Parshas Noach – Birkas HaGomel

As a guest in Shul, I heard a Rav ask an interesting question. He inquired why Noach at the conclusion of the Mabul brought a Korban Olah and not a Todah, which would more appropriately parallel the Birkas HaGomel required of one who completed a sea journey?

He similarly asked a related query, when Yisro visited the Jewish People in the desert he responded to Moshe Rabbeinu’s description of the events by blessing Hashem. Chazal inform us that when the Bnei Yisroel answered Amein to his Bracha, they exempted themselves from Benching Gomel. The question arises, why hadn’t they said HaGomel weeks earlier on their own initiative?

He answered with an original idea. He suggested that there is a basic requirement for Birkas HaGomel that someone who was not involved in the Nes must hear the Bracha, and it is an intrinsic requirement to relate Hashem’s wonders to someone who did not experience them directly. According to this proposal, Noach could not Bench Gomel or bring a Todah, as there wasn’t a single person alive in the world who had not survived on the Teiva. Since they had all experienced the salvation personally, there was no obligation for them to recite HaGomel or bring a Todah. Similarly, since all of the Jewish Nation had exited Egypt and crossed the Red Sea together, they were incapable of reciting Birkas HaGomel until Yisro’s arrival.

However, I respectfully and privately pointed out to him that according to this Vort, there would be a very relevant practical application. If a group of people fly together and make a Minyan on arrival, if the Minyan consists exclusively of passengers from a single plane, they should not be allowed to recite Birkas HaGomel.

While I have no proof that this is untrue, the absence of any mention of such a Halacha is surprising. While air travel is a relatively recent phenomenon, there should be some mention of this condition regarding a caravan that travelled the desert together or passengers on a ship that transversed the ocean. Since there appears to be no precedent for this distinction, I must suspect it not the accepted Halacha.

The Rav concurred that it is inconceivable that passengers on a plane or ship could not Bench Gomel together, but he suggested differentiating between these cases and those of Noach and the Jewish People in the desert.


9 thoughts on “Parshas Noach – Birkas HaGomel

  1. The opening description of the problem I think might omit a distinction between Noach’s ship voyage than a sea voyage in that in many respects he didn’t travel! He went into a safety capsule while the earth may or may not have traveled under him. He had every right to see himself as staying put, just floating up for a while.

    Of course he did by definition survive a life-threatening risk, and the mention of a sea voyage is because that is a type of risk.

    Finally would a prophet who was told directly by Hashem that he will survive a situation be permitted to bentch gomel? What greater confidence in protection is there than G-d’s word?

    • About the last part – if someone who has a Havtacha from Hashem needs to bensch Gomel or not – I once asked a question to my Rosh Yeshiva as to if the Kohen Gadol would say Hagomel after leaving the Kodesh Hakodoshim on Yom Kipur, and he responded that when someone has a Havtacha that if they follow the Halacha they will not be in danger – such as the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kipur – then they do not say Hagomel. If so, this would in fact explain Noach as well. R’ Peretz, what do you think?

      • My first impression was that regardless of any Havtacha, Chazal enacted a Beracha on someone who escaped from a dangerous situation. After giving it greater thought, I can certainly hear that one could argue that Hashem’s promise renders the circumstances “safe”.
        However, in none of these cases we are discussing is there any explicit Havtacha to the individual. While clearly Hashem’s intent in instructing Noach to construct the Teiva was to preserve his family and with it mankind, there was never any promise that he would personally survive. In fact, he had quite a close call and the hands of the lion.
        Similarly, at Yetzias Mitzraim we find that 80% of the Jewish Nation did not survive to escape, certainly there was no promise of safety there either.
        Perhaps the Kohen Gadol in the Kodesh HaKodashim would be a good example, as you quoted your Rosh Yeshiva, as we can propose that it was not an inherently dangerous location; only to a Tzeduki who would change the order of the service was it deadly.
        However, I don’t know if that is true. If the Kohen Gadol performed the Avoda in the proper sequence but had less than pure intentions etc, is there any guarantee that he would survive? Since no one can be 100% confident in the perfection of his thoughts, I would think that he enters in fear of his life and should be obligated to Bench Gomel.

  2. It sounds trite but although Noach had no one else in the world to witness his thanksgiving today travellers on a plane usually Bench Gomel in Shule on Mondays and Thursdays where there are many non-travellers.

    Similarly Bnei Yisrael had no other Jews in the world to hear their Bracha but when Yisro became the first Ger so now his Bracha was an opportunity for them לצאת לידי חובה

    All of this is good לחדודי but I believe the real reason is that Noach was a Ben Noach i.e. not yet Jewish, and Bnei Noach are only allowed to offer Olot since they cannot really grasp anything that isn’t 100 % i.e. הם לא משיגים איך בשלמים
    יש כפרה אם יש אכילת כהנים – לשיטתם, או כולו לה’ או כולו לכם

    • My granfather Harav Hennoch Padwa the late Rav of London was before the war Rav in Vienna
      in 1944 a young German threw a Molotov cocktail through the window of his Bes medresh during Friday night davening and with great nissim no one was hurt
      My grandfather was in doubt whether one person should say Hagomel and be motzi the whole congregation or everyone should say Hagomel so he went that night to the Altstater Rav who lived in Vienna and asked him
      The Altstater Rav answered that since everyone was personally in danger everyone should alone say Hagomel
      The next morning after kri’as Ha’toire the whole tzibbur passed by the Sefer and said hagomel

  3. After years of both studying and teaching Parshat Noach, this is the first time such an interesting question has been brought to my attention. Todah rabbah for an unresolved issue to consider.

  4. Expanding the question in the hope that the general observation will help find a solution. If I remember correctly, all korbanot before the Torah was given were korbanot ‘olah, so there could not have been a “todah”. As to why that was the case, if I remember correctly R. Shimshon R. Hirsch related to the question in his commentary on the Torah … but I dont’ have it with me now, and what’s worse – I don’t recall what he said. Can anyone check it out?

  5. How could Noach bentsch gomel? He couldn’t refer to himself as “chayav”, after all he was a tzadik! and he couldn’t speak of chassadim tovim being done to the chayavim, because they had all just been drowned!

    • First of all, I am not aware of any Halacha exempting Tzaddikim from Benching Gomel. I presume the term “Chayavim” could always be utilized out of humility.
      More likely, relative to the great Chassed Hashem has done for us through the relevant salvation, we are certainly unworthy. The word “Chayavim” is probably more accurately translated as “unworthy” than “wicked”. This could apply to Noach as well. Despite his enormous Tzidkus, it is probable that he did not necessarily “deserve” such a dramatic rescue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *