There are four people who are obligated to express
gratitude to G-d: a person who has been at sea, a person who has traveled
across the desert, a person who recovers from an illness, and a person who has
been released from prison. (Brachos 54a) There are three kinds of miracles:
Manifest miracles that involve a supernatural event like
the miracles that took place in the course of the exodus from Egypt. The
blessing recited for such miracles is שעשה נסים לאבותינו
(she’asa nisim l’avoseinu) or שעשה לי נס
(she’asa li nes).
Miracles that are hard to see because they appear like
natural events. The daily sustenance which G-d provides each one of us is such
a miracle. No blessing is recited over such miracles, but we give thanks for
them in the shmone esrei when we say ועל נסיך שבכל יום…
(v’al nisecha sheb’chol yom…).
Miracles which are neither as obvious as supernatural
events nor as hard to recognize as miracles that appear like natural events.
So, for example, the passage of a ship at sea is an entirely natural
phenomenon. But when a storm arises, it may be that, in the natural course of
things, the ship would have gone down. That fact that it pulled through the
storm and arrived safely at its destination is a miracle of this third kind.
It is not a supernatural event, an event which is incompatible with the
ordinary course of nature, and it is not a miracle that is unnoticed because
it appears to be nothing more than the outcome of a natural course of events.
For such miracles we recite ברכת הגומ ל
The obligation to give thanks and recite blessings for such
miracles is learned from Tehilim 107. So although it is not a Torah
obligation, it דברי קבלה
(divrei kabalah), and
in doubtful cases, as in doubtful cases of Torah obligation, we are more
stringent. Nevertheless, if a person is in doubt as to whether he recited ברכת הגומ ל
(birkas hagomel), he
recites the blessing again, but without mentioning the name of G-d or his malchus. The reason for this is that we are
obligated to express gratitude, and we can do that without reciting a
blessing. According to Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, z"l,
when a person is not sure whether he should recite ברכת הגומ ל
(birkas hagomel), he should have the intention of
fulfilling his obligation when he recites, in the course of his morning
prayers, לארשי ומעל םיבוט םידסח למוגה,
for there are several medieval commentators who hold that these are the words
of the blessing.
The custom is now that a person recites the blessing also
for other miracles (besides the four mentioned above) that happen to him.
The words of the blessing are: ברוך אתה ד’ אלוקינו מלך העולם הגומל לחייבים
טובות שגמלני כל טוב
(baruch atah Hashem, Elokeinu melech ha’olam, hagomel lchayavim tovos
shegmelani kol tov). The congregation answers: מ
י שגמלך כל טוב הוא יגמלך כל טוב סל
ע (mi shegmalcha col tuv, hu yigmalcha col tuv selah). The person who recites the
blessing fulfils his obligation even if the congregation does not answer. The
word חייבים (chayavim) refers to those who do averos.
The meaning of the blessing is that He who confers goodness even to people who
do averos has conferred goodness upon me.
When is a person obligated to recite ברכת הגומ ל
(birkas hagomel)? Only
when he has been stricken by danger and saved. If he was nearby, but the
danger did not actually touch him, he does not say the blessing.
A person who was saved from the danger of an averah does
not recite ברכת הגומ ל
The blessing was ordained to be recited when a person is saved from physical—
not from spiritual—dangers.