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Shabbat Parashat Vayeitzei | 5767

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Question: My car slipped off the road and starting rolling down a hill in a wooded area and was stopped by a tree after two tumbles. I was belted in and, baruch Hashem, escaped with only mild bruises. I said Hagomel (blessing after surviving a potentially life-threatening situation). Should I be making the beracha for experiencing a ness (miracle) when I pass the place of the accident?

Answer: First, if you are Ashkenazi, you properly said Hagomel, as one makes the beracha on any life-threatening situation (Mishna Berura 219:32). A Sephardi would make the beracha without Hashem’s Name as it is not one of the four classic scenarios mentioned in the mishna (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 219:9).You would do well to find additional ways to thank Hashem, including giving tzedakah (see Mishna Berura 218:32). We too join in giving praise to Hashem for looking out for you and to you for looking out for yourself by wearing a seat belt. Now, to your question.

The mishna (Berachot 54a) instructs to recite a beracha (birkat haness) when seeing a place where miracles happened to Bnei Yisrael The gemara extends this idea to an individual, who recites “she’asah li ness bamakom hazeh” at a place he was personally saved by a miracle. It presents three stories of rabbis who did so after the following miracles: being saved from a lion, having a hole suddenly appear in a wall enabling escape from a crazed animal, and having a spring suddenly appear in the desert to save him from the thirst.

The Avudraham (cited by Beit Yosef, OC 218) says that this beracha applies only to salvation in a manner that defies the laws of nature. According to this opinion, you would not need to make the beracha. Although dangerous, it is not out of the ordinary to survive such an accident in reasonable health. The Shulchan Aruch (218:9), after bringing this opinion, also cites an opinion that requires a beracha for one who was saved even in a natural manner.

The Magen Avraham (ad loc.:12) says that he is unaware of any such second opinion. Many discuss whether the Rivash (#337, cited by the Beit Yosef, OC 219) is that second opinion. The Avudraham views Hagomel and birkat haness as mutually exclusive. The former is for normal extrication from potentially dangerous situations; the latter is for miraculous salvation. In contrast, the Rivash sees them as complementary. Hagomel is said before a minyan once soon after being saved; birkat haness is said when one passes the place of the ness in the future. In any case, the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) concludes that one who is saved in a normal fashion would do well to recite the beracha’s essence without Hashem’s Name.

The Gra (ad loc.) asks against the opinion that requires a beracha on any salvation, that if this is so, a woman who gave birth or a person who was seriously sick should have to recite it. The Biur Halacha (ad loc.) responds that no one requires a birkat haness for cases where most people survive (e.g, birth). In other words, the reason to call a natural event a miracle, and not good luck, is the fact that one was saved from a situation that usually results in death.
hus, we summarize as follows. You certainly should not make the birkat haness with a beracha. Regarding without a beracha, it depends on whether most people who start rolling down a wooded hill at a slow speed with seat belts on are killed. We do not have statistics but would guess that it is quite common to survive such an accident but uncommon to escape at least moderate injuries. However, the only natural salvation that warrants birkat haness is from death. If there was a serious chance of death but one that did not reach a majority, Hagomel is in order but the element of miracle is missing. However, it would not be inappropriate to recite birkat haness without Hashem’s Name. Regarding some of the details of the beracha, including who says it (his children) and how often (every 30 days), see Shulchan Aruch, OC 218.

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