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Shabbat Parashat Teruma 5774

Ask the Rabbi: Saying Birkat Hagomel After Using Makeshift System

Rav Daniel Mann

Question (part I): It has been a couple months since I had a baby. May I still say Birkat Hagomel?   

 

Answer (part I): [We sent the new mother our response that appeared in Pinchas 5773, in which we explained that a woman can recite Hagomel at least up to twelve months from the time of the birth.]

 

Question (part II): Before I sent you the question, I followed a ruling I found on-line that if one is not sure whether he needs to recite Hagomel, he should have in mind during the morning beracha of “… hagomel chasadim tovim l’amo Yisrael” that it should also serve as thanks in lieu of the regular Hagomel. After doing that, can I still follow your ruling and recite the regular beracha or would that now be a beracha l’vatala?

                

Answer (part II): The advice you found on the Internet has complicated matters, not because it is illegitimate, but because it has a significant basis, as we will explain after viewing the background.

One is supposed to recite Hagomel in front of ten people including two scholars (Berachot 54b). What happens if there was not a minyan? The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 219:3) cites two opinions as to whether he fulfilled his obligation after the fact and concludes that in this situation of doubt, he should recite Hagomel without using Hashem’s names. As far as what one gains with such a declaration considering that berachot must include Hashem’s name, there are two main answers: 1. According to a minority opinion, one fulfills the beracha in this form (see Birkat Hashem, IV, p. 453 ); 2. There is a value to a non-beracha declaration in order to thank Hashem, even if it does not fulfill the formal obligation (Divrei Halacha (Weber) 214).

The idea you saw – having intention during the morning beracha to fulfill a doubtful Birkat Hagomel – seems to come from Halichot Shlomo 23:8 (put together from writings and teachings of Rav S.Z. Auerbach), as a “better alternative” to the Shulchan Aruch. The language of the beracha shares with the accepted beracha the word “hagomel” (who grants) and the root “tov” (goodness), but differences exist. However, Rav Auerbach noted that our text of the gemara (Berachot 54b) uses the words of the morning beracha, gomel chasadim tovim,” for Birkat Hagomel. Although the Beit Yosef accepts the Rishonim who use our present text, Rav Auerbach reasons that the other text must be valid at least b’dieved. (There is flexibility in the language of Hagomel – see Berachot ibid.; Mishna Berura 219:4). If so, you were already yotzei and should certainly not say the standard text at this point.

On the other hand, there are a few problems. First, you said the text to yourself, and as mentioned, there is a doubt whether that works for Hagomel. Second, we did not find an earlier mention of Rav Auerbach’s idea. While it has logic and he does not need “permission” to present a good novel idea, there is something fundamentally missing in the language of the morning beracha. That is that there is no mention of a personal chesed that the blesser received but rather the general “good kindnesses to His nation Israel.” Perhaps even the text in the gemara assumes one would finish off with “for He has granted me all good.” Halichot Shlomo (ibid.) in fact suggests adding that phrase to the end of the morning beracha (was that mentioned on-line?).

Despite our doubts with your implementation of Rav Auerbach’s idea, we would not tell you to make another beracha considering that according to almost all poskim, the rule that one does not make berachot in cases of doubt applies to Hagomel (see S’dei Chemed, vol. VI, p. 315-7 for notable exceptions). Although you are not required to do anything further, the possibility of using the Shulchan Aruch’s approach of publicly reciting Hagomel without Hashem’s name certainly exists. A seemingly better and fully accepted option (see Shulchan Aruch ibid. 5), which may be more convenient for you considering you need not rush, is to have another new mother who makes Hagomel have you in mind.

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