What is the Shehechiyanu Blessing?

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Gordon-Bennett, Chaviva. "What is the Shehechiyanu Blessing?" ThoughtCo, Jun. 25, 2015, thoughtco.com/what-is-the-shehechiyanu-blessing-2076797. Gordon-Bennett, Chaviva. (2015, June 25). What is the Shehechiyanu Blessing? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-the-shehechiyanu-blessing-2076797 Gordon-Bennett, Chaviva. "What is the Shehechiyanu Blessing?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-the-shehechiyanu-blessing-2076797 (accessed October 20, 2017).
Picking cherries at the Gush Cherry Festival in Israel, 2011
Chaviva Gordon-Bennett

In Judaism, great emphasis is placed on absolutely every occurrence and experience -- big and small. From the enjoyment of the first fig of the season to the birth of a child, the shehechiyanu blessing allows Jews to express gratitude for all earthly things. 

Meaning and Origins

The shehechiyanu (שהחינו, also spelled shehecheyanu), from the Hebrew meaning "who has granted us life," originates in the Talmud in unique form as a simple statement of gratitude.

This earliest recorded appearance of the blessing comes from the Mishnah in Tractate Brachot 9:3 (as well as Pesachim 7b; Sukkah 46a; and Brachot 37b, 44a, and 59a) which includes only four words: 

ברוך דהגינו לזמן הזה

Baruch sh'higee'yanu l'zman ha'zeh.

Blessed [is He] who enabled us to reach this occasion. 

This version also appears in regards to new clothing in the Jerusalem Talmud and in reference to building a new sukkah in the Tosefta for creating one's own tefillintzitzit, or lulav.

There is a belief that after the destruction of the Second Temple, this common blessing of gratitude was expanded and standarized into its current form. 

The shehechiyanu blessing is said over anything new, like putting on a brand new pair of shoes or dress. Additionally, whenever one performs a mitzvah (commandment), whether taking the ​lulav and etrog for the first time on Sukkot or lighting Chanukah candles, the shehechiyanu blessing is recited.

 

ברוך אתה יי אלוהנו מלך העולם שהחינו וקימנו והגינו לזמן הזה

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha'olam, shehechiyanu, v'kee'yamanu, v'higee'yanu, l'zman ha'zeh.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion. 

You can listen to the blessing online here.

 

How To

The first time in the year after Rosh HaShanah that one eats a fresh (not dried) seasonal fruit (one that grows at a certain time of the year like kiwi, figs, dates, cherries, or pomegranates), the regular blessing for the fruit (borei p'ri ha'eitz or borei p'ri ha'adamah) is recited first, followed by the shehechiyanu blessing. There are those, however, with the tradition to reverse the order, reciting the shehechiyanu first. 

The blessing is not recited on fruit that is available year-round (V'zot ha'bracha, p 161). It is also not recited on the following fruit and vegetables: banana, lemon, lettuce, cabbage, potato, carrot, onion, pear, dates, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts, peanuts, almonds, olives, mushrooms, wine, and grape juice (V'zot ha'bracha, p 162-3).

Other instances when the shehechiyanu is recited:

  • the beginning of any Jewish holiday (after lighting the candles and saying the blessing over lighting, one traditionally recites the shehechiyanu)
  • immersing in the mikvah after conversion
  • the birth of a child
  • bar mitzvah donning tefillin for the first time
  • the first time observing a mitzvah on a holiday, such as sitting in a sukkah for the first time, lighting Chanukah candles, reading the megillah at Purim, or eating matzah on Passover
  • starting a new job, the purchase of a new home, or other major milestone
  • wearing a new clothing item for the first time (doesn't apply to basics like socks and underwear, but to a special suit, dress, or shirt)
  • wearing a special pair of new shoes for the first time (there is disagreement about this, but for a new pair of Sabbath shoes or shoes for a wedding, for example, generally one would recite the shehechiyanu -- unless they are made of leather)

Any article of clothing or other item produced from an animal, such as leather shoes or a leather briefcase, do not receive the shehechiyanu blessing because a living creature was hurt and/or killed for the purpose of the manufacture of the item. This is because Judaism places great importance on the welfare and ethical treatment of animals, with detailed laws regarding tza'ar ba'alei chayim ("the suffering of living creatures").

It is important to note that tefillin are made of leather and that the shehechiyanu the bar mitzvah recites on donning tefillin the first time is not on the tefillin themselves, but on the potential for fulfilling future ​mitzvot (commandments).

Format
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Your Citation
Gordon-Bennett, Chaviva. "What is the Shehechiyanu Blessing?" ThoughtCo, Jun. 25, 2015, thoughtco.com/what-is-the-shehechiyanu-blessing-2076797. Gordon-Bennett, Chaviva. (2015, June 25). What is the Shehechiyanu Blessing? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-the-shehechiyanu-blessing-2076797 Gordon-Bennett, Chaviva. "What is the Shehechiyanu Blessing?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-the-shehechiyanu-blessing-2076797 (accessed October 20, 2017).