The Gemara says that four have to say Hagomel:

  1. One who went overseas
  2. One who went into a desert.
  3. One who was [deathly] ill.
  4. One who was in prison [on a capital crime].

Everyone (to the best of my knowledge) says the first one of the four whenever they go overseas, even if it's safe.

Yet, I have never seen people who drove through the desert (let's say Eilat to Yerushalaim) say Hagomel. Why not? Even if it's [nowadays] safe to drive there (we're not scared that one will lose his way), why don't we still continue saying it like we do when going overseas?

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    Why does your title specify Ashkenazim? The body of the question doesn't mention them. – Isaac Moses Jun 4 '12 at 21:13
  • Not everyone says it after overseas plane travel. – Double AA Jun 4 '12 at 21:36
  • @IsaacMoses IIRC, Sefardim do say Hagomel after driving through the desert – Shmuel Brin Jun 4 '12 at 22:07
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    @ShmuelBrin Feel free to edit your recollection into the question and revert the title change. – Isaac Moses Jun 4 '12 at 22:16
  • no source, but if it's just an Ashkenazi thing, I assume it's because Eastern Europe has a distinct lack of deserts. – Charles Koppelman Jun 4 '12 at 23:13

In Halichos Mordechai, The Traveler's Companion, by Rabbi Eliezer Wanger, he says, quoting R' Avraham Chaim Na'ah (K'zot HaShulchan 65 and Badei HaShulchan 2):

One does not say Birkas Gomeil if he traveled through a desert by train (footnote -- because on a train one is not worried about wild animals and bandits).

However, in footnote 14 he says says:

ולענ״ד צ״ע הלא יש סכנת תאונות וסכנות אחרות כמו באוירון

It appears to me that this needs further study. Aren't there still dangers of accidents or other types of danger, just as on an airplane?

I don't see why a train should be different than a car.

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  • So he also doesn't differentiate between deserts and oceans. – Double AA Jun 5 '12 at 3:30
  • @DoubleAA: Which "he" are you referring to? If you're referring to crossing by boat then both sources say you make the blessing when completed. If you're referring to crossing it with an airplane, Rabbi Wanger brings different opinions, and R' Avraham Chaim Na'ah holds that even flying from city to city requires a Gomel blessing (of course, R' Na'ah wrote his sefer in 1928, he might say something different today "‫והנוסעים באוירון בודאי צריכים לברך‬ ‫אפי׳ מעיר לעיר שהדרך של האויר הוא בחזקה סכנה לכויע כסו שעינינו רואות‬ ") - hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=7721&pgnum=194 – Menachem Jun 5 '12 at 3:42
  • I don't understand his difficulty: the danger of a train accident is minuscule compared to flying in the '20s. My point above was it seems the same opinions who require hagomel upon a plane flight over the ocean, require it for a plane flight over the desert. No one make a distinction there. – Double AA Jun 5 '12 at 4:32
  • @DoubleAA: Rabbi Wanger's question is that R' Na'ah only dismisses wild animals and robbers. Both of those don't apply to planes. There are other dangers involved, such as accidents and the like. If R' Na'ah was saying we don't make a blessing when riding a train, he should have negated the issues found when riding a train, since he obviously takes them into account when talking about riding a plane. – Menachem Jun 5 '12 at 4:47
  • Yes but I don't think it's a very strong question because the difference in levels of danger between a plane and a train is enormous. – Double AA Jun 5 '12 at 4:49

Piskei teshuvos says that simply crossing an ocean is a danger, but a desert, even in zman habayis, was only considered dangerous if you were lost/in actual danger in desert, not simply crossing.

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