Birkat HaGomel

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In the times of the Beit Hamikdash, a person who survived a potentially life-threatening situation brought a Korban Todah, a Thanksgiving Offering, to express his gratitude to Hashem.[1] Nowadays, when the Beit Hamikdash no longer stands and offerings cannot be brought on the altar, we substitute a public proclamation of gratitude to Hashem for an offering. A survivor from a life endangering situation as defined by the Gemara recites Birkat Hagomel in gratitude.

Bracha

Hagomel.jpg

Obligation

  1. Some say that Birkat HaGomel is non-obligatory and only optional, however, others argue that it's an absolute obligation. Nonetheless, all agree that given the opportunity, one should be careful to make this bracha properly. [2]

    Who is obligated to make Birchat HaGomel?

  2. The four people who are obligated to make the Bracha are
    1. Someone who was freed from jail
    2. Someone who was sick and was healed
    3. Someone who traveled at sea
    4. Someone who traveled in the desert. [3]
  3. Some say that anyone who was in near mortal danger such as someone saved from a wall collapsing, a lion attack, a goring ox, or a band of thieves at night, must make a Bracha. The ashkenazic minhag follows this opinion. [4] For specific situations, see a posek. [5]
  4. One who has been saved from multiple forms of danger only recites the bracha once. [6]

    For sickness

  5. For sickness that’s of potential mortal danger, Birkat HaGomel is required when healed. According to Ashkenazim, for sickness that’s non-mortal but confines a person to bed for 3 days or more requires a Brachat HaGomel when healed. [7] According to Sephardim, for any sickness which confines a person to bed for any amount of time requires Birkat HaGomel when healed. [8]
  6. A person who donated an organ does not say Birkat HaGomel with Hashem's name after healing from the surgery, however, one may say it without Hashem's name. [9]

    For traveling

  7. Ashkenazim hold that no Bracha is made for traveling from city to city unless there’s a lot of wild animals or thieves. However, Sephardim hold that any travel from city to city obligates a Bracha if the trip was a Parsah (72 minutes). [10]
  8. Some say not to make Brachat HaGomel for traveling on an airplane since it’s considered safe, however many hold that HaGomel is required and such is the minhag. [11]

    For being let out of jail

  9. The Minhag Ashkenaz is not to make Birkat HaGomel for being let out of jail nowadays because of the lack of danger involved in staying in jail. [12] Nonetheless the Sephardic minhag is to make it for being let out of jail even if there was no danger in staying in jail. [13]

    When it should be said

  10. Preferably HaGomel should be said within 3 days. If it can’t be done within 3 days it should be said within 30 days, and if it can’t be said in 30 says it should be said whenever one wants. [14]
  11. It’s preferable to say Birkat HaGomel within 3 days even if one will not be able to say it at a Kriyat HaTorah (in front of the Torah) rather than wait to say it later at a Kriyat HaTorah. [15]

    Procedure of Birchat HaGomel

  12. The Bracha of HaGomel was established to be said before a minyan, preferably with two Talmediei Chachamim, and if there’s no minyan available one may not make HaGomel but rather should wait to find one. [16]
  13. The minhag is to say HaGomel after Kriyat HaTorah in front of the Torah. [17]
  14. The one reciting birkat hagomel should recite it while standing. [18]
  15. Those who hear the Birchat HaGomel being made should answer "שגמלך טוב הוא יגמלך סלה", which means "Hashem who bestowed upon you this good, should continue to bestow upon you other good tidings". [19]

    Women

  16. The Ashkenazic minhag is that women don’t make HaGomel [20] however some say that if a women who gave birth happens to be in front of a minyan, she may say HaGomel. [21] Sephardic women, however, do recite Hagomel.[22] A woman who has the custom to recite it should wait seven days after giving birth to do so. [23]

    Listening to someone else say HaGomel

  17. Someone who listens to someone else make HaGomel has fulfilled the obligation if one heard the entire Bracha. However, if the one making the Hagomel wasn’t obligated in the Bracha, someone who’s listening doesn’t fulfill the obligation unless one answers Amen. [24]
  18. Some are in doubt whether someone can fulfill the obligation of the person listening if the listener and the one making the Bracha have different reasons for obligation of the HaGomel. Rather, only someone who is obligated in HaGomel for the same reason should fulfill someone else’s obligation. [25] However, some argue that anyone who’s obligated in HaGomel can fulfill the obligation of someone else. [26]

    Sources

  1. Vayikra 7:12
  2. The source of Birkat HaGomel is the Gemara Brachot 54b which states that one who has completed a sea voyage, traveled through the desert, has been sick and healed, or was imprisoned and freed should thank Hashem in the form of Birkat HaGomel all based on the pasuk “They strayed in the wilderness, in the desolation of the road… Hungry as well as thirsty… They rise heavenward, they descend to the depths.” (Tehillim 107:4,5, and 26). According to the Magen AvrahamRabbi Avraham Gombiner Halevi (1637-1683), Rav in poland, author of Magen Avraham on SA OC. (OC 219:1), Birkat Hagomel, like the Korban Todah, is non obligatory but rather optional. The Peri Megadim (OC 219:1) argues that it is obligatory. Nevertheless, all poskim (Chasam Sofer O.C. 51, Minchas Yitzchok 4:11-9) urge one to be careful to fulfill this mitzvah given the opportunity.
  3. The Gemara (Brachot 54b) states that the four people who are obligated to say the Bracha of HaGomel are one who was freed from jail, one who was sick and was healed, one who travel at sea, and one who traveled in the desert. The Gemara learns it from the pasuk in tehillim “They strayed in the wilderness, in the desolation of the road… Hungry as well as thirsty… They rise heavenward, they descend to the depths.” (Tehillim 107:4-5, 26). The acronym for this in hebrew is Chayim. The Rambam (Brachot 10:8), S”A 219:1, and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 61:1 codify this as halacha.
  4. S”A 219:9 quotes this opinion. Magen AvrahamRabbi Avraham Gombiner Halevi (1637-1683), Rav in poland, author of Magen Avraham on SA OC. 219:10 and Mishna BrurahRabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1838 – 1933), known popularly as The Chofetz Chaim from his book on the laws of [[Lashon Hara]], was an influential Lithuanian Rabbi, author of the Mishna Brurah as well as the Beur Halacha which is in more detail and the Shaar Hatziyun which quotes sources 219:32 write that the Ashkenazic minhag follows this opinion.
  5. See also Piskei Teshuvot 218, Halichot Shlomo 23:1
  6. Mishna BrurahRabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1838 – 1933), known popularly as The Chofetz Chaim from his book on the laws of [[Lashon Hara]], was an influential Lithuanian Rabbi, author of the Mishna Brurah as well as the Beur Halacha which is in more detail and the Shaar Hatziyun which quotes sources 219:3
  7. RamaRabbi Moshe Isserles (1525-1572), Rabbi in Cracow, Poland, major ashkenazic halachic authority. Author of Darkei Moshe on the Tur, Sh"t Harama a set of responsa, and most famously the haghot on the SA. 219:8 Mishna BrurahRabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1838 – 1933), known popularly as The Chofetz Chaim from his book on the laws of [[Lashon Hara]], was an influential Lithuanian Rabbi, author of the Mishna Brurah as well as the Beur Halacha which is in more detail and the Shaar Hatziyun which quotes sources 219:28. This is the opinion that the Tur 219 quotes from the Raavad.
  8. TazRabbi David Halevi (1586-1667), Rav and Rosh Yeshiva in Poland, author of Taz, the Turei Zahav, on SA, son-in-law of the Bach. 219:5, Yalkut YosefRabbi Yitzchak Yosef (b. 1952), sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, son of Rav Ovadia Yosef and brother of Rabbi David Yosef, is the author of Yalkut Yosef, which is a encyclopedic work of Sephardic halacha. (Brachot pg 583 and 758). This is the opinion that the Tur 219 quotes from Rambam.
  9. Sh"t Tzitz EliezerRabbi Eliezer Waldenberg (1915-2006), ashkenazic posek and dayan in Yerushalayim, posek of Shaare Tzedek hospital in Yerushalayim, author of Sh"t Tzitz Eliezer, a set of halachic responsa. 10:23
  10. S”A 219:7, Yalkut YosefRabbi Yitzchak Yosef (b. 1952), sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, son of Rav Ovadia Yosef and brother of Rabbi David Yosef, is the author of Yalkut Yosef, which is a encyclopedic work of Sephardic halacha. 219:17. Ramban Berachot 54b says that one has to say hagomel for traveling the minimum distance, regardless of the extent of the danger involved because the Yerushalmi in Berachot 4:4 says all roads are assumed to be dangerous. Meiri on Berachot 54b quotes an opinion with which he himself disagrees that claims that it is only recited if one encountered serious danger during the traveling. Talmidei Rabbeinu Yona on the Dapei HaRif 43a on Berachot quote the custom of the French rabbis saying that one should only recite it when they travel on a dangerous road even if they don't encounter any trouble and this is quoted in Shulchan Aruch 219:7 as the practice of the germans and french.
    • Vezot HaBracha pg 158 quotes Rav Shlomo Zalman (Halichot Shlomo Tefilla 23:5) and Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot MosheRabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986), Lithuanian Rav who became one of the leading authorities of his generation in North America, author of Sh"t Iggerot Moshe, Dibrot Moshe on Gemara, and Darash Moshe on the Torah. 2:59) as requiring a Bracha, and Minchat YitzchakRabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (1902-1989), ashkenaz dayan and posek, Rav and Av Beit Din in Romania, then in Manchester, England. Headed the Eidah Charedis in Yerushalayim, author of Sh"t Minchat Yitzchak. (2:47) as arguing. The Minchat YitzchakRabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (1902-1989), ashkenaz dayan and posek, Rav and Av Beit Din in Romania, then in Manchester, England. Headed the Eidah Charedis in Yerushalayim, author of Sh"t Minchat Yitzchak.'s logic is that hagomel is only recited on dangers that are not taken on willingly. Sh"t Igrot Moshe 2:59, Sh"t Yechave DaatRabbi Ovadia Yosef (1920-2013), born in Iraq lives in Israel, former sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, one of the foremost sephardic halachia authorities, author of Sh"t Yechave Daat, Sh"t Yabia Omer, both halachic responsa and Chazon Ovadia with halachot of [[Shabbat]] and the [[holidays]]. Father of Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef and Rabbi David Yosef. 2:26, and Halichot Shlomo (Tefillah 23:5) hold that one should make Birkat Hagomel for traveling in an airplane. Rabbi Mansour on Dailyhalacha.com concludes that for Sephardim one must travel 72 minutes in order to make a Birkat Hagomel and this is the ruling of Rav Ovadia Yosef in Yabia OmerRabbi Ovadia Yosef (1920-2013), born in Iraq lives in Israel, former sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, one of the foremost sephardic halachia authorities, author of Sh"t Yechave Daat, Sh"t Yabia Omer, both halachic responsa and Chazon Ovadia with halachot of [[Shabbat]] and the [[holidays]] 1:14 and Yechave DaatRabbi Ovadia Yosef (1920-2013), born in Iraq lives in Israel, former sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, one of the foremost sephardic halachia authorities, author of Sh"t Yechave Daat, Sh"t Yabia Omer, both halachic responsa and Chazon Ovadia with halachot of [[Shabbat]] and the [[holidays]]. Father of Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef and Rabbi David Yosef. 2:26 and Rav Shmuel Pinchasi in Kuntres Vichol Hachaim page 34. Chacham Bentzion Abba Shaul in Or LitzionRabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul (1924-1988), one of the leading sephardic rabbis and halachic authorities of his generation, Rosh Yeshiva of Porat Yosef in Yerushalayim, author of Sh"t Or Litzion. 2:14:43 says that this is only true with commercial flights where the passengers do not know each other, but in an army plane, helicopter or private plane where the passengers do know each other hagomel would not be recited.
    • Rabbi Jachter quotes that Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's practice was only to recite it after airplane travel, if a serious incident occurred but that he said that whoever perceives airplane travel as dangerous should recite hagomel even if nothing happened. Tzitz EliezerRabbi Eliezer Waldenberg (1915-2006), ashkenazic posek and dayan in Yerushalayim, posek of Shaare Tzedek hospital in Yerushalayim, author of Sh"t Tzitz Eliezer, a set of halachic responsa. 11:14 rules that for a flight that travels over bodies of water it should be recited but not over a flight between cities within one country.
  11. Beiur Halacha 219 s.v. Chavush
  12. Kaf HaChaim 219:11, Piskei Teshuvot 219:6
  13. S”A 219:6, Mishna BrurahRabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1838 – 1933), known popularly as The Chofetz Chaim from his book on the laws of [[Lashon Hara]], was an influential Lithuanian Rabbi, author of the Mishna Brurah as well as the Beur Halacha which is in more detail and the Shaar Hatziyun which quotes sources 219:20, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 61:2. See Piskei Teshuvot 219:4 who writes there’s a minhag who are lenient to wait until Shabbat to say HaGomel at the Torah.
  14. Magen AvrahamRabbi Avraham Gombiner Halevi (1637-1683), Rav in poland, author of Magen Avraham on SA OC. 219:6, Mishna BrurahRabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1838 – 1933), known popularly as The Chofetz Chaim from his book on the laws of [[Lashon Hara]], was an influential Lithuanian Rabbi, author of the Mishna Brurah as well as the Beur Halacha which is in more detail and the Shaar Hatziyun which quotes sources 219:20
  15. Rambam (Brachot 10:8), S”A 219:3, Beiur Halacha s.v. VeYesh Omerim, Shoneh Halachot 219:2, Piskei Teshuvot 219:15, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 61:2 based on the pasuk in tehillim 107:32. Mishna BrurahRabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1838 – 1933), known popularly as The Chofetz Chaim from his book on the laws of [[Lashon Hara]], was an influential Lithuanian Rabbi, author of the Mishna Brurah as well as the Beur Halacha which is in more detail and the Shaar Hatziyun which quotes sources 219:6 allows the one reciting the beracha to be included in the ten.
  16. Mishna BrurahRabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1838 – 1933), known popularly as The Chofetz Chaim from his book on the laws of [[Lashon Hara]], was an influential Lithuanian Rabbi, author of the Mishna Brurah as well as the Beur Halacha which is in more detail and the Shaar Hatziyun which quotes sources 219:2
  17. Sh"t Rivivot EphraimRabbi Ephraim Greenblatt (1932-2004), grew up and passed away in Yerushalayim but was a prominent ashkenazi posek and leader in Memphis. Author of Sh"t Rivivot Ephraim, responsa on many different topics in contemporary halacha. 1:156:2
  18. Rambam (Brachot 10:8)
  19. Mishna Berura 219:3, Sh"t Halachot Ketanot 2:161, Aruch HashulchanRabbi Yechiel Michel Halevi Epstein (1829-1908). He was a community rabbi and a posek in Novardok, Lithuania. 219:6, Sh"t Beer MosheRabbi Moshe Stern (1914-1997), also known as the Debrecziner Rav, author of Sh"t Beer Moshe as well as Kuntres HaElectric on the halachic issues of electricity, Rav in Hungary and later moved to New York. Brother of Rav Betzalel Stern 4:22. see also Sh"t Teshuvot Vihanhagot 4:53. see also Iggerot Mosh 5:14 where argues with those who claim that she should say it in front of ten women and instead suggests saying it in front of one person. If she is married, it should be her husband.
  20. Halichot Shlomo 23:4, Vezot HaBracha (pg 158), see also Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 65:2
  21. Yalkut YosefRabbi Yitzchak Yosef (b. 1952), sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, son of Rav Ovadia Yosef and brother of Rabbi David Yosef, is the author of Yalkut Yosef, which is a encyclopedic work of Sephardic halacha. 219:7 (and Brachot p. 572), Sh"t Yechave DaatRabbi Ovadia Yosef (1920-2013), born in Iraq lives in Israel, former sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, one of the foremost sephardic halachia authorities, author of Sh"t Yechave Daat, Sh"t Yabia Omer, both halachic responsa and Chazon Ovadia with halachot of [[Shabbat]] and the [[holidays]]. Father of Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef and Rabbi David Yosef. 4:14-15, Sh"t Yabea Omer 8:23:15, HalachaYomit.co.il write that women do recite Hagomel. Kaf Hachaim 219:3 writes that it should only be recited in front of ten male relatives and adds that if there aren't ten men, it should be recited without shem umalchut. see also Ben Ish ChaiRabbi Yosef Chaim (1832 – 1909) was a leading Sephardic Rabbi, author of the Ben Ish Chai as well as Sh"t Rav Pealim, and Rabbi of Baghdad. Parashat Ekev 65
  22. Kaf Hachaim 219:7
  23. S”A 219:4,5
  24. Hagahot Rabbi Akiva EigerRabbi Akiva Eiger (1761-1837), author of tosfot rabbi akiva eiger on mishnayot, gilyon hashas on the side margin of the traditional gemara, chiddushei rabbi akiva eiger, and three volumes of teshuvot rabbi akiva eiger. 219:5 leaves this question in doubt. Therefore, this situation should be avoided (see Piskei Teshuvot 219 note 90).
  25. Yalkut YosefRabbi Yitzchak Yosef (b. 1952), sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, son of Rav Ovadia Yosef and brother of Rabbi David Yosef, is the author of Yalkut Yosef, which is a encyclopedic work of Sephardic halacha. (Otzer Dinim LeIsha pg 162-4)