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Thought for the Day: So What, Precisely, Does Obligate One in the Bracha of שהחיינו, Anyway?

As preparation, let's try a simple word association exercise.  The word is: anticipation.  If the first word that came to your mind was "ketchup", then the rest of this will go down a little easier.

Here's the easy part: שהחיינו is only made for things that occur from time to time; which is to say, not continuously.  For example שהחיינו wouldn't apply to buying laundry detergent or deodorant because they are always available and one buys them (and their ilk) whenever they are needed.  That brings us to the second requirement: it has to be something that gives you enjoyment; which is to say, not something that is just part of daily living.  For example, you wouldn't make a שהחיינו on wearing a new pair of socks for the first time; socks are socks, new or old, as long as they protect your feet form chaffing and/or getting cold.  (If you feel differently, don't make a שהחיינו, but please do get a life.)

That's why we always make a שהחיינו on a Yom Tov; it occurs only annually and it's funner than anything.  Most people would agree that buying a new suit fits the criteria: (1) suits are expensive, so you only buy them occasionally; (2) it feels geshmack to wear a new suit.  (I know one nebbich who actually can't tell the difference between a new and old suit, so I he buys a new suit only when he also gets a new hat as well.)  Then's there's the new fruit issue.  Whoo boy.

Here's some facts (you can double check them in Orach Chaim 225:3-6, and Mishna Brura there):
  1. You can make the שהחיינו on just seeing the fruit on the tree.  In fact, even if you see it several times without saying שהחיינו, you can still say it the next time you see the fruit.  You may, and it certainly is the accepted custom, wait until you eat the fruit before making the שהחיינו.  Once you eat it, though, you have to either make the שהחיינו the first time or you have lost the chance.
  2. If you make a שהחיינו on grapes (either seeing them or eating them), you would not later make a שהחיינו on the wine made from those grapes.
  3. Eating red and green grapes are two difference experiences, so you would be able to make a שהחיינו on each one -- even though they are both grapes.
(1) is actually the result of a compromise.  There is one opinion that you don't make the שהחיינו at the first opportunity, then you have lost that שהחיינו; according to them, you woundn't be permitted to make the שהחיינו even on the second sighting.  On the other side, there is an opinion that the שהחיינו on enjoying a new fruit is no different than Yom Tov or Chanuka lights; if you don't make the שהחיינו the first time, then you can still make the שהחיינו next time -- even for eating.

The compromise comes from a doubt about what the pleasure of seeing the new fruit really is.  Are you just excited to see a new creation of the Holy, Blessed Be He making its first appearance after some absence, or you are excited that you'll get to eat it soon?  If it's the first, then each subsequent sighting is no longer as fun as the first time, so you lose the שהחיינו.  If it's the second, though, then the anticipation (think ketchup) of soon being able to enjoy does not lessen with each sighting; in fact, it increases.  According to everyone, though, once you've eaten the fruit, your level of excitement drops precipitously.

Now, you're thinking... what about nowadays in the good ole US of A, where you can get any fruit you want any time you want for pretty cheap; do we make a שהחיינו or not?  Great question.

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