Halacha for Thursday 30 Av 5780 August 20 2020

Highway Travelers- The Month of Elul

In the previous Halachot we have established that four categories of people must recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing (in the presence of ten men), one of which is one traveling through the desert upon reaching an inhabited settlement. We shall now explain this Halacha.

The Talmud Yerushalmi in Tractate Berachot (Chapter 4, Halacha 4) states that “all roads are considered dangerous”. This means that any time one travels on a road from one city to another, this is considered dangerous. We can seemingly deduce from here that the enactment of reciting the “Ha’Gomel” blessing does not specifically apply to those traveling through the desert which is considered an especially dangerous place because of the bandits, wild animals, and the like that are found there; rather, any time one travels on a road from one city to another (for obviously this does not mean that there is a danger involved anytime one takes a short walk), when one reaches a place inhabited by people, one must recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing.

Traveling Through a Desert or on the Road?
Nevertheless, the Rosh in his work on the ninth chapter of Masechet Berachot (Section 3) writes that in Germany and France the custom was not to recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing upon traveling from city to city, for the establishment to recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing was only for travel through deserts where robbers and wild animals are more common. When the Yerushalmi states that all roads are considered dangerous applies specifically to Tefillat Ha’Derech (the Traveler’s prayer) in that a traveler must pray for his safety while traveling on any road; however, this does not apply to the “Ha’Gomel” blessing. The Tosafot rule likewise.

On the other hand, the Ramban writes in his Sefer Torat Ha’Adam (Sha’ar Ha’Meichush, Inyan Ha’Refuah) that upon traveling on any road, one must recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing, for the Yerushalmi states that all roads are considered dangerous. The Tur quotes this opinion and writes that this was the prevalent custom in Spain.

After noting the difference between the Sephardic and Ashkenazi customs regarding this matter, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch writes that for less than a “Parsa” (meaning a distance that is less than one can travel during 72 minutes) of travel time, one should not recite “Ha’Gomel” unless one has traveled through a place that is especially dangerous (for instance one who has mistakenly entered a village that is a terrorist stronghold and the like), in which case one would recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing for traveling even less than a seventy-minute travel time.

Halachically speaking, Sephardim and Jews of Middle Eastern descent customarily recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing upon travelling from one city to another provided that there is a distance of seventy-two minutes of travel time from the outskirts of the departed city. However, the custom of Ashkenazi Jews is not to recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing for such a journey; rather, only one who travels through the desert recites this blessing.

Highway Travelers Nowadays
According to the Sephardic custom it would seem that although nowadays there is no longer as much danger associated with highway travel as robbers and wild animals are typically uncommon, since our Sages established the blessing of “Ha’Gomel” for such a journey, even if the reason for the enactment is seemingly no longer applicable, the enactment itself still stands, as we have explained in the name of Hagaon Harav Kook in the previous Halacha.

Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein adds that the reason behind the Sephardic custom to recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing upon travelling from city to city even if there are no robbers or wild animals is because this also an act of kindness from Hashem, for He has placed fear in the hearts of the robbers and wild animals not to come upon the road when people are traveling. Thus, even nowadays one should recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing upon traveling from one city to another. This is especially true since even nowadays a very real danger of car accidents and the like still exists.

In the following Halacha, we shall discuss some more details regarding this Halacha.

Today is the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul. This month marks the days of mercy and forgiveness as well as days of self-introspection for every Jewish person. Selichot will begin, G-d-willing, this coming Motza’ei Shabbat at halachic midnight. According to the Ashkenazi custom, Selichot begins Motza’ei Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim, the 24th of Elul.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Mitzvah of Counting the Omer

The Torah states (Vayikra 21, 15): “And you shall count for yourselves, from the day following the Shabbat, from the day the waved Omer offering is brought, seven complete weeks shall they be.” Our Sages (Menachot 65b) have a tradition that the “day following the Shabbat” ref......

Read Halacha

Question: How many “Kezayit”s (olive’s volume) of Matzah must one consume during the Pesach Seder?

Answer: One is obligated to eat altogether three “Kezayit”s of Matzah during the Pesach Seder. Every Kezayit amounts to approx. 30 grams of Matzah. Nevertheless, there is room for stringency to eat four or even five “Kezayit”s of Matzah, as we shall now explain. The Order......

Read Halacha

What Constitutes a “Permanent” or “Professional” Knot

In previous Halachot we have explained that is forbidden to tie a “permanent” knot on Shabbat, i.e. a knot which is not meant to be untied in the near future. It is likewise forbidden to tie a “professional” knot on Shabbat, i.e. a knot which requires some skill to tie. Howev......

Read Halacha

Chol Ha’Mo’ed

The days between the first and seventh days (outside of Israel between the second and eighth days) of the Pesach holiday and the days between the first day of Sukkot and the holiday of Shemini Atzeret (outside of Israel between the second day of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret) are called “Chol Ha&......

Read Halacha


The Laws of Tying and Untying on Shabbat

The Mishnah in Masechet Shabbat (73a) lists the thirty-nine forms of forbidden work on Shabbat. The Mishnah includes “tying and untying” among them. One who ties or unties a knot on Shabbat is tantamount to having kindled a fire or planted wheat on Shabbat. There are several detailed ......

Read Halacha

Knots Forbidden To Be Tied on Shabbat by Rabbinic Enactment and Those Permitted to be Tied

In the previous Halacha we have explained that two of the forbidden works on Shabbat are tying and untying a knot. We have likewise discussed some forms of knots which are forbidden to be tied on Shabbat by Torah law. We shall now discuss several forms of knots which are forbidden to be tied as a re......

Read Halacha

Everything is Foreseen and Permission is Granted

Israeli Independence Day is celebrated today. Since we have discussed this topic several times in the past, we will not delve into this matter lengthily at this point. Let us just note that according to Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, although one must show thanks to Hashem for removing the ......

Read Halacha

The Pesach Seder-Kadesh

The Pesach Seder-Kadesh The famous order of the Seder of the eve of Pesach, Kadesh, Urchatz, Karpas, Yachatz, Magid, Rochtza, Motzi, Matzah, Maror, Korech, Shulchan Orech, Tzafun, Barech, Hallel, Nirtzah, was established by the leader of the entire Jewish nation, Rashi. The entire Jewish nation cus......

Read Halacha