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The Bracha of Shehechiyanu reads as follows:

ברוך...שהחיינו וקיימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה

...that He kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this time.

Why is Shehechiyanu phrased in the plural, particularly in light of the rule that's mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch, OC 222:1:

על שמועות שהן טובות לו לבדו מברך שהחיינו ואם הן טובות לו ולאחרים מברך הטוב והמטיב

On news which is good for him alone, he makes a Shehechiyanu, and if they're good for him and for others, he makes a Hatov v'Hameitiv.

If anything, shouldn't it be just the opposite: that he makes a Hatov v'Hameitiv on news that's good for him alone, and he makes a Shehechiyanu, which is phrased in the plural, on news that's good for himself and others?

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The Sefer Chassidim (composed during 1185 - 1215 by Judah HeHasid) says that the reason Shehechiyanu is phrased in the plural is because had it been phrased in a singular language, there are times when it could be viewed as if it were a blessing in vain.

The Sefer Chassidim (siman 839) writes:

כל התפלות והברכות תקנו בלשון רבים שאילו נתקנו בלשון יחיד נראים כאלו לשוא כי איך יתכן שהעבד יאמר אשר בחר בי מכל העמים ורוממני מכל לשון וקדשני במצותיו לכך כשהברכה מתוקנת בלשון רבים אז אין קשה וכן אם היו מברכים שהחייתנו וקיימתנו והגעתנו לזמן הזה איך יתכן למרי נפש שמת לו מת בו ביום לברך כן ואיוב אמר למה יתן לעמל אור וחיים למרי נפש ואיך יאמר מי שהוא מר נפש ברוך שהחייני וקיימני והגיעני לזמן הזה אבל כשיאמר שהחיינו וקיימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה לא בשבילו לבד אומר אלא בשביל אחרים

All the prayers and blessings were instituted in the plural language, because if they had been instituted in the singular, it would seem in vain. For example: how could a slave say "that He chose me from all the nations and from every language and holiness in His mitzvot." Therefore by having the blessings instituted in the plural language there's no problem. Similarly if (the words for Shehechiyanu were) "that we would have been blessed, that we have lived, and existed and come to this time" how would it be possible for someone feeling depressed- ex: someone close to him passed away- to make this blessing. And Iyov said (Job 3:20): "Why does He give light to the sufferer and life to the bitter in spirit" how could one bitter in soul "blessed that I have lived, I have survived, I have reached this time." Therefore when Shehechiyanu is said in a plural language he's not just saying it for himself, he's also saying it for others.

Thus by Shehechiyanu being in a plural language even if a person isn't in the right frame of mind for it at that particular moment, he's still saying the Shehechiyanu on behalf of other people.

R' Ben Tzion Mutzpi on doresh-tzion.co.il posits a similar reasoning.

.שהחיינו הוא עליך ועל בני משפחתך ומכריך Shehecheyanu is about you and your family and your friends.

  • According to this, we could just as easily swap the two brachos – make a Hatov v'Hameitiv on personal good news and a Shehechiyanu on public ones – and avoid the issue entirely? – DonielF Apr 17 at 1:51
  • @DonielF agree- it's a bit confusing – alicht Apr 17 at 2:03

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