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December 7, 2016 / 7 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Q & A: HaGomel And Air Travel (Part VI)

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

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?

Menachem

 

Summary of our response up to this point: 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. Indeed, the Talmud (Shabbos 32a) prohibits a person from putting himself in a dangerous situation. The fact that all frum Jews regularly fly is proof, therefore, that flying is not dangerous.

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. If flying is dangerous, though, why doesn’t Rav Feinstein prohibit people from engaging in this activity? Perhaps he maintains (like the Noda BiYehuda who discusses the permissibility of hunting) that a person may put his life in danger if his livelihood depends on it and flying nowadays is essential for many people’s jobs.

* * * * *

Let us now turn to the text of the blessing of HaGomel: “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu melech ha’olam hagomel l’chayyavim tovot she’gmalani kol tov – Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who bestows kindness upon the culpable, for He has bestowed goodness to me.” Everyone hearing this blessing responds, “Mi she’gmalcha kol tov Hu yigmolcha kol tuv selah – May He who has bestowed beneficence upon you always bestow every beneficence upon you.”

Generally, we respond Amen to a blessing. The source for this practice is found in the Mechaber (Orach Chayim 215:2) based on the Gemara (Yoma 37a). The Gemara cites Deuteronomy 32:3, “Ki Sheim Hashem ekra havu godel lei’Lokeynu – When I call out the Name of G-d, ascribe greatness to our G-d,” and explains that Moses said to the Children of Israel, “When I call out the Name of G-d, you are to ascribe greatness to our G-d.” The Chafetz Chaim (Mishnah Berurah op. cit. sk8) understands this to mean saying Amen.

Why, then, do people offer a special response to the blessing of HaGomel? Why not just respond by saying Amen? Indeed, some people even skip saying Amen and go straight to “Mi she’g’malcha kol tov…” The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, zt”l) was very critical of those who do this. He writes (Igrot Kodesh vol. 4, page 260), “I have previously protested and continue to protest this strange custom – that those who hear the ha’gomel blessing do not answer Amen but go straight to the above response.” In its siddur ArtScroll adds the word Amen before “Mi she’g’malcha kol tov…,” but I’ve noticed that many people do not say Amen first.

Now, in truth, it is the Mishnah Berurah who adds the word “Amen” to the Gemara passage quoted above. The Gemara itself doesn’t mention it in its explanation of the exchange between Moses and the children of Israel. Perhaps, then, this passage in the Gemara merely teaches us is that every blessing requires a response from those who hear it. Usually, Amen is the proper response. For HaGomel, however, perhaps a different response is appropriate.

Interestingly, the actual text of HaGomel can change if one says it on behalf of someone else (Mishnah Berurah, infra 219:17). One may say: “she’gamal l’ishtishe’gamal l’avishe’gamal l’rabi – who has bestowed upon my wife… my father… my teacher…”

    (To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Q & A: HaGomel And Air Travel (Part V)

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

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?

Menachem

 

    Summary of our response up to this point: Summary of our response up to this point: The Talmud (Berachot 54b) states that there are four people who must say HaGomel, with the Rivash and Rav Gershon dispurting 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. Indeed, the Talmud (Shabbos 32a) prohibits a person from putting himself in a dangerous situation. The fact that all frum Jews regularly fly is proof, therefore, that flying is not dangerous.

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. If flying is dangerous, though, why doesn’t Rav Feinstein prohibit people from flying?

* * * * *

In his notes, Rabbi Tuvia Goldstein cites the Gaon Rabbi Yechezkel Landau (Responsa Noda Bi’Yehuda, Vol. II:10) who was asked about a rich man who owned vast estates – including forests inhabited by many different wild beasts – and wished to hunt in his property.

After much discussion Rabbi Landau writes: “And now I say that there is even a prohibition to hunt because all who engage in this activity are required to enter forests, thus exposing themselves to all sorts of danger in a place inhabited by many wild beasts. The Torah (Deuteronomy 4:15) states, ‘V’nishmartem me’od l’nafshoteichem – You shall greatly beware of your souls’ [i.e., a person is not allowed to endanger himself]. And do we find a person more skilled and expert at the craft of hunting than Esau as Scripture (Genesis 25:27) testifies: ‘vayehi Esav ish yode’a tzayid – and Esau became a cunning hunter’? Now let us see what he declares about himself (infra 25:32): ‘Vayomer Esav, hineh anochi holech lamut – Esau said: Behold I am going to die.’ A verse does not depart from its simple explanation; the Ramban explains that Esau felt his death was inevitable due to the dangers he encountered on a daily basis while engaged in hunting in a place swarming with wild beasts.”

Rabbi Landau continues: “Now how can he, a Jew, place himself in a place swarming with untamed beasts of wild disposition? Nonetheless, there is an exception if one is poor and hunts for his sustenance and livelihood. An example is someone engaged in overseas commerce who must travel the seas; he may do so because it is for the purpose of sustenance and livelihood and there is no other choice. The Torah (Deuteronomy 24:15) states: ‘v’eilav hu noseh et nafsho – and his life depends on it’ Our sages (Bava Metzia 111a) said in this regard: ‘Why did this one [the laborer] risk going up the ladder and risk death if not that you should pay his wages?’”

He continues: “However, a person who engages in such activity without the intention of earning his livelihood, but rather out of desire [to engage in sport]…is in violation of the Torah’s prohibition ‘V’nishmartem me’od l’nafshoteichem – You shall greatly beware of your souls.’”

Rav Landau also cites the Rambam (Hilchot Rotze’ach u’Shmirat Nefesh 12:6): “It is also forbidden for a person to pass under a leaning wall, a shaky bridge, or a ruins and all similar dangerous situations.”

Based on the above, a person may engage in a dangerous activity for the purpose of his livelihood. In today’s world, where our communities are spread far and wide, how would one travel any distance without resorting to flying? Rabbi Feinstein might therefore be of the view that although air travel is dangerous one may fly because one doesn’t really have much of a choice.

The only question left to address is why people only say HaGomel after flying overseas if Rav Feinsein rules that one should say HaGomel after every flight, even one that only goes over land.

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

How To Travel With Children

Friday, July 15th, 2016

During the darkest, coldest days of winter, nothing seems to warm one’s heart and mind more than discussions of what vacations we should take. As travel forums and cheap deal sites abound, opportunities are virtually endless. As parents, our first responsibility is to our little ones, of course. Should we take them with us as we jet around the world for less than a bus trip to Grandma?

There are many who would say that a vacation with children is not a vacation, that you will be so busy doing child-friendly activities, you won’t have any time for yourself, the children will be cranky without their normal sleep and eating schedules, that you will be squished into a hotel room and trapped there after 8 pm while being woken up at 6 am…. the list goes on.Baim-071516-Hubby

The reason why I know this list so well is because I used to think that way. Any money spent on vacation with children was wasted because nobody enjoyed the time anyway. However, we recently took our three children (ages 4-8) to California for 48 hours and they managed so well, I was forced to rethink my entire conviction that nobody under 18 needs a vacation.

Here are some benefits children receive from family travel:

Increased quality family time. All too often, parents are rushing through the evening routine so that they can get back to their chores and/or work. On vacation, when work is a distant thought (unless you brought work with you; we will deal with that in a future article), and there aren’t any chores to do, parents can focus on their children without any distractions. This increased family time helps families develop more love and affection that stays around even when vacation is over.

Memory creator. Many studies show that people are happier with good memories then with more stuff. Very often, we are tempted to “buy” off our children with prizes for their charts, good marks in school or birthdays. But saving up that money and spending it on vacation can create fabulous memories that will generate good feelings for a lifetime, especially if you ever print out those pictures.

Get to know each other better. Studies by Disney Time Survey (and they would know) say that a vacation is a great opportunity for parents and children to get to know each other as individuals, thanks to all the great quality time we spend talking with each other. Now your children can find out exactly what you do at work, and you can find out how they are really doing in school.

Widen their perspective. Taking children out of their typical setting and immersing them in a different environment where they can see how others live, work, and play enables them to be able to appreciate different perspectives and realize the world does not, in fact, revolve around them. In addition, viewing other cultures gives children a richer and deeper appreciation for our colorful and diverse world.

If that all sounds lovely and beautiful, but you are unsure how to take your children on vacation and actually enjoy any part of it, try these helpful tips.

  1. Always fly at night. This way, children can sleep at least for part of the flight, a multi-step process.

Pack healthy food for the plane. This is a good way to begin your trip in general, when thoughts of “we are on vacation, let’s party” can derail any healthy eating the family usually does. Eating junk food the entire time will make anyone cranky, and won’t help the children settle down. Eating a healthy dinner on the plane, such as whole wheat bread with avocado, cream cheese or peanut butter, along with plenty of water, fruit, sliced veggies, and some whole-grain pretzels, raisins, or whole-grain crackers later for snack, allows your child to feel full and satiated and makes it easier for him or her to fall asleep.

Baim-071516-AirportTell your children ahead of time how much screen time they are allowed and then enforce it. Don’t give in to “let them watch as long as they are quiet” because they won’t be able to fall asleep while they are watching, even if they insist they can. The screen is two inches from their face; they can barely manage to blink.

Once dinner and screen time is over, the children should change into pajamas if they haven’t already. As much as possible, do their bed time routine of songs, Shema, and a bed time story; although you are on a plane, the children will still respond to the familiar routine.

Either bring blankets from home or get from the flight attendants. Bring sweatshirts for added coziness as the blankets are sure to fall off. A hood on a sweatshirt also blocks out a little of the airplane noise. I like to give my children sleep masks to make it as dark as possible. Then, I sit with them one at a time and insist they keep their eyes closed and not talk. It doesn’t take too long before they are sleeping as if they are tucked into their beds at home.

 

  1. Once you land, keeping a healthy routine is essential for everybody to have a good time. Avoid falling into the trap of going out to eat three times a day. Prepare ahead with healthy snacks and water bottles to keep everyone satiated and sane. When going out to eat, stick with healthy choices and smart portion sizes. Your body will thank you and your children will feel balanced.

 

  1. As much as possible, stick to their typical morning and evening routines. This means if your children usually go to bed between 7 and 8, have them do that while you are on vacation as well. If the thought of being stuck in your hotel room at 8 makes you antsy, remember how much better everyone will feel after a good night’s sleep. If you are in a Jewish neighborhood and your husband is catching the local minyan, ask if anyone has teenagers who could babysit so you and your spouse can have some adult time.

 

  1. Don’t stress the details. Obviously, you and your children will not have the same interests, and possibly neither will you and your spouse. The main thing to remember is that you are out of the house and enjoying each other’s company. Sometimes a leisurely breakfast and stroll around the neighborhood is enough to satisfy everyone while creating life-long memories.
Pnina Baim

Q & A: HaGomel And Air Travel (Part IV)

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

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?

Menachem

 

Summary of our response up to this point: The Talmud (Berachot 54b) states that there are four people who must say HaGomel, with the Rivash and Rav Gershon dispurting whether this list is exlcusive 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 passenegrs will almost certainly die.

* * * * *

I recently received the following e-mail:

 

Dear Rabbi Klass,

As I see that you are about to embark on a discussion on saying HaGomel after air travel, I thought I would share with you something that was said by Rav Y. Ruderman zt”l.

I returned to Ner Yisroel in Baltimore one August after a year in Eretz Yisroel. My first Thursday back I had an aliya and bentched Gomel. After my aliya the rosh yeshiva called me over and asked me why I had benched Gomel. When I told him the reason, he rebuked me and said that one does not bench Gomel for air travel even if one crosses an ocean.

I don’t think it is well known that Rav Ruderman held this opinion.

Sincerely,
Michael Katz
Miami

 

Evidently, then, HaGaon HaRav Yaakov Yitzchok HaLevi Ruderman, zt”l, rosh yeshiva of Ner Israel in Baltimore, was also of the opinion that one does not recite Ha’Gomel after flying.

Rabbi Goldstein writes: “And as to the halacha in this matter, one can follow the opinion of Rabbi Feinstein and say HaGomel if his reasoning is clear to him. Yet, his reasoning is not compelling [enough] for me; therefore…if a person says HaGomel after air travel, he has not absolved himself of the problem of reciting a safek beracha. As such, he should not say it.”

And yet, common practice is to follow Rav Feinstein’s view (at least when it comes to travelling over an ocean).

Let us try to understand the reasoning behind the two views. The Gemara (Shabbos 32a) quotes R. Yannai as stating: “One should not stand in a place of danger and say that a miracle will be wrought for him.” Indeed, both the Rambam (Hilchot Rotze’ach u’Shmirat Nefesh 12:6) and the Rema (Yoreh Deah 116:5) rule that it is prohibited for a person to place himself in any situation that may lead to to danger. The Rema goes even further, ruling “chamira sakanta m’issura” – that we are more strict regarding dangerous situations than we are regarding possible (rabbinical) violations.

Now, if air travel were dangerous, clearly we wouldn’t be allowed to fly. The fact that halachic authorities allow us to fly is evidence that flying is not really dangerous. Those who maintain that we don’t say HaGomel after flying clearly believe this to be the case. How do we explain Rabbi Feinstein’s view, though?

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Doomed EgyptAir Plane Debris Lands on Netanya Beach

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Parts of the downed EgyptAir Flight MS804 that crashed on May 19 washed up on the beach Thursday morning in Netanya.

The government informed officials in Cairo, according to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). It is expected the sections of the doomed aircraft will be returned to Egypt by the end of the week.

All 66 passengers and crew aboard the flight en route to Cairo from Paris were killed when the aircraft crashed in the Mediterranean Sea near a Greek island. Human remains were recovered over the past weeks by deep-sea ocean diver teams and brought to Alexandria.

Investigators have not ruled out terrorism, or anything else, due to the suddenness of the fire and smoke that raced through the bathroom and avionics area while the aircraft was cruising at an altitude of 38,000 feetin clear skies.

Data reflected the black box cockpit recordings indicates the pilots aboard the aircraft knew the fire had started and were trying to put it out when the plane went down.

Hana Levi Julian

Q & A: HaGomel And Air Travel (Part III)

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

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?
Menachem
 

Summary of our response up to this point: At the outset, we cited the Talmud (Berachot 54b), which quotes R. Yehudah as saying in the name of Rav that four people must say HaGomel: those who have crossed the sea, those who have traveled through the desert, those who were sick and recovered, and those who were incarcerated and set free. We also cited the dispute between Rav Gershon, who opines that only these four people say HaGomel, and Rivash, who rules that people in similar situations say HaGomel too. The Taz and Magen Avraham write that common practice today follows Rivash. Last week, we cited the Gaon Rav Tuvia Goldstein, zt”l (Emek Halacha, vol. 2:7), who writes that he doesn’t say HaGomel after flying on an airplane since air travel is not dangerous. He cites other authorities who agree.

* * * * *

Rabbi Goldstein also cites the Gaon Rav Moshe Feinstein who argues that one should say HaGomel after flying (Iggrot Moshe, Orach Chayim, vol. 2:59). Rav Feinstein writes that there is a difference between traveling by land and traveling by sea. Under normal circumstances, people are not particularly worried when traveling by land (whether by automobile, bus, or train). It is the equivalent of sitting in one’s own home.

A trip over the sea, in contrast, is inherently fraught with danger. A person cannot long survive in the water, and it is only the vessel one is in (a ship or plane) that keeps him from drowning. Thus, even though modern ships and airplanes are far safer than ships in the time of Chazal, it is still the ship or airplane that is saving him from danger. Therefore, he must say HaGomel.

Rav Feinstein argues that the danger in flying – on a theoretical level – is even greater than the danger in traveling by ship. If a ship sinks, there is at least a chance that one will survive in the water until one is rescued. The same cannot be said about a plane that crashes. All the passengers will almost surely die in such a case. Thus, a plane, even more than a ship, is the only thing keeping a person from death. His life while flying on an airplane (whether over land or water) thus truly is hanging in the balance.

Rav Feinstein acknowledges that automobile travel is statistically more dangerous than air travel. Yet, this fact is irrelevant to the above analysis. Rabbi Feinstein concludes: I have heard that some rule that one should not say HaGomel after flying, but their ruling is of no consequence. Rather, one must say HaGomel.

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Q & A: HaGomel And Air Travel (Part I)

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

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?

Menachem

Last week we cited the Talmud (Berachot 54b), which quotes R. Yehudah as saying in the name of Rav that four people must say HaGomel: those who have crossed the sea, those who have traveled through the desert, those who were sick and recovered, and those who were incarcerated and set free. We also cited the dispute between Rav Gershon, who opines that only these four people say HaGomel, and Rivash, who rules that people in similar situations say HaGomel too. The Taz and Magen Avraham write that common practice today follows Rivash.

The Gaon HaRav Tuvia Goldstein, zt”l (Emek Halacha Vol. 2:7), discusses this matter at length. At the outset he notes: “My own personal practice in regard to air travel is not to say HaGomel even though we do say it for other miraculous deliverances that are not exactly like the four cited in the Gemara (Berachot 54b), as both Taz and Mishneh Berurah (Orach Chayim 219) note.

“[A person should only say HaGomel] if he actually encountered danger and was [miraculously] delivered from it – e.g., a wall fell upon him or an ox gored him and he was saved from harm. [He says HaGomel if he crossed the sea, etc.] because he passed through a place of danger, even though he did not encounter strong winds. Such a journey is considered dangerous since he passed a place where it is known that dangerous things may occur. Similarly, travel in the desert is fraught with danger; the very place is dangerous. … However, travel by airplane does not entail any danger; thus, there is no reason to say HaGomel.

“Well known is the ruling of the Belzer Rebbe, zt”l (Admu’r HaRav Aharon Rokeach), that a person who travels by air, even though he travels over water, should not say HaGomel. I was also told by a trustworthy person, in the name of the Chazon Ish, zt”l (HaRav Yeshaya Karelitz), that a person should not say HaGomel even if his travel path took him over a body of water.”

Rabbi Goldstein cites from Sefer Kinyan Ha’Torah (Vol. 1, 16:3): “Now let me mention here regarding air travel across a body of water that there are many different opinions as to whether one says HaGomel or not. Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik, zt”l (Reb Velevel, the Brisker Rav), was once in Switzerland where I visited him and had the opportunity to ask him his opinion as to whether one says HaGomel in such a situation. He answered me with these exact words; ‘You know that it is known that I don’t issue any rulings, but this let me tell you: I came here by airplane and I did not say HaGomel.’ This is a sage’s practice.”

These gedolim (great sages) did not offer a reason not to say HaGomel. It is unlikely, though, that they agree with Rav Gershon that only the four people mentioned in the Gemara say HaGomel, and no one else. Rather, they likely believe that air travel does not entail any danger.

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

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