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Q & A: Birkat HaGomel (Part V)

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Question: I recently returned from a trip abroad and wanted to say HaGomel. When I mentioned this to the officers of my synagogue, however, they told me – as per the instructions of the synagogue’s rabbi – that I would have to wait until Shabbos to do so. I was not given any reason for this and did not wish to display my ignorance, so I quietly acquiesced. Can you please explain why I had to wait?

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Summary of our response up to this point: The requirement of having a minimum of 10 men present for synagogue services and other mitzvot that are davar shebi’kedushah (matters of sanctity) is derived through the hermeneutic principle of gezerah shavah (verbal analogy). If the same word or phrase appears in two separate verses in the Torah, and a certain halacha is explicitly stated regarding one of them, we may infer that the same halacha applies in the second case as well.

Leviticus 22:32 – which discusses sanctifying G-d’s name in public – uses the word “betoch” and Numbers 16:21 – which discusses G-d’s command to separate from Korach and his group – uses the word “mitoch.” The latter verse refers to a congregation of at least 10 people (which we know via a second gezarah shavah) and so we learn that publicly sanctifying G-d’s name requires a minyan.

This gezerah shavah comes up in a Talmudic discussion (Berachot 21b) between R. Huna and R. Yehoshua b. Levi regarding someone who enters a synagogue while the congregation is already in midst of davening Shemoneh Esreh. If he wishes to catch up with the congregation, R. Huna permits him to recite Kedushah by himself while R. Yehoshua rules that it can be said only with a quorum of 10.

The Mechaber rules that a person is required to offer hoda’ah if he survived crossing a sea, survived traveling through the wilderness, recovered from a serious illness, or was set free after being imprisoned. He specifies that the blessing of the hoda’ah must be recited before a minyan.

We mentioned that there is a specific sentence that those assembled should recite in response to HaGomel. The usual response to a blessing, “Amen,” is not sufficient in this case because there is a requirement for all present to recite their own blessing of thanks and not rely on a messenger’s thanks.

We noted the parallel to the “Modim” prayer in the Amidah. The congregants recite their own Modim, their own prayer of thanksgiving, along with the one recited by the chazzan. Both Modim and HaGomel are blessings of thanksgiving.

Last week, we discussed the Tur’s ruling that a person who recites HaGomel with less than a minyan present does not need to repeat the blessing. The minyan requirement is l’chatchilah, he maintains. Rabbenu Yonah disagrees and requires a person who said HaGomel without a minyan to say it again before a minyan.

* * * * *

The later authorities are the halachic guideposts of the masses today. Let us see what some of them have to say about this matter.

The Chayye Adam (Rabbi Avraham Danzig, rav in Vilna, circa.1748-1820, Topic 65:6) writes, “[A person] required to say Birkat HaGomel… should take care to say it specifically before 10 men aside from himself. Ab initio he should make sure that two of the 10 are Talmudic scholars. If he said HaGomel with less than 10 present, he should say it again before 10, albeit without mentioning Shem u’Malchut – the Holy Name and Kingship.”

The Chayye Adam continues, “It is also proper not to wait more than three days to recite this blessing. Rather, one should say it as soon as possible [before a sefer Torah]. And if he found 10 men on the third day, he should say it even without a sefer Torah….”

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


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