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On social media I see that some people are making a Shecheyanu without Hashem’s name after having the Covid vaccine.

So I was wondering whether hagomel would/ should be more appropriate maybe without Hashem’s name.

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  • What about hatov v'hameitiv?
    – Dov
    Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 23:00
  • @Dov I don't understand why you'd think that would be applicable. What news are you hearing that you didn't know before being shot? Hagomel is the clearly more applicable, being designed for release from isolation and from disease, and given as well the traditional use of it even without God's name (unlike most blessings where use without God's name is largely a modern invention of questionable efficacy). Maybe people on social media don't realize in Judaism we have different blessings for different situations; we don't just use the most famous "shehechiyanu" in every non-sad situation.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 23:11

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This discussion seems to be quite widely discussed online and varying conclusions have been adopted. The aim of this answer is to provide a hopefully comprehensive coverage of ideas discussed and not in any way to pasken Halacha.

On Halachapedia it writes the following:

Some poskim advise saying the bracha of Hatov Vehameitiv when receiving the vaccine because it is good news for everyone. It is made upon the first vaccine.* Additionally, everyone agrees that one should recite the tefillah for doing any medical procedure. The text is: יהי רצון מלפניך ה' אלקי שיהא עסק זה לרפואה כי רופא חנם אתה.

*The footnote there reads:

Rav Schachter in a shiur (Miketz 5781, min 63-4) and also an interview after he and Rabbi Willig received the vaccine. Rav Aryeh Lebowitz agreed and explained it further. Rav Asher Weiss felt that no bracha is made upon it. Rav Shlomo Aviner (Tevet 5 5781, Sheilat Shlomo p. 682) also thought no bracha is recited.

Rabbi Dov Linzer here when analysing the correct bracha posits as follows:

As these moments are moments of joy, the brakha that one should recite would be the standard one that is recited when a joyous event occurs – either She’hehiyanu, when it is just she who is experiencing the joy, or HaTov Vi’ha’meitiv (hereafter, HaTov), if her joy is shared with others.

In our case, HaTov would be preferred over She’hehiyanu. When a person receives a vaccine, it is good for other people as well – the fewer people who get sick, the better off we all are. However, the benefit that those others are receiving is of a different sort – they are not being directly protected – and some poskim are generally leery of saying HaTov when the shared nature of the benefit is not so black- and-white. There is also the general consensus among poskim that She’hehiyanu works even in cases which call for HaTov (see Beur Halakha, OH 223:5). So reciting She’hehiyanu is definitely an acceptable choice, and for some would be the preferred choice (not to mention that, experientially, people are much more emotionally connected to She’hehiyanu than to HaTov).

Whilst he sides with saying HaTov V'hameitiv he adds...

So far, we have only been considering She’hehiyanu and HaTov. My esteemed colleague, Rabbi Ysoscher Katz, however, as well as others, have argued that the proper blessing to be recited at this time would be HaGomel, the blessing that we recite when a person recovers from an illness or returns from a dangerous sea journey. There is much to recommend this approach. The blessing of HaGomel is said when a person is saved from a state of danger or fear for one’s safety. It is a blessing of redemption. She’hehiyanu and its counterpart, HaTov, in contrast, are blessings most often said in times of joy which go beyond our normal, acceptable – or generally good – state of being. It is not a blessing that we associate with being saved from a precarious situation. The one exception to this that I know of, is the recitation of She’hehiyanu (or HaTov) at a time when the rains come, which, according to Shulkhan Arukh (OH 221:1) refers to a case when it rains after a period of drought. Receiving rain during a period of drought is truly a case of being saved from desperate conditions. Others posit, however, that the case of reciting She’hehiyanu when the rains come refers to a case of plentiful rain, when there is great joy (Arukh HaShulkhan 221:2), making this recitation of She’hehiyanu just like all the others. According to this latter framing, She’hehiyanu is only said at moments of joy beyond the norm, and never when one is saved from a bad or dangerous situation. While this position is compelling, as a matter of halakha we embrace Shulkhan Arukh’s position, and recite She’hehiyanu when the rains come after a drought. It for this reason that we focus here on the blessings of She’hehiyanu and HaTov as the ones to be recited, despite the fact that ours is not the standard case regarding these blessings.

To rule that one should recite HaGomel in our case would require one to adopt the position that HaGomel may or should be recited at any time when one is saved from danger, even if the person was not one of the four types explicitly mentioned by the Rabbis (Berakhot 54b), namely, a person who returns from a dangerous sea journey; returns from crossing the desert; recovers from an illness; and who is released from prison. Shulkhan Arukh (OH 219:9) sides with this more expansive approach and does not limit the brakha to these cases specifically. Although in the end he recommends that when it is not one of the four cases specifically mentioned, one should recite the blessing without using God’s name, Mishnah Brurah (OH 219:32) states that the consensus of the later poskim is that we should follow Shulkhan Arukh’s first and primary opinion and recite HaGomel in any case analogous to those four.

The reason that I do not explore here the possibility of reciting HaGomel, as compelling as that possibility may be, is that I generally adopt the more conservative approach that limits HaGomel to the four cases listed in the Talmud, although there is good reason, both halakhically and religiously, to not adopt such a limiting approach. More to the point, however, is that I also question whether the experiences of those who never had COVID and are now being vaccinated can be compared to a person who was seriously ill (even if not with a life-threatening illness) or who crossed a desert. In those cases, when ill or in the desert, there is an acute awareness at every moment of the dangerous and precarious situation that one is in, and the transition from being in the desert or at sea to having returned home is sudden and clearly demarcated (although admittedly less so in the case of recovering from an illness). In those cases, when one exits the state of danger or illness, he feels as if he has been saved. Our situation, by contrast, is one of an individual or community that has now been vaccinated and will now, over time, be relatively freer from the constraints that the virus has imposed. It does not seem to me that there will be a similar sense of salvation here when one receives a vaccine shot. Relief, yes. Joy, yes, possibly. But not salvation. I do think, however, that we should definitely consider the ha’Gomel blessing when enough people are vaccinated that society can move back to something close to normal. That, I believe, will feel like going from darkness to light. It will feel like salvation.

Finally, Rav Rimon here also gives a thorough overview and repeats some of the ideas already mentioned. His conclusions are that one can choose a number of approaches as follows:

  1. HaTov V'hameitiv can be said at the time of receiving the vaccine, to welcome the invention of the vaccine and its arrival in the State of Israel, and the rescue of the people of Israel and the world, and the return of the economy and life to their course. This is good news not only on the medical level but especially on returning to routine - a general joy that has a lot of physical pleasure (in principle you can greet right now, but you can attach the greeting to the actual vaccine).

  2. It is better to say "She'hechiyanu", and to do like the leading psak that make this blessing even for the joy of the heart (and provided that the person is indeed happy). In this bracha the emphasis is more on the personal good of each vaccinated person, so it is said only when receiving the vaccine.

  3. Another way is to say before the vaccination instead of the brachos the following wording (as written in Berachos 60a & Shulchan Aruch OC 230:4, and similarly one who makes the bracha of She'hechiyanu or Hatov V'hameitiv it is better they say this)

יהי רצון מלפניך ה‘ אלקי, שיהא עסק זה לי ולכל בית ישראל ולכל בריותיך לרפואה שלמה ולמיגור המגפה, כי א-ל מלך רופא נאמן ורחמן אתה

May it be Your will, O Lord my G-d, that this enterprise be for healing and that You should heal me and for all the house of Israel and for all your creatures for complete healing and for the eradication of the plague, for G-d is a King, a faithful and merciful Healer.

In all cases, it is appropriate to say Tehillim 100 and Tehillim 30, or Nishmas kol chai.

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    The question wasn't "what blessing to say on the vaccine". Most of this seems inapplicable. Only R Linzer's analysis, peculiar as it may be, of the applicability of the category of hagomel vs shehechiyanu seems relevant.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 0:57

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