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QUESTION

Riverdale, NY

How good does news have to be to get a berakhah? Someone asked me if they can say HaTov VeHaMeitiv on hearing they got a negative covid test.

ANSWER

As I tried to articulate in my teshuva, it is not only a question of degree of joy (which admittedly has to be more than trivial and fleeting). This berakhah, together with shehecheyanu, is said when something specific and of concrete benefit happens to you. Someone asked me, for example, about a big birthday party – while that is something that happens to you, it is not a concrete benefit, just a source of joy (even בשורות טובות, I argued, has to be a בשורה of some concrete benefit, not just news that makes you happy). Also, I would argue, there has to be an element of התחדשות – but that is perhaps a little more difficult to quantify.

Thus – hearing that a test was negative, while it could be a significant source of joy – consider someone hearing that a worrisome lump, which the doctor said was mostly cancer, turned out to not be a problem – is, at the end of the day, good news because something that you thought might be bad, turned out not to be. So I would argue that this does not warrant a formal berakhah. Of course, other words of thanks to God can and should be said – הודו לה’ כי טוב כ’ לעולם חסדו – for example.