Our Sages enacted that one who has experienced an event in which there was some danger involved must thank Hashem for the goodness which He has bestowed upon him in front of ten men, as we shall soon explain.
The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (54a) states: “Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: Four categories of people must thank Hashem (i.e. recite the “Ha’Gomel” Blessing): Those travelling by sea upon docking, those travelling through the desert upon reaching an inhabited settlement, one who was ill and has recovered, and one who was incarcerated and then freed.” A way to remember these four categories is through the verse, .וכל החיי"ם יודוך סלה This is an acronym for CH’avush, which is one who was imprisoned and then freed, Y’am, which refers to sea travelers who have docked safely, Y’isurim, which refers to the pain that befell an ill person who has since been healed, and M’idbar, which refers to those travelling through the desert who have arrived at an inhabited settlement.
The Gemara says, “What shall one bless? (Meaning what is the appropriate text for this blessing.) ‘Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam Ha’Gomel Le’chayavim Tovot She’gemalani Kol Tuv.’” Maran Ha’Bet Yosef (Chapter 219) writes that the meaning of this blessing is as follows: “Ha’Gomel Le’chayavim Tovot”, meaning that even to people who are guilty, i.e. wicked people (as “Chayav” is the Aramaic translation of “wicked one,” see Bereshit 18), Hashem still bestows goodness upon them, and I am like one of them in that although I am not deserving of it, He has bestowed only goodness upon me.
One must recite this blessing in front of ten Jewish men, two of whom must be Torah scholars, as the verse states, “And they shall raise Him within the congregation and within a seating of elders shall they praise Him”, and “congregation” can be no less than ten people (as the Gemara states in Pesachim 64a); “elders” refers to Torah scholars and can mean no less than two. If there are no Torah scholars present, this should not impede one from reciting this blessing, for it is not compulsory; however, reciting this blessing in front of ten men is compulsory. Thus, if ten men are not present, according to Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch whose rulings we have accepted, one should not recite this blessing. It is proper though for one to recite this blessing without mentioning Hashem’s name (i.e. Baruch Ha’Gomel Le’chayavim Tovot She’gemalani Kol Tuv).
It is a proper custom to recite the verses of “Odeh Hashem Bechol Levav Besod Yesharim Ve’edah” and “Yodu La’Shem Chasdo Venifle’otav Livnei Adam” before reciting this blessing. Upon concluding the blessing, the listeners should respond, “Amen” and then add, “Ha’el She’gemalach Kol Tuv Hu Yigmolcha Kol Tuv Selah.”
In the following Halacha we shall explain the details of this law further.