Halachos Of Buying New Items During Sefirah
By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
New car sales, according to estimates, are going to be up this year. Industry professionals are predicting that some 15 million new cars will be sold. Many of the new models are being packaged a little bit differently. Both the AAA and Consumer Reports are warning consumers that many of the 2014 models have an air compressor and tire sealant instead of the standard spare tire.
All this new car chatter, however, brings up the question of whether one may plan to purchase a new car during the first 33 days of the counting of the Omer.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 493:1) tells us that during this period it is our custom not to conduct weddings. The Mishnah Berurah explains that one should not partake in matters of great joy. “Nonetheless,” he writes, “if it happens that one has the occasion to recite a Shehecheyanu, then he may do so.”
This sentence written by the Chofetz Chaim in the early twentieth century has developed a surprising amount of halachic literature over the years. What exactly did he mean by the term “if it happens?”
Rav Nissin Karelitz, shlita, (in his Chut HaShani halachic work cited in the Dirshu Mishnah Berurah) explains that the Chofetz Chaim means that one should not plan one’s happy purchases to occur during this time. For example, if one wished to purchase a new car, one should not, at the outset, plan to purchase the car during the sefirah period. If, however, one’s previous car developed problems and a new car purchase is necessary, then, of course, one may make the purchase.
Rav Chaim Kanievsky of Bnei Brak disagrees. He explains that the language utilized by the Chofetz Chaim here is “lav davka” not precisely worded. He writes that there is no problem at all in reciting Shehecheyanu blessings during the sefirah period. Rabbi Ben Tzion Abba Shaul, zt’l, and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt’l, also agreed with this reading of the Mishnah Berurah. Thus, during the mourning period of the sefirah, one may recite a Shehecheyanu with no qualms. This period is different than the Three Weeks that occur during the summer when Shehecheyanus should be avoided.
Not everyone, however, agrees with the Mishnah Berurah permitting the recitation of a Shehecheyanu during the mourning period of sefirah. The Divrei Malkiel as well as numerous other poskim write that one should avoid reciting Shehecheyanu blessings during this time. The custom of Klal Yisrael, however, is to be lenient and follow the ruling of the Mishnah Berurah.
There is another issue too. Whenever we make a new and exciting purchase there are two possible berachos that may be recited. At times we recite a Shehecheyanu and at times we recite a Baruch hatov vehameitiv. 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.
Thus if two or more people are benefiting, which is usually the case when purchasing a family car, then the Baruch hatov vehameitiv is recited instead of a Shehecheyanu.
Would this make a difference to the followers of either Rav Nissin Karelitz or those who have the stringent view?
Perhaps it might. The reason is that the words of the berachah of Shehecheyanu indicate an expression of thanks for having allowed us to reach this “special” time. The problem is that the tragic loss of the time may make this time period not so “special.” Regarding the Three Weeks, the Magen Avraham (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.” Presumably, the same logic may apply to the Shehecheyanu. Thus, according to the Magen Avraham, one may be permitted to plan to purchase a family car even at the outset.
Not everyone agrees with the Magen Avrohom’s contention that it is the Shehecheyanu that is the issue rather than the underlying purchase. The Maamar Mordechai, in fact, (also discussing the Three Weeks in 551:12) rules that the reason the blessing is not recited is, in fact, because of our mourning and pain. 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 Magen Avraham and not the Maamar Mordechai.
One final thought. Even for those who wish to follow the more stringent view of Rav Nissin Karelitz that the purchase cannot be planned at the outset, one may, however, decide to lease a car. After a lease, one does not end up owning the car and therefore there would be no Shehecheyanu recited. The very low interest rates that are available now for new car purchases are currently a deterrent to the idea of leasing.
So whom do we follow? What is the bottom line halacha? It would seem that the majority of poskim understand the Chofetz Chaim’s words as permitting the purchase of a Shehecheyanu during this time and even permit the planning of making such a purchase during this time as well. It may, however, be too late to bake the keys to the new car in the schlissel challah. v
This article is written in memory of the author’s father, Reb Nosson Yoseph ben Moshe, whose fifth yahrtzeit was this week on 5 Iyar. It is also in honor of the birth of the author’s first grandchild, Nosson Yoseph ben Yisroel Meir, whose bris and naming occurred this past Shabbos.
The author may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.