Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

According to those opinions that only one who flies over an ocean has to say hagomel, why does one not say hagomel when flying within the USA (where one often takes off over an ocean)?

share|improve this question
    
Why are you assuming one doesn't? –  msh210 Aug 2 '11 at 5:24
    
I've seen people not say hagomel on flights within America –  Shmuel Brin Aug 2 '11 at 5:29
    
How can you see someone not say hagomel? I suppose you can ask him whether he forgot to or omitted it deliberately. More to the point, I've seen people (myself included) do lots of things they think is right but isn't. –  msh210 Aug 2 '11 at 21:14
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The Shulchan Aruch in 219:1 (based on Brachot 54b, which is based on Tehillim 107) lays out 4 categories of individuals who are required to make Birchat Ha'Gomel, one category is "יורדי ים" - literally: 'descender to the sea', colloquially: 'seafarers'.

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch in 61:1 explains that this halacha includes

"בשאר דרך שמוחזק שיש בו סכנה - other trips which may be dangerous"

and

"ובכלל זה גם מי שהיה בסכנה אחרת וניצל הימנה - this also includes a situation in which a person is in any dangerous situation and is saved from it"

Opinions differ regarding whether one should say this blessing on all flights or just those crossing the ocean/desert (see here for a litany of opinions) and one should certainly consult with his/her local Rabbi to establish the local custom/halachic ruling.

It seems that the debate surrounds 2 issues, the first being halachic in nature and the second practical:

  1. Are the cases listed in the Shulchan Aruch exclusive or representative (ie. is saying the blessing limited to those cases or are they paradigms for other cases as the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch seems to understand)?
  2. Is air-travel considered dangerous to the extent that it would require a blessing and is this ddanger threshold only met on trans-oceanic journeys?

Accordingly, according to an opinion that states that one should say Birchat Ha'Gomel when crossing a sea on an airplane, the danger threshold of that situation may be limited to only crossing over entirely and not just passing over briefly (see US Airways 1549).

share|improve this answer
    
One more issue surrounding the debate - Deserts and oceans are both dangerous places because you're far away from anyone who could help you, and it is arguable that any flight takes you far enough away from society that you can't get help from someone else if you need it. –  zaq Aug 2 '11 at 13:14
    
But flights are also equipped with communication devices so that if, God forbid, a plane were having issues/going to crash they would be able to communicate with the nearest tower and send help. The argument could be made that at no point on a flight within the continental US (and perhaps also Canada) would you be that far out of touch... –  Adam Simon Aug 2 '11 at 13:17
    
It doesn't matter that they can actually talk to society. What help would they send? Airplanes that are going down are pretty much in the hands of the captain (and Hashem). There may be medical aid when they crash back into society, but in the air nobody's coming to help. –  zaq Aug 2 '11 at 13:25
    
Aha, I understand the concept you are getting at (didn't before), that is very possibly part of the considerations in requiring a person to make the blessing after any flight...see category #2 above. –  Adam Simon Aug 2 '11 at 13:32
    
Category #2 requires flying itself to have a certain threshold of danger, the issue I'm adding only requires you to be too-far from society to receive aid if there was an emergency, regardless of whether flying itself is dangerous. If someone has a heart-attack on the plane, is the flight close enough to an airport to land and get help? Or, if there are snakes on the plane... –  zaq Aug 2 '11 at 13:55
show 1 more comment

Those who say that you say hagomel when flying over the ocean, mean that you cross an ocean. (That is actually the language used in your reference question) If you leave JFK but head to Florida, you aren't 'crossing the ocean' in the way that it is meant. However, if you fly to Mexico,(over the gulf of mexico) you would be.

The question is, is the flight a substitute for traveling over land, or a substitute for taking a boat?

(One should also bench gomel when crossing a desert, not just an ocean)

share|improve this answer
    
Source, please. –  msh210 Aug 2 '11 at 5:45
    
You want a source for common english usage? Ha, even google, if you search for 'fly over the ocean' the second hit is a wiki article for 'trans atlantic flights' :) –  avi Aug 2 '11 at 5:46
    
(a) "Fly over the ocean" is ambiguous, yes. (b) Is that the phrase emplyed by t'shuvos? –  msh210 Aug 2 '11 at 5:54
    
Every instance in the original question is actually 'cross over the ocean' not 'fly over', thanks for helping me catch that. –  avi Aug 2 '11 at 6:00
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.