The Book of Ecclesiastes frequently repeats the theme of, “There is nothing new under the sun.” For King Solomon, the composer of Ecclesiastes, this focus was intended to inspire people to do good and to stop looking for new experiences. There is nothing new under the sun because God created the universe and nothing is new to Him.
That does not, however, mean that we should not appreciate new opportunities and exciting events. To the Jew, probably the best means of demonstrating appreciation when these things occur is by praising God. The blessing Sheh’heh’cheh’yanu was specifically composed by the sages for such moments.
The words of the blessing are:
Ba’ruch Ah’tah Ah’do’nai, Eh’lo’hay’nu melech ha’o’lam, sheh’heh’cheh’yanu v’kee’manu v’hee’gee’anu la’zman ha’zeh.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.
New events, as defined by the sages, can be once in a lifetime, once per year or even once in a season. Therefore, the Sheh’heh’cheh’yanu blessing is recited on each of the major Jewish holidays and at the first performance of annual mitzvot such as the Purim megillah reading, lighting Chanukah candles, or blowing the shofar. Additionally, it is recited when eating a ripe, seasonal fruit one has not eaten in the new season, upon buying an expensive new article of clothing, seeing a friend one has not seen in thirty days, and at other life-event ceremonies.
The focus of the blessing is not on the activity in which one is about to partake, but on the joy one should feel at being alive and able to partake in this experience. For example, it is not just being alive when one lights the Chanukah candles, but a recognition the we are being sustained God at every single moment of our lives.