By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
The Talmud teaches that one who has not seen a good friend in over a month should recite a special blessing - the shehecheyanu blessing- upon seeing them again. A "friend" in this context refers to a person with whom one is exceptionally close, and whose presence brings one great happiness. 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 upon seeing a great person, particularily a renowned Torah scholar.
Click here to read moreThe blessing of mechaye hameitim, however, 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 touch, however, only the shehecheyanu blessing is recited - even though they had not actually seen each other for an entire year. 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. There is no difference between men or women for the purposes of these blessings and they may even be recited for a member of the opposite sex.
Some authorities suggest, however, that one does not recite any blessing upon seeing a friend with whom one was been in regular communication, no mater what the circumstance. There also exists a view which argues 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 personally met someone that one has been in contact with for quite some time (through email, for instance) neither of these blessings are recited upon one's first encounter.
For some reason the custom of reciting a blessing upon seeing special friends has fallen into disuse for the most part. Some explain this to be because even close friends simply do not bring enough happiness to warrant the blessing. Others suggest that reciting the blessing had turned into a shallow procedure of inappropriate flattery.
Nevertheless, many individuals still recite the shehecheyanu blessing upon meeting a close friend whom they have not seen for quite some time, and there is ample justification for this practice. Some authorities suggest reciting these blessings without mentioning God's name or to recite them in one's mind rather than audibly. In the event, however, that these blessings are being recited for a friend whom one has not seen for quite some time, and who has recovered from a serious illness, then the blessings may be recited in their entirety without hesitation.
 Berachot 58b
 O.C. 225:1
 Rivevot Ephraim 6:104
 Kaf Hachaim 225:4
 Aruch Hashulchan 225:2
 Rivevot Ephraim 6:104, Kaf Hachaim 225:2
 Mishna Berura 225:2
 Shut Halachot Ketanot 1:220
 O.C. 225:2
 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.
 Kaf Hachaim 225:6
 Shaar Hatziun 225:3
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin