By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times
The Mazda MX5 Miata is hands down this year’s most popular sports cars, according to Car and Driver Magazine. It is often purchased by balding men in their forties who are entering midlife crises. The most popular minivan in the United States is the Chrysler Pacifica. It is generally purchased by people with larger families. The different profiles of each one of the purchasers of these vehicles is significant.
Because it seems that each of these automobiles may have a different status in Halacha.
First, an introduction.
Two Possible Brachos
Whenever we make a new and exciting purchase there are two possible brachos that may be recited. At times we recite a “Shehecheyanu” and at times we recite a “Baruch HaTov veHaMaitiv.” The Shulchan Aruch (OC 222:1; 175:4 and elsewhere) tells us that “Baruch HaTov VeHaMaitiv” is recited when someone else also benefits from the item. A “Shehecheyanu” is recited when only one person benefits from the item.
In our case of the Pacifica, since the entire family benefits from the vehicle, a HaTov VeHaMaitiv” would be recited. With the MX5, the profile of the buyer is different. It would indicate that a “Shehecheyanu” would be recited.
What would be the Halacha of such purchases during the Three Weeks?
May either one of these cars be purchased then? As we know, during the three weeks we try to avoid reciting a Shehecheyanu (See SA OC 551:17). The reason is that the words of the bracha indicate an expression of thanks for having allowed us to reach this “special” time.
The problem is that the tragic loss of the Bais HaMikdash makes this time period anything but “special.” The Mogain Avrohom (551:42) explains that the idea of not reciting a shehecheyanu is because of the wording, and not because of the idea of mourning. He writes, “However, the reason is not on account of mourning, for we do not find that a mourner is forbidden in reciting a shehecheyanu.”
Applying the words of the Mogain Avrohom then, a Mazda MX5 may not be purchased after the 17th of Tammuz. A Pacifica, however, may be purchased. This is so because the bracha on these cars may not be a “shehecheyanu.”
Not everyone agrees with this Mogain Avrohom, however. The Maamar Mordechai (551:12) rules that the reason the blessing is not recited is, in fact, on account of our mourning and pain. According to this view, the minivan cannot be purchased either. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l discusses the purchase of cars during the Three Weeks in his Igros Moshe (OC III #80) and rules in accordance with the aforementioned Mogain Avrohom.
What is interesting to note here is that the issue that all the Poskim seem to focus upon is not the emotion that is felt in the purchase. Rather, their focus is upon the blessing itself. Indeed, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Halichos Shlomo 14:1) writes that the purchase in and of itself is not forbidden – it is the associated blessing.
This should give us all some pause.
Often we may seem to ramble through our brachos when we recite them. The fact that Rav Moshe zt”l and the Mogain Avrohom forbid the “Shehecheyanu” but permit the “HaTov VeHaMaitiv” speaks volumes about the kavana – the intent that we must have in every word of the brachos that we recite.
This then might be a lesson we can all take to heart during this period.
Words and Brachos do matter.
We should focus and concentrate on the real center of it all – Hashem and the bracha in which we express our appreciation to Him. Everything comes from Him.
Most Meforshim explain that this is the real meaning of the words “Boruch attah Hashem.” It does not mean that we, mere mortals, are blessing Hashem. Rather, it means that we acknowledge that Hashem is the source of all blessing.
Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.