The obligation

1. One who has crossed the ocean or desert is required to say Birkas Gomeil upon reaching his destination1.

2. Even if the trip was uneventful and he did not actually experience danger, Birkas Gomeil must still be said2.

3. One who will be returning from his trip that same day or the next should say Birkas Gomeil only upon his return3.

4. If the ship on which one is traveling stops at a port along the way, even if the stopover is for a day or two, one does not say Birkas Gomeil until he reaches his destination. The same applies when traveling by airplane or passing through a desert4.

5. Whether Birkas Gomeil should be said on short distance trips more than the distance of a parsah, or when crossing rivers is dependent upon custom. Ashkenazim do not say gomeil in such an instance. Sefardim, however, do say Birkas Gomeil, since all “roads” are considered dangerous.

Traveling on a road, waterway, etc. which definitely involves danger would require that Birkas Gomeil be said even if the distance traveled is less than a parsah. In this particular situation it does not make a difference if one follows Ashkenazic or Sephardic custom5.

6. Although when discussing Tefilas Haderech, the distance of a parsah relates to an actual distance (according to most opinions), in this case the distance of a parsah is the amount of time that it takes to walk a parsah (i.e. 72 minutes — לפי רוב שיטות — or 96 minutes — לפי שיטת שו"ע הרב)6.

7. There are various opinions concerning the saying of Birkas Gomeil after flying overseas on an airplane. According to some opinions it should be said with the complete text7. According to other opinions it should be said without the words “G‑d Elokeinu Melech ha’olom8,9.”

8. According to some opinions one should say Birkas Gomeil with the complete text when flying in an airplane, even if it is just over land10.

Others say that Birkas Gomeil is said only when one is traveling over water or through desert. The custom is that it is not said when flying from New York to California or Canada11.

If there was some mishap from which one was saved, then all agree that he should say Birkas Gomeil12.

9. If one was saved from a mishap along the way, he should delay the saying of Birkas Gomeil until he reaches dry land (if traveling by ship) or a city13.

10. One does not say Birkas Gomeil if he traveled through a desert by train14.

The Berachah

11. The text of the berachah to be said is “Baruch Atah Ada-noi Elo-hainu Melech ha’olom hagomeil lechayavim tovos shegmalani kol tov,” — “Blessed are You Who bestows kindness upon the culpable, for He has bestowed all goodness to me15.” The idea of this berachah is that G‑d who deals kindly even with those that are not deserving, has also dealt kindly with him even though he is not worthy of G‑d’s kindness [in bringing him safely to his destination]16.

In Nusach Chabad the word “kol” is left out17.

12. Those who hear the berachah being said should answer “amen18” and then say “Mi shegmalcha kol tov, Hu yigmalcha kol tov selah 19.”20

In Nusach Chabad and according to other opinions, the first “kol” is omitted21.

13. There are those that add one of the following three pesukim before saying the berachah:

(a) “Yodu lado-nai chasdo venifle’osav livnei adam 22” — “They should thank G‑d for His kindness and for His wonders to mankind.” (Tehillim 107:8)

(b) “Halleluyah odeh Ado-nai bechol leivav, besod yesharim ve’eidah 23” — “Praise the Lord! I will thank G‑d wholeheartedly, in the counsel of the upright and the congregation.” (Tehillim 111:1)

(c) “Baruch Ado-nai ki hifli chasdo li be’ir matzor 24” — Blessed is G‑d because He has acted with wondrous kindness to me in the besieged city25.” (Tehillim 31:22)

14. Since the last letter of the word “hagomeil” and the first letter of “lechayavim” are the same — lamed — and can be slurred together, one should make a slight pause between these two words26.

The procedure

15. It is preferable that Birkas Gomeil be said in the presence of a Sefer Torah, and if possible the one saying Gomeil should receive an aliyah. However, if a Sefer Torah is not available, it should nevertheless be said27.

16. Ideally, Birkas Gomeil should be said within 3 days after returning from the trip. That means that if he0020returns on Sunday afternoon, he should say it before Tuesday evening28.

17. If one has the choice of either saying Gomeil within 3 days but not in front of a Sefer Torah, or in front of a Sefer Torah but later than 3 days, then the former is advisable. For example, one who returns from a trip on Monday afternoon (after the Torah has been read), should not wait until Thursday to say Gomeil. Likewise, one who had to fly to his father’s funeral, Rachmana litzlan, and now needs to say Gomeil, should not wait until the shivah period is over and he will be allowed to receive an aliyah to the Torah. Rather, he should recite the Gomeil blessing during the shivah within 3 days29.

18. If he was not able to do so within three days, then he may do it within 5 days30.

If he can not find ten people, then he can even wait up to thirty days31.

19. If so much time has elapsed that he has forgotten about the journey, then he cannot say Birkas Gomeil32.

20. Birkas Gomeil is to be said in the presence of ten male adults, preferably with two of them being halachah scholars33.

If two halachah scholars are not available, Birkas Gomeil can still be said in the presence of ten regular adults34.

21. According to a number of opinions, the person saying Birkas Gomeil is included as part of the ten35.

Others say that there must be 10 male adults in addition to the person reciting the Birkas Gomeil36.

22. The person required to recite Birkas Gomeil should receive an aliyah and he has preferential rights over anyone else, except those who require aliyos such as a chasan on the day of his wedding, a person who has yahrzeit, and the like37.

23. If there is more than one person who needs to say Birkas Gomeil, and there are not enough aliyos for all, preference should be given to the one most deserving of honor, such as a talmid chacham38.

24. When receiving an aliyah, he should say the Birkas Gomeil after he says the berachah of asher nasan that follows his aliyah39.

25. If the person required to say Birkas Gomeil has the last aliyah, he should not recite the berachah until after the Kaddish after the Torah reading40

26. If he was not able to receive an aliyah, he can instead receive the honor of lifting or tying up the Torah and say Birkas Gomeil right after the Kaddish that follows the reading of the Torah. He may also recite the berachah after the lifting and tying of the Torah or after the haftorah41.

27. The individual reciting Birkas Gomeil should say it while standing42.

If he sits when reciting Birkas Gomeil, he does not have to repeat it43.

28. He should say the Gomeil berachah loud enough so that the ten people are able to hear him. If he is not heard by ten people, he has to say it over without the words Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech ha’olom44.

29. Since the korban todah (thanksgiving sacrifice) could not be offered at night, Birkas Gomeil [which corresponds to the korban todah] should be said during the day hours. If one says it at night, he does not have to repeat it45.

According to the Chasam Sofer, it would be permitted to say it at night, provided it is not done on a regular basis46.

30. If one does not say the Birkas Gomeil in the presence of ten male adults, he is encouraged to say it over again in front of ten people, but this time he should omit the words Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech ha’olom47.

31. If no minyan is available in the location to which he has traveled, he should wait until he returns home and then have in mind to include the first half of the trip when he says Birkas Gomeil48.

32. Birkas Gomeil may even be said on Tisha Be’av49.

If it is possible, it is advisable to do so during the Minchah service50.

33. One may not interrupt in middle of Pesukei Dezimrah or the berachos which are before and after Shema to recite Birkas Gomeil51.

34. If one is in doubt as to whether he has already recited Birkas Gomeil or not, he should say it (again), omitting the words Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech ha’olom52.

35. If there is a large group of people that need to say Birkas Gomeil (e.g a tour group), one representative can say it on behalf of the whole group. Instead of saying “shegmalani” (singular), he says “shegmalanu” (plural). The rest of the group then responds with “Mi yigmaleinu kol tov selah.” The other congregants respond with “Mi yigmalchem kol tov selah53.”

In some communities, such as Chabad, this procedure is not followed.

Women and children

36. Minors who are under bar mitzvah do not say Birkas Gomeil54.

37. There are communities where minors do say Birkas Gomeil, and they should not change their custom55.

38. There are numerous opinions and suggestions regarding women reciting Birkas Gomeil:

(a) Women do not say Birkas Gomeil56.

(b) Women are required to say Birkas Gomeil. They should stand in the women’s section and say it while ten men stand on the other side of the mechitzah and listen57.

If a woman is too embarrassed to say it in front of the men, she should just say it without the words “Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech ha’olom58.”

(c) The woman should say it in front of 10 male relatives or acquaintances. Otherwise she should say it without the words “Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech ha’olom59.”

(d) The husband should receive an aliyah and when he says “Barchu,” he should have in mind that he is giving praise to G‑d on behalf of his wife60.

(e) If the woman is there when the husband receives the aliyah on her behalf, she should pay attention when he says “Baruch G‑d hamevorach le’olam va’ed,” answer amen, and also answer amen to the berachos which he says before and after his aliyah61.

(f) It is not necessary for a woman to say Birkas Gomeil in the presence of ten men. She can say it even in front of one man or woman, and if she is married it should preferably be in front of her husband62.

(g) When she says the berachahhagomeil chassadim tovim” in the “morning berachos” she should have in mind that this should also include her obligation of saying Birkas Gomeil63.

(h) If her husband or another individual is obligated to say Birkas Gomeil, he should have her in mind when he says the berachah. The woman should be in shul at that time, listen to the berachah, and answer “amen64.”

39. If the husband and wife traveled together, the husband should recite Birkas Gomeil. His wife should listen, have in mind to be included, and answer “amen65.”