Halacha Date: 24 Shevat 5780 February 19 2020
Question: If one travels overseas, returns home more than thirty days later, and is happy to see his wife or a dear friend when he returns, must one recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachot 58b) states: “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: One who sees his friend after thirty days recites the ‘Shehecheyanu’ blessing.” The Rambam (Chapter 10 of Hilchot Berachot) rules likewise. The Tosafot, Rosh, and Rabbeinu Yonah (ibid.) write that one should only recite this blessing upon seeing a very dear friend whom one is glad to see. The Tur and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 225, Section 1) rule likewise. The Poskim explain that this blessing must include Hashem’s name and kingship like any other blessing, for the Gemara (Berachot 40b) clearly states that any blessing which does not include Hashem’s name and kingship is not considered a blessing at all, as we have written in the past.
On the other hand, the Sefer Chessed La’Alafim writes that nowadays when flattery is rampant and one can seem to be a true friend but in truth does not really love his friend at all, one should not recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing at all. Rabbeinu Yosef Haim rules likewise in his Ben Ish Hai where he writes that the custom nowadays is not to recite this blessing at all and that there is a reason behind this custom. It seems that he is referring to the reason of the Chessed La’Alafim.
Nevertheless, halachically speaking, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that if one knows that he truly loves a specific friend and is happy to see him, one should indeed recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing with Hashem’s name and kingship. Hagaon Harav Yosef Yedid Ha’Levi rules likewise in his Sefer Birkat Yosef (which deals completely with the laws of blessings). Several other Poskim rule likewise as well. Hagaon Harav Ovadia Hedaya zt”l writes in his Responsa Yaskil Avdi that even according to the opinion of the Chessed La’Alafim, upon seeing one’s father, mother, or other relatives whom one is very close to, one should recite this blessing with Hashem’s name.
The Sefer Masa’ot Yerushalayim (page 71) writes that the late Munkatcher Rebbe (author of the Minchat Elazar) recited the “Shehecheyanu” blessing with Hashem’s name upon seeing the saintly face of the luminary of the generation, the Saba Kadisha, Hagaon Harav Shlomo Eliezer Alfandari zt”l (who was a tremendous genius in Torah who lived approximately ninety years ago; he was a remnant of the ancient Turkish scholars as he lived the age of 117 and was a great-grandson of a student of Rabbeinu Aharon Sasson who lived in the times of Maran Ha’Bet Yosef. All of the Torah scholars of Israel trembled from his sheer greatness). Similarly, Hagaon Harav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (the great “Netziv,” Rosh Yeshiva of Volozhin) recited this blessing upon seeing the “Aderet” (Hagaon Harav Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Te’umim, Chief Rabbi of Mir and later of Jerusalem and father-in-law of Hagaon Harav Avraham Yitzchak Ha’Kohen Kook).
Thus, halachically speaking, if one sees a truly dear friend (if one has such a friend) after thirty days of not having seen him and is happy to see him, one should recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing. Similarly, if one sees his father, Rebbe, or other family who is very dear to him after thirty days of not seeing them, one recites the “Shehecheyanu” blessing. The same applies to one who sees a female family member, such as one’s wife, daughter, sister, mother, or granddaughter who is especially dear to him after thirty days of not seeing them, one should recite this blessing. Nevertheless, one should take care only to recite this blessing on someone whom one truly loves or endears in order to avoid any concern of a blessing in vain.