Let us next look at the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried, rav in Ungvar, circa 1804-1886, siman 61:2). He writes: “One must recite this blessing before 10 men, aside from himself, and two of their number should be scholars who are engaged in halachot because it says (Psalms 107:32), ‘Vi’romemu’hu b’khal am u’vmoshav zekeinim y’haleluhu – Let them exalt Him in the assembly of people, and praise Him in the session of the elders.’
“If scholars are not [among the group], it is not a matter that hinders. The custom is to say HaGomel when one receives an aliyah at the Torah after reciting the final blessing. Preferably, one should not delay more than three days. Therefore, if a person’s salvation occurred on a Monday [but after that day’s Torah reading], he should say HaGomel immediately, even without a sefer Torah and not wait for Thursday.” From the author’s words, it is very clear that the requirement of 10 men is absolute.
Now let us see what the Aruch Hashulchan (Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, rav in Navhardok, circa 1829-1908, Orach Chayyim 219:6) has to say in this regard. He writes: “Since it’s written, ‘Let them exalt Him in the assembly of people, and praise Him in the session of the elders,’ our sages said that one must say HaGomel before 10 men because [only such a gathering] is referred to as an assembly. Two of the 10 must be rabbis. They are referred to as ‘elders’ in scriptural vernacular, and ‘elders’ connote a minimum of two.”
Seemingly, the Aruch Hashulchan differentiates between the Talmudic term rabbanan – rabbis – and the Scriptural term zekeinim – elders – the term from which we derive the need for two rabbis. The Torah refers to elders in Exodus 24:14: “V’el ha’zekenim amar shevu lanu ba’zeh ad asher nashuv aleichem, v’hineh Aharon v’Chur imachem mi ba’al devarim yigash aleihem – And to the elders he said: ‘Wait here for us until we return to you; behold, Aaron and Hur are with you, he who has a dispute should approach them.” The Ibn Ezra in his commentary notes that Aaron and Hur were to judge as the elders in place of Moses. In effect, in Moses’ absence they were to (jointly) serve as the final authority, a position otherwise held by Moses alone. Thus, we may extrapolate that “zekeinim” – elders who judge – must consist of at least two people. Consequently, any activity that requires elders requires at least two people.
The Aruch Hashulchan continues: “The Rambam (chapter 10) writes that one should recite HaGomel while standing. It seems to me that his reason is because the person is saying HaGomel before 10 men and any assembly of 10 is endowed with the Shechinah before whom it is not proper to sit. It seems that for this reason it became customary to recite this blessing after a person is called to the Torah because some scholars will surely be found among the [assembled] 10, and he is [already] standing. But all of this does not hinder – even if two rabbis are not present, he has nevertheless fulfilled his obligation. The Tur writes that even where there is no minyan present, a person may fulfill his obligation, yet others say he has not discharged his obligation and should say HaGomel again before 10 men, albeit without mentioning Shem u’Malchut. It is proper not to wait more than three days to recite this blessing, since [in essence] a person can say HaGomel [even without a minyan].”
The Aruch Hashulchan seems to agree with the Chayyei Adam – that saying HaGomel before a minyan is the proper manner of fulfilling the requirement and that having two rabbis present is not an absolute requirement. The Kitzur, on the other hand, seems to leave no option for leniency at all.