it has been since one last saw the friend. There also exists a view which rules that one should recite the shehecheyanu blessing even upon simply receiving a letter from a friend following an extended break in communication, though common custom is not like this view. If one has never met an individual in person, neither of these blessings are recited upon one’s first encounter even though one may have been in contact with them for quite some time (through email, for instance).

    Ari Enkin

  21. Ari Enkin says:

    Anon-

    Check out R’ Spira’s commentary on Yaakov saying Shema from our teacher, Rav Shmidman, ZL. There are other meforshim who say very similar things, as well.

    Ari Enkin

  22. Ari Enkin says:

    Anon-

    RE: How did his reunion with Yosef generate that understanding?

    ……from the love and emotions of being reunited with a long lost son.

    (….dont start crying now!)

    Ari Enkin

  23. Micha says:

    Tomorrow a close friend I haven’t seen for many years (many seven) who lives now in Yerushalayim is coming to us for Shabbat in Tsfat.

    I have been in phone/computer contact with him over the last several months, but before this, sometime over the last seven years there was a long stretch during which I didn’t hear anything about him or from him, certainly longer than a year.

    I’m wondering what beracha to make.

  24. Ari Enkin says:

    Micha-

    If anything — shehecheyanu.

    I leave it to you to decide.

    Ari Enkin

  25. Steve Brizel says:

    R Ari-unrelated inquiry-I have noticed that many people who see someone who has recovered from a major illness use the expression “Baruch Rofeh Cholim.” Is there a source for the same?

  26. Ari Enkin says:

    Steve-

    The Piskei Teshuvot in 230 brings this minhag somewhat disapprovingly, though justifies it. It makes sense and is consistent with the practice to say “baruch mechaye meitim” and other brief blessings on many different occasions, as well as when someone was deathly ill.

    See also Shulchan Aruch OC 224 and 230.

    Ari Enkin

  27. Steve Brizel says:

    R Ari-Gut Voch/Shavuah Tov and thanks for the Mareh Mkomos.

  28. [...] Yakov reunited with his son, Yosef, he recited a bracha – perhaps two.  The Talmud in Brachot discusses when to recite Shehecheyanu and when we recited M’chayeh [...]

 
 

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