What Bracha Do We Say in a Class Reunion After 20 Years?
Rabbanit Surale Rosen
She'elaTravelling to the UK for a class reunion with friends I haven’t seen for 20 years. Should I say Baruch Mechayei Ha’Meytim upon seeing them?
Gemarah Brachot 58b quotes Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi: “One who sees his friend after 30 days recites: Blessed…Who has given us life, sustained us and brought us to this time” (Birkat Shehekheyanu). After 12 months (he) recites: “ Blessed… Who revives the dead”.
The Tosfot, Rosh and Rabeinu Yona understand that the first Brakha applies only for a close friend or relative, one that brings you joy, similar to other cases where we say Shehekheyanu upon joyous occasions.
The Gemarah explains the reason for reciting Mechaye Hameytim to be connected to Rav’s teaching:” A dead person is only forgotten from the heart after 12 months”. Meaning – if we didn’t hear from each other for such a long time, it is as if we have forgotten about each other’s existence. And if we link the reason for these two different Brakhot then we can say that just as we thank Hashem for keeping us alive to celebrate joyous moments, so too we thank Him for ‘reviving’ other people’s existence who bring us joy.
Another explanation for Rav’s reasoning is that at the time of the Gemarah, people travelling overseas or living far away from each other in the same country, would have no means of communication. It would sometimes take months for news of birth or death to reach members of family or close friends. We can understand that for somebody to find out everything is OK after 12 months of zero communication, would mean something close to an actual revival.
Rav Ovadya Yosef (Yekhave Da’at 4:17) writes that “we never heard of anyone reciting this Brakha” since with the development of reliable and accessible postal services, Poskim ruled that Birkat Mechaye Hameytim should not be recited since it is unlikely that information/news about individuals that are dear to us didn’t reach us before the duration of 12 months. Furthermore, in an age of internet and extensive social networking the possibility of close friends/relatives disappearing for a year is (almost) naught. In fact, today we can also say that news about everyone, not just close family or friends reaches us continuously.
Similarly the Chatam Sofer (Chelek gimmel, Even Ha’ezer 1:58) rules that even in a case of Aguna where we don’t know whether the husband survived a drowning ship, it is impossible that he would not be able to notify his wife by post or the press about his whereabouts.
A class reunion after 20 years of not seeing each other stirs feelings of great excitement and joy. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 225:1) rules that Birkat Shehekheyanu should be recited בשם ומלכות since it is the joy and happiness of meeting again that Chazal saw fit to institute Shehecheyanu for the occasion. It is not connected to whether or not we got news of each other, rather, that we are so happy to see one another in real life.
Since it is a large group of friends that we are seeing at once and not just one at a time, then it is advisable that one of the group will be a asked to recite the Bracha loudly for everyone to listen. This is to avoid the uncomfortable situation where we’re happier to see certain individuals over other friends since a separate Bracha is required for each one (Chessed L’alafim 15)