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Beit Midrash Jewish Laws and Thoughts Berachot - Blessings

Blessings Over Joy

Every single event which takes place in the world has spiritual significance which beckons to be understood. When something good happens, one's joy is deepened by the fact that this good was not the result of happenstance, but the hidden hand of God.
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1. Thanking God for Both the Good and the Bad
2. "Shehecheyanu" and "HaTov VeHaMetiv"
3. Winning the Lottery and Receiving an Inheritance
4. A Gift

Thanking God for Both the Good and the Bad
The objective of pronouncing blessings is to cause us to always remember the Creator, Who watches over all of His creatures at every moment. By blessing we are repeatedly reminded that God does not reside in some detached and lofty abode, but rather that every thing which exists in our world does so by virtue of a divine inner spark. Every single event which takes place in the world has spiritual significance and a divine objective which beckons to be understood. Hence, when a person experiences a certain joyous incident, he must praise and thank the Creator, and pronounce the blessing "Shehecheyanu." On the other hand, if, Heaven forbid, one experiences a tragedy, one must realize that this too is the result of God’s providence, and though we do not always understand what sort of logic lies behind such an event, we must all the same have faith and know that God is a fair judge and that all of his decisions are just. In such circumstances one therefore blesses, "Barukh Dayan HaEment" (Blessed is the fair judge).
The knowledge that God runs the world, and that whatever happens, happens as a result of His providence, gives meaning to every event in life. When a person merits a joyous occasion, his joy is deepened by his awareness of the fact that this was not the result of happenstance, but of the hidden hand of God. And even if, Heaven forbid, a person experiences a tragedy, he is better equipped to accept it when he knows that it has meaning. The conviction that God watches over creation adds light to the world even during difficult hours, for the believer knows that even if at present he is not aware of what good can possibly come out of this tragedy, he at any rate knows that whatever God does in the world is, when all is said and done, for the best. One, though, who does not possess faith, is faced with nothing more that hardships, and the pain penetrates his heart, providing no remedy or meaning.

"Shehecheyanu" and "HaTov VeHaMetiv"
The sages introduced two blessings for the purchase of new and gladdening items: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has granted us life and sustenance and permitted us to reach this festive occasion," and "Blessed are You...the beneficent One, Who bestows good." The difference between them is that so long as the joy belongs exclusively to one individual, he must bless "Sheyecheyanu." Yet, when the joy is shared by two or more individuals, it is collective, and they therefore bless, "the beneficent One, Who bestows good." Hence, if a couple buys, for example, a heating furnace, cooking stove, table, chairs, beds, or anything else connected to the needs of the home, because the joy is shared by the two of them, they must bless, "the beneficent One, Who bestows good." But a single individual who buys the same items for himself will bless, "Shehecheyanu." The same goes for a new garment: a dress, pants, skirt, or any other item which makes a person happy. Over such things, one blesses "Shehecheyanu." And even if the husband is happy because his wife has a new garment, all the same, the real and actual joy belongs to the woman, and therefore she alone pronounces the blessing.

Winning the Lottery and Receiving an Inheritance
A person who wins the lottery or must, of course, thank God and pronounce a blessing. This is true not only for large amounts, but for small amounts as well. Even a person who wins a few hundred shekels, and is happy about this, must pronounce a blessing. The question is, though, should he bless "Shehecheyanu or "the beneficent One..." If the winner is single, or married yet each of the spouses has his or her own bank account, because the money is really the winner's alone, he or she must pronounce the blessing. If, though, the money enters their joint account, because it brings happiness to both of them, "the beneficent One" must be pronounced.
The same is true regarding one who inherits money or property - he must pronounce a blessing. And even though he would prefer to forgo the inheritance and have his relative remain alive, all the same, the blessing is pronounced for the benefit derived from the inheritance which, all the same, causes happiness in its own right. Hence, when a close relative dies one blesses: "Blessed be the True Judge," and then, later, when the bereaved inheritor receives his inheritance, he must thank God and pronounce the "Shehecheyanu" blessing. Here, too, if he is a sole inheritor, he blesses, "Shehecheyanu," and if a number of individuals divide the inheritance between them, they must bless "the beneficent One..." And if there is one inheritor, yet he is married and a father of children, it would appear that if the money enters the joint account of he and his wife, they must bless "the beneficient One..." for she too shares in the joy. If, though, the inheritance goes into the benefactor's own personal account, and is not divided with the spouse, even though she will no doubt derive indirect benefit from the inheritance, all the same, he pronounces the "Shehecheyanu" blessing. This is because in principal the money belongs to him, and theoretically she may end up deriving absolutely no benefit from it whatsoever (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 223:2; Mishnah Berurah 9; Biyur Halakhah, Dibbur Hamatchil: "Ein").

A Gift
We have already mentioned the difference between the "Shehecheyanu" and "the beneficent One..." blessings. I.e., so long as the joy is shared by two or more individuals "the beneficent One" is pronounced; when the joy is the sole possession of a single individual "Shehecheyanu" is pronounced. For example, If a woman buys a new dress for herself, she blesses "Shehecheyanu." And despite the fact that it also makes her husband happy, the actual material enjoyment is the woman’s. Interestingly, though, when a husband buys his wife a dress as a gift, even though the woman is the one who wears the dress, the Shulchan Arukh says (Orach Chaim 223:5) that she blesses "the beneficent One..." The reason for this is that by giving the gift to his wife the husband became an active participant in the joy. The same is true regarding any gift that a person gives to his fellow. The one who receives the gift must bless "the beneficient One..."
There are, though, authorities who disagree and hold that because the one who gives the gift receives no actual material pleasure, he is not to a true partner in the pleasure, and therefore the one who receives must pronounce the "Shehecheyanu" blessing (Mishnah Beruruah 223, 21). In such a situation, then, the one who receives the gift may chose how to bless, for either of the two blessings is acceptable.

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