In the previous Halacha we have explained that one who sees a truly dear friend or relative after thirty days f not seeing him and is happy to see him recites the “Shehecheyanu” blessing upon seeing him.
The Gemara (Berachot 58b) states: “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: One who sees his friend after thirty days recites the ‘Shehecheyanu’ blessing. If one sees him after twelve months, one recites the ‘Mechaye Ha’Metim’ blessing.”
We have already explained that reciting a blessing on a friend applies only when the friend is especially dear to one’s self and one is truly happy to see him. The same applies to the “Mechaye Ha’Metim” blessing after twelve months in that one should not recite this blessing on any friend; rather, it is only to be recited on a friend or relative especially dear to one’s self, such as a wife, son, daughter, and the like.
This blessing is quoted as Halacha in Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 225) and this blessing should not be discontinued. However, it is very uncommon for one to be able to recite this blessing, as we shall now explain.
The Difference Between the “Shehecheyanu” and “Mechaye Ha’Metim” Blessings
Hagaon Harav Eliyahu Hazzan was asked in his Responsa Ta’alumot Lev why it is no longer customary to recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing after thirty days and the “Mechaye Ha’Metim” blessing after twelve months of not seeing a friend. He replied that nowadays, when communication is so readily available through telephones, telegraph, and the many post offices present in every city, although one has not seen his friend, one can certainly be sure how he is doing by picking up the phone and the like. One therefore need not recite the “Shehecheyanu” or “Mechaye Ha’Metim” blessings. He adds that Maran Ha’Chida rules likewise in the name of his grandfather, Rabbeinu Avraham Azulai.
Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l questions his words, for Hagaon Chida writes as follows: “I have heard that the ‘Mechaye Ha’Metim’ blessing recited after twelve months only applies when one has not had any written correspondence with one’s friend and did not know how he was faring; however, if the friend sent him a letter or if one was told that the friend was doing fine, one does not recite the ‘Mechaye Ha’Metim’ blessing.” He writes this in the name of his grandfather, Rabbeinu Avraham Azulai.
Clearly, Maran Ha’Chida’s words apply specifically to the “Mechaye Ha’Metim” blessing; however, the “Shehecheyanu” blessing must be recited even if one knows how his friend was doing. Indeed, the Responsa Halachot Ketanot (Chapter 220) clearly states: “It seems that the ‘Mechaye Ha’Metim’ blessing should not be recited if one has received a letter from his friend or if one has been notified by others that the friend is faring fine, for the verse ‘I have been forgotten like a deceased man from the heart’ does not apply here. However, the ‘Shehecheyanu’ blessing recited after thirty days which is recited the joy of seeing the face of one’s dear friend must still be recited.”
Thus, halachically speaking, one must recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing after thirty days even if one has spoken to one’s wife or close friend on the phone during the duration of time that they have not seen each other. However, the “Mechaye Ha’Metim” blessing should not be recited unless one has not seen or heard from a dear friend for one year which includes not hearing from mutual friends how the individual is doing. Nowadays, it is certainly quite uncommon not to hear anything about a close friend for an entire year, for technology is advanced enough that one will be able to find out some information about the friend. On the other hand, the “Shehecheyanu” blessing is much more common, as we have explained above.