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QUESTION

Chicago, IL

A man in aveilut needs a new car. The old car the family has used is breaking down more and more frequently. Is this something that should wait another 10-12 months? What if his wife purchased the car and recites שהחינו? Would the halakha be the same during the 3 weeks?

ANSWER

The practice of not saying shehecheyanu is recorded in the case of the 3 weeks (Shulchan Arukh OC 551:17). Poskim explicitly state that this does not apply to a mourner. See Magen Avraham OC 551:42 and Mishnah Berurah 551:98. The reason is that the problem with shehecheyanu is not the simchah per se, but the fact that one expresses joy for having been brought to “this time.” That is not appropriate for the 3 weeks, when it is a national time of mourning, but would be acceptable during a person aveiult period, since the time, outside of the mourner’s subjective experience, is not a time of sadness.

Thus for a mourner during the 12 months of aveilut this would be fully permitted.

What about buying a new car during the 3 weeks? As stated, Shulkhan Arukh rules that the reciting of a shehecheyanu is discouraged during this time. There is also the concern of transactions that are the source of joy (Shulchan Arukh OC 551:2 and MB 11), as well as constructing things that are a source of joy, which Rav Moshe Feinstein (see below) extends to major purchases as well. These would all seem to lead to the conclusion that it would be forbidden to purchase a new car. However, this is not necessarily the case:

  1. Reciting shehcheyanu – forbidden during entire 3 weeks.
    • The brakhah here is not שהחיינו but rather הטוב והמטיב since it is a good for others as well (the members of the family). The poskim say that during the three weeks it is permissible to say הטוב והמטיב (Shaarei Teshuvah, #10). The problem is not thanking God because of an experience of joy. The problem is saying a brakhah that expresses gladness during this time  –lazman hazeh – a time that is designated by practice and halachah to be a sad time, not a happy one.
    • If no one would benefit from the car beyond the purchaser, then the brakhah would be שהחיינו and it would be a problem to purchase the car. However, Rema states that when this is a passing opportunity, the one can purchase the item and recite the shehechiyanu. Thus, if the car is needed for business purposes or because both spouses need a car, or there is a special sale that will not be available later, it would be permissible to purchase it. The shehecheyanu should be said after Tisha b’Av, since the simcha is still present (see Rav Moshe, Iggrot Moshe OC 3:80, below).
  2. Transactions of Joy – forbidden during the 9 days. The poskim rule that nowadays we consider all transactions to be part of taking care of our financial needs, and thus we permit all kinds of transactions. That being said, if it is a luxury vehicle or a vehicle purchased more for fun than necessity, then this should not be done during the 3 weeks.
  3. Constructions of Joy – forbidden during the 9 days.
    • Other than Rav Moshe, poskim do not assume that this applies to purchases
    • Rav Moshe assumes that this does apply to major purchases of joy. Nevertheless, it would still be permitted for the sake of a mitzvah (Rema) or a possible monetary loss (MB #13), it is permissible. Thus, if the car is needed for business purposes, or there is a limited time sale, it would be permitted. Otherwise, it would be forbidden.

This analysis can be found in Iggrot Moshe (OC 3:80) –

ומכונית חדשה אם הוא לתענוג פשוט שאסור גם מי”ז בתמוז דהא צריך לברך שהחיינו, ואם הוא באופן שמברכין הטוב והמטיב כגון שיש לו אשה ובנים דגם הם נהנים מזה אסור מר”ח דהוא כמו בנין של שמחה שאסור. ואם הוא מכונית לפרנסה כמו טראק, וגם מכונית קטנה אפשר ג”כ שהוא לפרנסה, הוא רק בדין ממעטין במשא ומתן שבזמננו נהגו להקל כדכתב הט”ז סק”א וכן כתב המ”ב ס”ק י”ג להלכה, ואין זה מו”מ של שמחה שכתב בשעה”צ שטוב להחמיר, ומצד שהחיינו יברך אחר ט”ב כי בשביל זה אין עליו ליבטל ממלאכתו.

In summary:

  • Buying a car during the 3 weeks is permitted if others are benefiting, as the brakhah in that case is הטוב והמטיב. If the purchaser is the only one benefiting and the brakhah is שהחיינו, then it would still be permitting if this is a passing opportunity, such as if the car is needed for business purposes or if it is on a limited-time sale. In such a case, the brakhah should be recited after Tisha B’Av.
  • During the 9 days, we generally are not concerned with the ruling relating to transactions of joy (551:2) because transactions are generally done for business or financial need. That being said, if the car is not being purchased out of any sense of necessity, it should not be purchased during the 9 days.
  • During the 9 days, there is a concern regarding constructions of joy which Rav Moshe extends to major purchases, but he does permit buying a car if needed for business purposes.

So, considering all the above, as long as the car is being purchased for business of necessary home purposes, it is permitted even during the 9 days. The brakhah of הטוב והמטיב is usually the right one, and this may be said when purchased. If the brakhah to be recited is שהחיינו, this should be done after Tisha B’Av.