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Bentsch Gomel: Precarious Road Conditions

01/07/2014 03:43:33 PM


This question comes from our own Jonathon Teicher who inquired whether one would have to bentsch gomel after driving to Yavneh Academy on roads covered by ice. 

The question is not a simple one and ties into the complicated nature of Birchas HaGomel. The Mishna says in Meseches Berachos 54a that four people are obligated to praise G-d for being saved from a potentially dangerous situation. The four are (1) one who traveled through the midbar (2) one who was released from prison (3) one who survives an illness and (4) one who traveled on (or over) the sea. This Mishna is concretized in the Shulchan Aruch in Orach Chaim 219. There are a number of interesting ancillary issues in regards to HaGomel- for instance what does a woman do who has to say Gomel, what is the time limit for the beracha, can one appoint a shaliach to say the beracha etc - that don't  relate to the question at hand but are certainly important for another discussion.

There are two fundamental questions that are sources of debate between the Ashkenazim and Sefardim in regards to the four people mentioned in the Mishna.
The first question is does a person who travels have to say Gomel under perfectly normal circumstances, or only if there was an actual potential threat that made the trip somewhat precarious. The Sefardim (recorded in 219:6) believe that every trip by definition is dangerous and the Ashkenazim believe that only if the danger was 'matzui' - present would gomel be justified. 

Based on this Ashkenazi position, one could question why we say gomel after travelling overseas if air travel nowadays is quite safe. Based on this question, some Poskim believe that we should still say the beracha in order to be faithful to the mishna and shulchan aruch, but that it should be without G-d's name. The Tzitz Eliezer and others believe that we should still say the full beracha nowadays because even though air travel is much safer , if something does in fact go wrong the results are usually more disastrous than if one was driving. 

The second question is a debate between the Avudraham and Rivash about whether gomel is only mandated for these four people but not in any other occurrence, or is the Mishna providing a template to tell us that these four people have to say Gomel and of course anyone else who found themselves in a dangerous situation. This question would obviously relate to someone who was mugged, got into a skiing accident and anything of the sort that provided a situation of real peril. The Ashkenazim are machmir (mishna berurah at the end of 219) and the Sefardim are meikil. 

All of this leads us back to Jonathan's question about driving to school in very icy conditions. The question would seem to relate to the above mentioned issue, that as ashkenazim we would only bentsch gomel if the danger was present. I would think that with the types of cars that we have nowadays and the fact that most of us in the NorthEast are accustomed to driving in winter conditions that driving in ice would not rise to the level of mandating a bracha. This is especially true seeing that we have a principle called 'safek berachos lehakeil' which means that we are usually lenient if we are not sure if we have to say a beracha. 

All that being said, we should ne continuously cognizant of the hashgachas HaShem in our life and be conscious of that in our Tefillos even if no Gomel is required. 

Thu, May 30 2024 22 Iyyar 5784