To Rabbonim Shlita
A Rabbi got up and said that on watching Gilad Shalit walking to freedom, one could say the berocha of mechaye meisim with shem and malchus. He explained that the Mishneh Berurah would hold this according to all becuase here there was no contact with him, no letters, nothing. And he concluded, “who couldn’t feel simcha at him going free”.
This to me is a wonder of wonders for a number of reasons:
1) The person watching the screen has never even met Gilad Shalit and thus has no personal shaychis to him, pashtus this berocha was established on the simcha shared between personal chaveirim.
2) Watching on a screen is not called seeing in person,see the Minchas Yitzchak and the Beer Moshe discuss this by making a berocha on a king if seen by a screen.
And the Mishnah Berurah pashtus tells us that this berocha is only made face to face.
3) Even if there is place to make such a berocha for the person who fealt so simchadik, but not every one shared such a feeling, so how can one ever declare such a thing to a tzibbur?
4) Furthermore, even Gilad Shalit’s parents spoke to him first when he was in Egypt, perhaps that would mean that he actually walked free in Eretz Yisrael, even they wouldn’t make the berocha? But here I see makom to mevareich, the question is when though.
5) Also the Pischei Teshuvos brings beshem many achronim that we bichlal never make this berocha today. But is that because of easy contact with telephone, e-mail etc or for other reasons?
In my humble opinion I would say that the Mishnah Berurah would call this a berocha levatala.
1) The Mishnah Berurah writes that one can make a Shehechiyanu on a baby girl, because she is no worse than a friend one hasn’t seen for a long period. It can perhaps be argued that the same will apply here: Although the Gemara (Berachos 57) and Shulchan Aruch do refer to a person’s friend, the berachah can be made over somebody who is not a personal acquaintance, provided his (re-)appearance causes great joy. However, as you suggest, it is more likely that the berachah is specific to a friend that a person was in contact with, and lost contact with for a year or more. At seeing the friend again, he makes mechayeh ha-meisim, as though the friend had come back to life. If the friend had never been seen in the first place, it does not seem reasonable that the berachah will be valid.
2) This is a valid point, but the debate among poskim over seeing somebody on screen is not conclusive. Although for thunder and lightening one must see and hear the real thing, it is possible that the simcha one has of seeing Shalit go free is sufficient to make a berachah. However, you are right that this will be a chiddush.
3) True, it is a personal thing. The rabbi is question apparently believes that there cannot be anybody who does not feel this joy, or at the very least that there should not be anybody, and he is therefore chastising those who are unable to make the berachah.
4) The fact that his parents saw him in Egypt (I’m not sure of this) will not affect the viewers from home.
5) The main reason why the berachah is not made today is, as you note, because of modern communications, which will not apply to the case of Shalit.
All in all, I think the Shehecheyahu blessing, which can be made over good news — and the release of Shalit is surely good tidings, even if it goes together with the negative tidings of the terrorists’ release — is surely more appropriate.