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The Shulchan Aruch (OC 225:1) rules:

שולחן ערוך אורח חיים הלכות ברכת הפירות סימן רכה

הרואה את חבירו לאחר שלשים יום, אומר: שהחיינו, ואחר י"ב חדש מברך: מחיה מתים, והוא שחביב עליו הרבה ושמח בראייתו

My translation: "If one sees his friend after thirty days, he recites 'Shehechiyanu'; after twelve months, he recites 'Mechaye Metim'. This is if he is very beloved to him and becomes happy upon seeing him."

What if the two friends interacted over a webcam?

  • Does that break the streak of not seeing each other?
  • Can one make the beracha over webcam (i.e. if the webcam meeting was after 30 days of no contact)?
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Rav Ovadia Yosef rules in Yechavveh Da'at 4:17 that one would not say a bracha upon seeing someone through video chat. However he does quote one opinion that even allows one to say it upon hearing their voice on the telephone but dismisses it as very unlikely AND because by matters of doubt with brachot we rule to not say the bracha. Depending on which one of these two reasons is the main one will determine if video chat will restart the 30 day count. It seems to me that he mainly is siding with the doubt concern and would thus insist on restarting the count after a video chat, but not after a telephone call.

Here is the relevant quote from the responsa:
ויש להסתפק בדין הרואה את חבירו לאחר שלשים יום בטלויזיא /בטלויזיה/ בשידור חי, אם יברך עליו שהחיינו, וראה בשו"ת בצל החכמה חלק ב' (סימן י"א), ובשו"ת באר משה חלק ב' (סימן ט' אות ג), שהרואה מלך בטלויזיא לא יברך שנתן מכבודו לבשר ודם. ע"ש. וכן כתב בפשיטות בשו"ת מנחת יצחק ח"ב (סימן פ"ד אות י'). ועיין בשו"ת משפטי צדק (סימן כ"ט), ובפתח הדביר (סימן רכ"ד סק"י). ובמה שכתבתי בשו"ת יביע אומר חלק ו' (חלק אורח חיים סימן י"ב). ומכל מקום ספק ברכות להקל. והנה בשו"ת ים הגדול (סוף סימן כ"ד) כתב, שהשומע קולו של חבירו בטליפון /בטלפון/ או ברדיו (בשידור חי), מברך עליו שהחיינו אם עברו עליו שלשים יום שלא ראהו. משום דמידי הוא טעמא אלא משום חביבות ושמחה, הכי נמי בשמיעת קולו שיודע משלומו נחשב כראיה, וכמו שכתוב וכל העם רואים את הקולות וכו'. ע"ש. ולדבריו כל שכן כשרואהו בטלויזיא (בשידור חי). ואין דבריו מחוורים, ואין לנו להוסיף על מה שאמרו חכמים, שתפסו לשון הרואה, שרואהו במו עיניו ושמח בקרבתו אליו, אבל אין שמיעת קולו בכלל זה.‏

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It has been some time since I looked at the issue, but as I recall the practice is to not recite this blessing, at least not with shem u'malchus (mentioning G-d's name and kingship). This is, in my recollection, at least in part because the blessing was instituted when such journey's could mean that one's friend would not return alive and by seeing them you know that they have survived. In later generations when the danger was not as pressing and contact via post or the like was more feasible the wording of the blessing was not as relevant.

Certainly, regardless of the technical aspects of the halachah viewing one's friend by webcam removes the uncertainty about the fate of one's friend making the blessing's comparison to resurrection out of place, strengthening the established practice not to recite it in full.

See the Mishneh Berurah 225:2 which, if I am reading it correctly (big if) mentions Achronim who rule that in a situation where one has received a letter or received word from someone who is familiar with their well-being then one makes the blessing. He concludes that we rule leniently with regard to a doubtfully necessary blessing, which I take to mean one would not make the blessing. It would seem though that since such contact after the 30days/12months would be sufficient to necessitate a blessing in those opinions then conversely with in that time period would be sufficient contact to make it unnecessary later, which also would make it a doubtful blessing.

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What you are saying relates to the bracha of mechaye hameitim said after not seeing them for twelve months. For shehechiyanu, all achronim say that it is simply the pleasure of seeing someone you haven't seen in a while (with the notable exception of the Mishna Berura who connects the two dinim without source or precedent) – Double AA Feb 17 '12 at 6:42
@Vram, the threshold for saying a blessing is higher than not saying one because when their is a doubt about a blessing we are "lenient". – Yirmeyahu Feb 17 '12 at 7:04
That means he disagrees with those who hold otherwise, beseder. – Yirmeyahu Feb 17 '12 at 7:17
@Yirmeyahu I challenge you to find any achron that the mishna berura is basing himself on. I can't. And neither could Rav Ovadya Yosef (and that is saying something!!!) It's either a taut sofer or he made it up (I've seen both suggested). The aruch hashulcham, rav ovadya yosef and all other achronim hold that knowledge of his well being is only relevant for the bracha of mechaye hameitim. – Double AA Feb 17 '12 at 7:17
. [וכן ראיתי לידידי הרה"ג רבי שריה דבליצקי שליט"א בספר זה השלחן (סימן רכ"ה), שהעיר כן על דברי המשנה ברורה הנ"ל, שלענין ברכת שהחיינו אין כאן מחלוקת כלל שצריך לברך גם אם קיבל ממנו מכתבים בתוך שלשים יום, ושיש לתקן במשנה ברורה על פי האמור. וכן כתב בשו"ת יין הטוב (סוף סימן מ"ט). ע"ש] @Vram Courtesy ping! – Double AA Feb 17 '12 at 7:19

This question was asked long before the advent of webcams. The Steipler said that since telephones keep the world connected, one should not recite it.

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All this shows is that people take the Mishna Berura too seriously sometimes. Also, can you help me locate this inside? 1:93 of what book? – Double AA Feb 17 '12 at 13:21
@DoubleAA I wish I could tell you. Email the author of the piece and ask. Also, I don't think it only shows that people take M"B too seriously sometimes. I think it also shows that there is at least one other opinion that seems to understand that the two Berachoth are at least tangentially related in that, so long as you are connected and in touch with someone, the novelty of face-to-face interaction does not by itself obligate one to use Shem HaShem in the Berachah. Try looking in Piskei Teshuvoth. It's not much, but at least that's a starting point. – Seth J Feb 17 '12 at 14:21
If I were a Posek, I think I'd very seriously take into consideration the global connectedness afforded by social media, and also the global distances forced upon families by business and political interests. In the developed world, outside of remote towns it's rare to ever have someone totally fall of the face of the earth in relation to you. I did actually say Mehayeh HaMeithim once, back in 2004, before the rise of Facebook, and I was actually pretty shocked not only that I was face-to-face with a long-lost friend, but that (even pre-Facebook) we had somehow managed to be that disconnected. – Seth J Feb 17 '12 at 14:34
@DoubleAA, See the comment by Shalom Spira on February 1, 2011 at 3:36 pm on this Hirhurim post on the subject. "In Contemporary Halakhic Problems II, in the chapter on Entebbe, RJDB cites ROY to the effect that we no longer recite the blessings of “Shehechiyanu” or “Mechayeh hametim” in the present era, thanks to improved telecommunications. However, where one was aware that his friend was in danger (e.g. his friend was captured in Entebbe), then it is appropriate to recite the blessing..." – Seth J Feb 17 '12 at 15:54
Seth, odd because Rav Ovadiah's teshuva cited above contradicts that. – Double AA Feb 17 '12 at 17:33

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