As we approach the day of Tu Bi-Shevat, it is an appropriate time to discuss the laws of reciting the Shehecheyanu blessing over new fruit. The custom is to eat a plethora of fruit on Tu Bi-Shevat, and we often have cause to make the Shehecheyanu over a new fruit that we haven’t eaten before. The halachos of this scenario, as we will see below, are not few.
Does reciting the Shehecheyahu blessing depend on one’s personal enjoyment of the new fruit, or is the beracha made irrespective of one’s personal enjoyment? When is the beracha made: Before the berachah on the fruit or after it? Should the beracha be made upon seeing the fruit, or specifically upon eating it? These questions, among others, are discussed below.
Berachah Over Seeing or Eating
The source for reciting the Shehecheyanu blessing over a new seasonal fruit is found in the Gemara (Eiruvin 40b), which mentions that one recites the blessing over kara chadta – a new pumpkin. Rashi explains that “when I see a new pumpkin from year to year, I recite Shehecheyanu.”
The Shehecheyanu blessing is a proper response to the joy we feel upon the reappearance of something positive that has been out of our lives for a significant time. Upon seeing the return of a seasonal fruit, we therefore recite the beracha, as the Rambam rules (Berachos 10:2): “One who sees a fruit that renews itself from year to year for the first time, recites Shehecheyanu.”
However, the Rosh (Eiruvin 3:10) writes that the common custom is to recite the blessing specifically when the fruit is eaten for the first time: Although the formal halachah is that the berachah is recited upon seeing the fruit, custom defers the blessing until the time of eating it. This principle is also found in Tosafos (Berachos 59b), and the Tur (Orach Chaim 225) mentions that this is the custom, though he adds that “somebody who recites the blessing at the time of seeing the fruit does not lose out.”
The Shulchan Aruch (225:4) rules that one should make the berachah specifically at the time of eating, whereas the Rema adds that it is also legitimate to make it at the time of seeing (one who does so “does not lose out”). It is therefore clear that although it is right to postpone the blessing for the time of eating, if somebody made the blessing at seeing the fruit, he does not repeat the blessing when eating it.
The Magen Avraham (see Mishnah Berurah 11) explains that the reason for delaying the beracha until the time of eating is that people do not experience [such intense] joy from the sight of the fruit alone, but rather from its consumption, and it is therefore right to delay the blessing until eating.
Shehecheyanu: Optional or Obligation?
The Gemara (Eiruvin, ibid.) states that the Shehecheyanu blessing is reshus, optional. The Sefer Ha-Eshkol (Hoda’ah 23) understands this to mean that there is no obligation to see a new fruit, implying that one of does see a new fruit is obligated to recite the blessing. However, the Beis Yosef (225:7) cites from the Rashba that the entire beracha is optional, even upon seeing a new fruit, and this is also the ruling given by the Mishnah Berurah (9).
Nonetheless, the Mishnah Berurah (19) proceeds to mention that a person should be careful to partake of new fruit, citing from the Yerushalmi that a person must show how he appreciates and endears Hashem’s creation. The Korban Ha-Eidah writes that according to one interpretation, it is particularly important to recite the Shehecheyanu blessing, by which “a person given thanks and praise to Hashem for His creating good things that people enjoy.”
A Subjective Blessing
A third interpretation of the optional nature of the beracha is given by the Chasam Sofer (Orach Chaim 55), who writes that each person must judge for himself whether or not the new fruit causes him joy and pleasure so that the Shehecheyanu blessing can be recited. If a person feels joy, it becomes obligatory to recite the blessing, channeling the joy towards giving thanks to Hashem.
The Chasam Sofer proceeds to explain that the berachah is in a certain sense subjective, depending on the individual joy felt at seeing (and eating) the new fruit: If a person does not enjoy the new fruit, he should not recite a blessing. If he does enjoy the new fruit, he should recite the blessing, provided he is not unique in this enjoyment (if people in general do not enjoy the new fruit, but a certain individual does, he does not make a berachah; but if the general enjoyment of people is unclear, a beracha is recited).
Based on the Chasam Sofer’s ruling, Shut Shevet Ha-Levi (Vol. 4, no. 25) rules that somebody who feels no joy at beholding a new fruit should refrain from reciting a blessing. He adds that “many great people reserved the blessing for the Seven Species, and others specifically for fruit (and not for vegetables), and this is presumably because this is what gave them joy – though according to the strict halachah one recites a blessing on all species.”
Nonetheless, the common custom is to recite a berachah over all new fruit, regardless of one’s personal joy and enjoyment at seeing it. This is given as a halachic ruling in Vezos Ha-Berachah (p. 12), citing the decision from Rav Elyashiv zt”l, and explaining that this is considered an enactment of the Sages.
Fruit Found Throughout the Year
As noted above, a precondition for reciting the berachah is that the fruit should be seasonal: the berachah is made upon seeing the return of the fruit to the market (or to the tree) after its annual absence. The Rema (225:6) therefore rules that we do not make the Shehecheyanu blessing for a yerek (vegetables), “for it stands in the ground all year.” He expounds elsewhere (Darchei Moshe 225:2) that it is hard to discern which vegetable is from the old crop and which is new, and there is therefore no joy in seeing the new crop.
A common question is how to act in places where a particular fruit is available almost all year without interruption, in spite of its being a seasonal fruit.
The Mishna Berurah (18) points out that almost every vegetable has distinct growing seasons, making the Rema’s generalization about vegetables hard to understand (though due to the modern use of hothouses, it is now common for vegetables to be grown throughout the year). The Mishnah Berurah explains that the Rema was referring to vegetables stored in the ground for long periods: Even if a fruit or vegetable does not grow all year long, if it is available throughout the year, we do not recite Shehecheyanu.
Thus, if a particular fruit is available throughout the year by means of refrigeration (or other means, such as import), no Shehecheyanu is made, and for this reason no Shehecheyanu is recited on potatoes (Mishnah Berurah; see Iggros Moshe, Orach Chaim 3:34 who explains that under such circumstances there is no joy in the fruit’s renewal). For the same reason, no blessing is recited for produce grown in greenhouses.
However, where fresh produce is far superior to refrigerated produce, or where an out-of-season fruit can be obtained only for a very high price, Shehecheyanu is recited on the fresh fruit (Be’er Moshe Vol. 5, no. 65; see Vezos Ha-Berachah, p. 161).
The Mishnah Berurah (18) further rules (citing from the Shelah) that one does not make a Shehecheyanu on vegetables, because they lack importance. However, this does not apply to “important” vegetables (such as pumpkin, which is mentioned by the Gemara, and certainly melon and watermelon), on which a berachah is made at the beginning of the new season.
Another point to note is the matter of different types of the same fruit. Certainly, a distinct beracha is recited for different types of citrus fruit, because each one has a distinct taste and name – though where possible one can consolidate several types of fruit with one Shehecheyahu blessing, providing all the fruit are together. Consequently, grapefruit, orange, tangerine, kumquat, and so on, all merit an independent Shehechiyanu blessing.
Even concerning two types of the same fruit, such as red and green grapes, the Shulchan Aruch (225:4) rules that distinct berachos are recited, provided the types are distinct in taste and appearance. The Mishnah Berurah (14) mentions that some dispute this ruling (the Vilna Gaon), and does not decide the halachah. Based on the above ruling of the Chasam Sofer, it follows that if a person has distinct enjoyment from two types of new fruit, he should recite Shehecheyanu twice.
Which Beracha Comes First?
The Peri Megadim and the Aruch Ha-Shulchan write that one first recites Shehechiyanu, and only then the beracha on the fruit. Although this halachah is disputed by other authorities, the Mishnah Berurah (11) rules accordingly, adding that it is also possible to taste a little from the fruit before reciting Shehecheyanu.
The Mishnah Berurah adds, however, that reciting Shehecheyanu between the beracha on the fruit and eating it does not constitute a hefsek (interruption between the berachah over the fruit and eating it). Indeed, we find that with regard to blessings over mitzvos, the Shehecheyanu is recited between the blessing over the mitzvah and the mitzvah’s performance, and we likewise find that special berachos are recited between the berachah over food and the act of eating, such as the berachah on the mitzvah of Sukkah or of eating Matzah.
Rather, the reason for reciting Shehecheyanu first (as given by the Peri Megadim 7) is that the Shehecheyanu blessing applies, in principle, to seeing the fruit. Although the custom is to delay the blessing until the time of eating, as noted above, it is therefore correct to make the Shehecheyanu first. It can be added that making Shehecheyanu might thus raise concern of a hefsek, because the beracha is not related to the act of eating, and is therefore different from the beracha over eating matzah or over sitting in the Sukkah.
Yet, the Be’er Heitev and others write that one first recites the blessing over the fruit and then the Shehechiyanu blessing, and many have the custom of so doing (as noted by Vezos Ha-Berachah).
Forgot to Recite the Berachah
If a person forgot to make Shehecheyanu upon seeing the fruit for the first time, Rabbeinu Manoach (on the Rambam, Berachos Chap. 10) writes that one does not make the blessing upon seeing the fruit again: A person only experiences the joy of renewal the first time he sees the fruit.
However, the Rema (225:3) rules that if a person fails to recite the blessing the first time he sees the fruit, he can still recite it the second time he sees it, the Mishnah Berurah (13) explaining that this is certainly true according to our custom, whereby the beracha is only recited at the time of eating the fruit.
At the same time, it is proper to eat the fruit and recite the beracha as soon as possible after seeing the fruit, so that the joy of its renewal is still fresh.
The Mishnhah Berurah further rules that if a person failed to recite the beracha the first time he ate of the fruit, he cannot make the beracha the next time he partakes of it, though in the Shaar Ha-Zion (15) he cites from the Vilna Gaon (in the name of the Maharil) ruling that the beracha can be recited so long as the joy has not dissipated from one’s heart.
Certainly, if the first act of eating is still ongoing, one can recite the Shehecheyanu beracha as soon as one remembers (Ketzos Ha-Shulchan, Badei Ha-Shulchan 63:9).
Experiencing the joy of new fruit presents us with the opportunity of reciting the Shehecheyahu blessing, thanking and praising Hashem for the special experience of renewal. While this is a special beracha and care should be taken to recite it, we have seen that there are several halachos that one should be keep in mind. Since the principal enactment of the beracha relates to seeing the new fruit, some are careful to recite the beracha before the ha’eitz beracha on the fruit – though there are different customs in this. Likewise, one should try to partake of the fruit soon after its renewal, so that the joy of seeing it should not dissipate. The beracha is only recited on seasonal fruit that are not available the year round and are reserved for those fruit that give us joy upon their renewal.
Wishing all a joyous Tu Bi-Shvat, a time of growth that begins our build-up to the festival season of Purim and Pesach.