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?
The Talmud (Berachot 54b) states that there are four people who must say HaGomel, with the Rivash and Rav Gershon disputing whether this list is exclusive or not. Rabbi Tuvia Goldstein maintains that modern-day air travel cannot be compared to the types of danger listed in the Gemara, and thus one need not say HaGomel after flying. Rav Moshe Feinstein, however, argues that flying is inherently dangerous since only the airplane separates the passengers from death. If the airplane suddenly stops functioning, the passengers will almost certainly die.
We cited HaRav Yaakov Simcha Cohen who compares HaGomel to Dayan Ha’Emet. Just like we don’t say Amen in response to Dayan Ha’Emet (since we don’t wish to hear more bad news, explains HaRav Henkin), we don’t say Amen to HaGomel. Rather, we say “Mi shegemalcha…” Last week we noted Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s view that when reciting this blessing a person should not say “kol tuv – every good,” implying that he has received all his benefit.
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In Pitkei Rabeinu Ha’Ktav Sofer (authored by Rabbi Avraham Yechiel Segal Deutsch, Berachot, ot 21, p.32), we find the view of Rabbi Avraham Binyamin Shmuel Sofer, zt”l, rav of Pressburg, Hungary: “Not only should a person have in mind when reciting HaGomel that he has been bestowed a kindness in having been delivered from danger; he should also bear in mind that the actual pain and suffering he experienced is also reason to say this blessing because suffering in this world is in itself a good.”
Upon seeing the words of this gaon, I immediately thought of two selections in the Talmud, one in Berachot (5a) and the other in Sanhedrin (101a). Baruch Shekivanti, – blessed is He who directed my thoughts to those of this great gaon. We find the following in the responsa of the Ktav Sofer (Orach Chayyim 27):
Let me share with you what I said to the congregation on Shabbat when Hashem granted me the merit to say Birkat HaGomel b’rov am hadrat melech (in the presence of the multitude is the majesty of the King). I brought my offering of thanks as I explained the following Gemara (Sanhedrin 101a):
When the sage R’ Eliezer took sick [before his death], his disciples entered to visit him. Referring to his personal suffering, he said to them: “There is fierce wrath in the world.” They all broke into tears, save for Rabbi Akiva, who was laughing. They asked him, “Why do you laugh?” He retorted, “Why do you weep?” Referring to their great teacher, they responded, “Shall the great Torah scroll lie in pain and we not weep?’”
Rabbi Akiva replied: “It is for this very reason that I rejoice. As long as I saw that my master’s wine had not turned, his flax had not been smitten, his oil had not putrefied, and his honey had not become rancid, I thought, Heaven forbid, that my master received all his reward in this world [with nothing left for the world to come], but now that I see him in pain, I rejoice [knowing that reward awaits him in the next world].Rabbi Yaakov Klass