In the time of the Beis ha-Mikdash, a person who survived a
potentially life-threatening situation brought a Korban Todah, a
Thanksgiving Offering, to express his gratitude to Hashem.(1) The Talmud
(2) defines crossing a desert or a sea, imprisonment and serious illness
as potentially life-threatening situations.
Nowadays, when the Beis ha-Mikdash no longer stands and offerings
cannot be brought on the Altar, we substitute a public proclamation of
gratitude to Hashem for an offering.(3) A survivor of any of the perils
mentioned above publicly recites Birkas ha-gomel, thanking Hashem for
saving him from danger.
The text of the blessing is as follows: Baruch Atah… shegemalani kol
(4) tov. After answering Amen(5) the congregation responds: Mi
Birkas ha-gomel, just like the Korban Todah,(7) is an optional
mitzvah; it is not a pure obligation and one who fails to recite it does
not commit a sin.(8) The poskim, however, strongly suggest that one be
careful to fulfill this mitzvah, just as he would have seen to it to bring
a Korban Todah if he had the opportunity to do so.(9)
In addition to reciting the ha-gomel blessing in lieu of the Korban
Todah, Chayei Adam(10) writes that one should give a charitable donation
equal to the value of the animal that he would have brought as a
sacrifice. When giving the money, he should expressly state that he is
donating the money instead of bringing a Korban Todah. He further
instructs one to recite certain verses in the Torah which deal with Korban
Todah(11) along with an additional text that he authored when he himself
was saved from an explosion in the year 1804.
QUESTION: When and where is ha-gomel said?
DISCUSSION: As birkas ha-gomel is a public expression of gratitude,
cannot be recited in private. Indeed, the basic halachah follows the
opinion that the blessing is said only in the presence of at least ten
men. For this reason it became customary that ha-gomel is recited right
after the public reading of the Torah. But like any other mitzvah, there
are l’chatchilah and b’diavad methods of performing it. In addition, there
are some recommendations which fall under the category of hiddur mitzvah.
Let us elaborate:
BIRKAS HA-GOMEL - L’CHATCHILAH:
* Birkas Ha-gomel should not be delayed more than three days after
surviving a danger.(12) The custom is to recite ha-gomel at the soonest
Kerias ha-Torah possible.(13)
* At least ten men, including two Torah scholars and the one reciting ha-
gomel, should be present.(14)
* Birkas ha-gomel is recited immediately after the Kaddish which follows
* Birkas ha-gomel is recited while standing.(15)
* Birkas ha-gomel should be recited during daytime hours only.(16)
* If a number of people in shul are obligated to recite ha-gomel, each
individual should recite his own (and not discharge his obligation by
listening to another person’s ha-gomel blessing).(17) If, however, they
are expressing gratitude for an incident which they experienced together,
one person recites the blessing on behalf of everyone. The others respond:
Mi shegemalanu kol tuv Hu yigmaleinu kol tov sela.(18)
* If three days elapsed, the blessing should be said within five days.(19)
If five days passed, the blessing should be recited within thirty days.
(20) If thirty days passed, the blessing may still be recited as long as
the feelings of joy and gratitude are still alive in the mind of the
* If two Torah scholars are not available, the blessing is recited in
front of any ten men, at any time.(22) [A minority view holds that under
extenuating circumstances, ha-gomel is recited even with fewer than ten
men present.(23) It is not customary; however, to do so.(24)]
* Birkas ha-gomel may be recited even at night.
* Birkas ha-gomel is valid if one was sitting when it was recited.(25)
* One can fulfill his obligation of birkas ha-gomel by hearing the
blessing recited by another person who is obligated to recite ha-gomel.(26)
BIRKAS HA-GOMEL – HIDDUR MITZVAH:
* At least ten men, plus two Torah scholars, plus the one reciting the
blessing (altogether thirteen men) should be present.(27) The more people
present, the greater hiddur mitzvah there is.(28)
* The one reciting birkas ha-gomel receives an aliyah to the Torah,(290
and after he recites the final blessing on the Torah, ha-gomel is recited.
If he received the last aliyah, ha-gomel is recited before the Kaddish
which follows Kerias ha-Torah.(30)
* Although the one reciting birkas ha-gomel should be standing, those who
are listening to the blessing should be seated.(31)
QUESTION: Do women recite the ha-gomel blessing?
DISCUSSION: Expressing gratitude to Hashem for His kindness to us
certainly incumbent upon women as well as men. Indeed, when the Beis ha-
Mikdash was standing, women, too, brought a Korban Todah.(32) But
traditionally among the Ashkenazim, women did not recite ha-gomel even
though it was instituted as a substitute for the Korban Todah. This
tradition developed because, as stated earlier, ha-gomel is recited in the
presence of at least ten men, and it was considered immodest for a woman
to make a public recitation. While many poskim questioned and criticized
this tradition and suggested ways where women, too, might fulfill this
mitzvah,(33) others maintained that the tradition be upheld and that women
not recite birkas ha-gomel.(34)
Still, there are a number of options which a woman can choose in
order to express her gratitude to Hashem:
* While remaining in the women’s section, she should recite birkas ha-
gomel loudly enough for it to be heard by ten men. The men then respond
with Mi shegemalach ...(35) This can also take place in the woman’s home
when ten men are present.(36)
* She should answer Baruch Hashem ha-mevorach le’olam va’ed and Amen to
her husband’s aliyah to the Torah with the specific intent of fulfilling
her obligation to thank Hashem for His grace to her.(37) Traditionally,
this was the method used by women who wished to fulfill their obligation
of expressing gratitude to Hashem after giving birth.(38)
* Harav M. Feinstein is quoted as ruling that a woman may recite birkas ha-
gomel in anyone’s presence, man or woman. If she is married, she should
preferably do so in her husband’s presence.(39)
* Harav S.Z. Auerbach suggested that upon reciting the morning blessing of
ha-gomel chasadim tovim l’amo Yisrael, a woman should have in mind to
fulfill this mitzvah as well.(40)
Although there are various opinions, the accepted custom today is
that minors do not recite ha-gomel, nor does their father recite the
blessing on their behalf.(41)
QUESTION: Which situations call for the recitation of birkas ha-
DISCUSSION: We mentioned above four categories of people who are
to recite ha-gomel. We will briefly discuss those categories and their
CROSSING A DESERT
Nowadays, a trip on a paved road through a desert is no more
dangerous than a trip on an interstate highway; thus birkas ha-gomel is
not recited. Still, were it to happen that one lost his way in a desert
and survived, ha-gomel would be recited.(42)
The poskim debate if this refers only to imprisonment in which one’s
life was endangered or threatened, such as being a prisoner of war, or
even jail imprisonment for criminal activity, where one’s life is not
necessarily in danger. In practice, the individual case should be
presented to a rav for a ruling, as many modern prisons can be quite
This includes recovery from any illness or medical situation which
is or could be life-threatening,(44) or any surgery which required general
anesthesia.(45) Many poskim maintain that if a patient is so weak that he
remains bedridden for three consecutive days, ha-gomel is recited even if
according to the doctors the patient’s life was not in danger.(46)
Diagnosed mental illness which required that the patient be
restrained or hospitalized is considered life-threatening, and birkas ha-
gomel is recited upon recovery.(47)
Birkas ha-gomel should be recited upon complete recovery from the
illness or condition, even if the patient needs to continue taking
medication for his condition. If, according to the doctors, the patient
will never completely regain his former strength, then ha-gomel is recited
as soon as he is well enough to walk.
This refers only to voyages far into the ocean that last several
days.(48) However, it also includes shorter trips where harsh weather
conditions threatened the safety of the passengers.
Whether or not to recite birkas ha-gomel after an airplane trip is a
subject of much debate. There are three opinions:
1. It is doubtful whether ha-gomel may be recited,(49) unless a
potentially dangerous situation developed during the flight.
2. Ha-gomel is recited only if the airplane crossed over an ocean or a
3. Ha-gomel is recited after every airplane trip.(51)
While there is no clear ruling on this issue, the custom today
generally follows the poskim who require the recitation of ha-gomel only
when an ocean (or a desert) is crossed. [Once the destination has been
reached, ha-gomel is recited; the return leg of the trip necessitates its
QUESTION: Is birkas ha-gomel recited in cases other than the four
DISCUSSION:In addition to the four categories of danger mentioned
our custom is to recite ha-gomel whenever one finds himself in a life-
threatening situation and was saved by the grace of Hashem. As long as one
came face to face with actual danger and survived, whether he was saved
miraculously or by what appears to be “natural” means, ha-gomel is recited.
(53) For example,(54) a survivor of
* an attack by wild animals who normally kill their prey
* a car accident which according to bystanders should have been fatal
* a bus which was blown up by a suicide bomber
* a shooting attack
* an armed robbery
* a collapsed building
* a soldier who saw combat in war
In the cases mentioned earlier, the person found himself in actual
danger and was nevertheless saved. Sometimes, however, a person is merely
close to the danger, but was not actually involved in the danger itself.
In those cases, birkas ha-gomel is not recited.(55) Some examples are:
* a sighting of a wild animal, but the animal did not attack
* a killer aiming a weapon in one’s general direction, but was overpowered
* a car that went out of control but came to a last minute stop
* a low-impact head-on car crash
* a bomb that exploded seconds before people entered that area
* a gun that discharged by accident and missed the person by inches
If one remains in doubt as to whether or not he is obligated to
recite birkas ha-gomel (e.g., it is difficult to determine if he was
in “actual” danger; an unresolved dispute among the poskim; a minyan is
not available; a father for a minor, a woman who is embarrassed to recite
the blessing in the presence of men, etc.), he has two options whereby he
can fulfill his obligation:
* He can recite the blessing without pronouncing Hashem’s name. The text
would then be: Baruch atah ha-gomel . . .
* He can have specific intent to fulfill this mitzvah when reciting the
morning blessing of ha-gomel chasadim tovim l’amo Yisrael. Preferably, he
should do so out loud in front of ten men, including two Torah scholars.
If he wishes, he can add at the end of the text the words “shegemalani
1 Vayikra 7:12 and Rashi and Rashbam.
2 Berachos 54a, based on Tehillim 107. See also Rashi, Zevachim 7a (s.v.
lo) and Menachos 79b (s.v. l’achar).
3 Rosh, Berachos 9:3, as explained by Chasam Sofer, O.C. 51 and Avnei
Nezer, O.C. 39.
4 Some original texts omit the word kol, an omission approved by Harav
S.Z. Auerbach (Halichos Shelomo 1:23-7).
5 Sha’arei Efrayim 4:30; Aruch ha-Shulchan 219:5.
6 O.C. 219:2. B’diavad, if the congregation did not respond, one fulfills
the mitzvah regardless; Mishnah Berurah 219:5.
7 See Maharam Shick, O.C. 88 and Sdei Chemed, Asifas Dinim, Berachos,
2:10. See Shiras David, Vayikra 7:12 for a possible explanation.
8 Based on Magen Avraham, O.C. 219:1.
9 See Pri Megadim 219:1; Chasam Sofer, O.C. 51 and Minchas Yitzchak 4:11-9.
10 Seder Amiras Korban Todah, published in Chayei Adam following Klal 69
and quoted in part by Mishnah Berurah 218:32.
11 See similar instructions in Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav, O.C. 1:9.
12 O.C. 219:6 and Mishnah Berurah 20.
13 Sha’arei Efrayim 4:27.
14 O.C. 219:3 and Mishnah Berurah 6 and Sha’ar ha-Tziyun 7. See Tzitz
15 Mishnah Berurah 219:4.
16 Chasam Sofer, O.C. 51; Kaf ha-Chayim 219:14. Women who recite birkas ha-
gomel after childbirth may do so at night l’chatchilah; Tzitz Eliezer
17 Based on Mishnah Berurah 8:13, 213:12. See also Rav Akiva Eiger on O.C.
24 See Kaf ha-Chayim 219:3 and 26. See also Beiur Halachah 219:3 (s.v.
25 Mishnah Berurah 219:4.
26 O.C. 219:5.
27 Sha’arei Efrayim 4:27 (at least thirteen people); Chayei Adam 65:6 and
Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 61:2 (at least eleven people).
28 Shulchan ha-Tahor 219:2, who therefore recommends waiting until
Shabbos, since more people and Torah scholars will be present.
29 Sha’arei Efrayim 4:27 and Chasam Sofer, O.C. 51. See also Igros Moshe,
O.C. 5:14. But since this is only a hiddur mitzvah, he does not have
priority over other chiyuvim; Sha’arei Efrayim 2:11 and Beiur Halachah
136:1 (s.v. b’Shabbos). See note 51.
30 Eishel Avraham Tanyana 219.
31 Birkei Yosef 219:6, quoting an oral ruling of the Rambam; Sha’arei
Efrayim 4:27; Kaf ha-Chayim 219:15; Tzitz Eliezer 13:19-3.
32 See, however, Tzafnas Pa’aneiach, Berachos 10:8.
33 An authority as early as the Magen Avraham (219:4) already suggested
that a husband recite birkas ha-gomel on behalf of his wife. But besides
the fact that this would not solve the problem for girls and unmarried
women, Beiur Halachah (219:4, s.v. v’ain) rejects this option from a
halachic point of view, and Aruch ha-Shulchan (219:9) testifies that it
never gained acceptance. Mishnah Berurah suggests that a woman recite
birkas ha-gomel in front of [ten] women plus one man, but subsequent
poskim rejected this solution; see Aruch ha-Shulchan 219:6; Kaf ha-Chayim
219:3; Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:14; Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Halichos Shelomo 1:23-
Harav Y.S. Elyashiv was asked the following question: Mishnah Berurah
suggests that a woman who needs to recite birkas ha-gomel should do so in
the presence of [nine or] ten women plus one man. While we can understand
how ten women can satisfy the requirement that ha-gomel be recited in
front of ten people, it is not clearly understood why the Mishnah Berurah
recommends that one man be present.
Harav Elyashiv answered that quite possibly, Mishnah Berurah is
referring to the halachah quoted in Shulchan Aruch that ha-gomel be
recited in the presence of at least two scholars. In several areas of
halachah we find the concept that a group of women is considered like one
man (see Yevamos 88b and 15a). Thus one additional man will complete the
requirement of having two scholars present.
35 Be’er Heitev 219:1, quoting Knesses ha-Gedolah; Birkei Yosef 219:2;
Chayei Adam 65:6; Ben Ish Chai (Eikev 5); Yechaveh Da’as 4:15.
36 Minchas Shelomo 2:4-31.
37 Eliyahu Rabba 219:5, quoted by Sha’arei Efrayim 4:28 and Minchas
38 This is the source of the widespread custom that as soon as a yoledes
recovers, she goes to shul to hear and to respond to Barechu es Hashem ha-
mevorach. In this case, her husband’s aliyah has priority over almost any
other chiyuv; Beiur Halachah 136:1 (s.v. b’Shabbos.)
39 Oral ruling quoted in Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:14.
40 Halichos Shelomo 1:23-8, and note 10.
41 Sha’arei Teshuvah 219:1 and 3 and Mishnah Berurah 219:3. See Har Tzvi,
42 See Ketzos ha-Shulchan 65:1.
43 See Beiur Halachah 219:1 (s.v. chavush), Aruch ha-Shulchan 219:5 and
Kaf ha-Chayim 219:11.
46 See Beiur Halachah 219:8 (s.v. kegon); Ketzos ha-Shulchan 65:3.
47 Tzitz Eliezer 12:18.
48 Minchas Yitzchak 4:11. Thus, ha-gomel is not recited when taking the
ferry from Britain to France.
49 Chelkas Yaakov 2:9, quoting the Belzer Rebbe. This was also the view of
the Brisker Rav and Tchebiner Rav, quoted in Teshuvos v’Hanahagos 1:81 and
3:191. See also b’Tzeil ha-Chochmah 2:20. According to this opinion,
birkas ha-gomel can be said only without pronouncing Hashem’s Name.
50 Chazon Ish and Harav Y. Y. Kanievsky (quoted in Orchos Rabbeinu, vol.
1, pg. 91); Minchas Yitzchak 2:47; Tzitz Eliezer 11:14.