Question: I am very appreciative and, if I might add, flattered that you answer and publish many of my questions. Due to your superior knowledge, I am always confident when I send in a question that I will receive a proper response. I wonder if you could address whether one should say Birkat HaGomel after flying even though flying is statistically safer than driving. Also, do women say HaGomel as well or only men?
There is much discussion among the authorities regarding women reciting HaGomel. The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 219:4-5) writes, “If another person [other than the one who was saved] said, ‘Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu melech ha’olam ha’gomel l’chayyavim tovot she’gmalani kol tov’ and the one who was saved responded by saying Amen, the latter has discharged his obligation. Also, if the first person said [in Aramaic], ‘Brich rachmana malka d’olmah d’yahavoch lan…’ and the other responded by saying Amen, the latter has discharged his obligation.”
The Rema (ad loc.) notes: “And this is not a blessing recited in vain, even if he personally had no obligation to recite it, since he only recited it in a manner of praise and thanks for the goodness bestowed upon his fellow which brought him joy [as well].”
The Mechaber continues: “If another said HaGomel for his own personal [deliverance] and had in mind to discharge the obligation of his fellow, and the other listened and he [too] had in mind that his obligation be discharged, it is discharged even if he did not respond by saying Amen. The Rema, citing the Tur, explains that Amen is not necessary in this case since the first person also had an obligation to say HaGomel.
The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc sk 17 sv “al tovat chaveiro”), commenting on the Rema’s words “he only recited it in a manner of praise and thanks for the goodness bestowed upon his fellow which brought him joy,” explains that certainly a person may say HaGomel for his wife because she is like him (“ishto k’gufo – one’s wife is like one’s own body”). That is why, he writes, some men have the custom of saying HaGomel after their wives give birth (and return to their healthy state). By doing so, they discharge their wives obligation to thank Hashem.
The Mishnah Berurah notes that when men say HaGomel for their wives, they should say “…ha’gomel l’chayyavim tovot she’gmaleich kol tov – …for He has bestowed every good upon you.” He notes as well that if the wife isn’t present, her husband should say, “…she’gamal l’ishti kol tov – …for He has bestowed every good to my wife.” The Aruch Hashulchan’s words very much mirror those of the Mishnah Berurah.
The Shulchan Aruch HaRav (in his Piskei HaSiddur, Birkat Ha’Nehenin, at the end of the first volume, 12:9) citing the view of Ma’amar Mordechai, is of a different opinion. He states that if a person is truly happy that his fellow was saved (and a husband naturally is), he does not say a different version of the blessing. Rather, he says the standard “she’gmalani kol tov – for He has bestowed every good to me.”
It is obvious from both the Aruch Hashulchan and Mishnah Berurah that it is preferable for a husband to say HaGomel and for his wife to respond since, as we mentioned at the outset, the blessing should be recited in a synagogue in the presence of 10 men at the reading of the Torah.
Kaf Hachayim (Orach Chayim 219:3) notes: “As such the authorities considered it immodest for a woman to ascend the bimah for the Torah reading and recite the blessing. Rather it is best that they enter the women’s section of the synagogue and say it with the men responding, or at least before one man according to those authorities who maintain that saying HaGomel with less than 10 men present is acceptable.”
(To be continued)Rabbi Yaakov Klass