Halacha for lunes 11 Elul 5780 31 August 2020

Inter-City Travel and the “Ha’Gomel” Blessing

Before the month of Elul began, we had been discussing the laws of the “Ha’Gomel” blessing. Let us now conclude our discussion on this topic.

We have established that according to the Sephardic custom, one who travels from city to city more than the distance of a “Parsa”, one must recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing upon arriving at one’s destination.

What is the Distance of a “Parsa”?
A “Parsa” is a unit of distance amounting to approximately four kilometers (or 2.5 miles). The time it takes to walk the distance of a “Parsa” by foot is seventy-two minutes. We must now discuss how to determine the distance of a “Parsa” for which one must recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing. Is this “Parsa” determined by a set four kilometers such that there is no difference between the method of transportation, i.e. whether one is walking or traveling by car, once one has passed four kilometers of traveling, one must recite this blessing or does this amount of distance refer to the amount of time it takes to walk a distance of a “Parsa” which is seventy-two minutes such that one traveling by car should not recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing unless one was in transit for seventy-two minutes after leaving the original city limits?

Halachically speaking, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules (in his Chazon Ovadia-Berachot, page 364) that this amount of distance should be determined based on one’s current method of traveling, i.e. if one is traveling by foot from city to city and this journey by foot takes one seventy-two minutes or more, one must recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing when arriving at one’s destination. Similarly, if one is traveling by car or plane and the transit time spans more than seventy-two minutes, one must recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing upon arriving. However, if one drives in one’s car for only a short time, although distance-wise one has traveled more than four kilometers, one should not recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing.

Combining the Travel Times To and From One’s Destination
Even if the distance between the two cities is less than seventy-two minutes, however, the combined travel time of both back and forth is a distance of seventy-two minutes, the travel to and from can be combined in this situation to necessitate the “Ha’Gomel” blessing, provided that one is travelling back and forth on the same day (the definition of “on the same day” regarding this Halacha is even if one travels to another city in the morning and returns home at night; see Chazon Ovadia-ibid page 365).

One Who Travels From City to City Every Day
One who travels outside of the city on a daily basis to one’s place of study or work should recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing only once a week, on Shabbat.

Tefillat Ha’Derech (The Traveler’s Prayer)
We have already explained that all this only applies to Sephardic Jews who have accepted the rulings of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch. Ashkenazim (even in Israel), on the other hand, customarily only recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing for international travel, such as one taking a flight to a different country. However, regarding Tefillat Ha’Derech, there is no distinction between Sephardim and Ashkenazim, for as long as there are seventy-two minutes of travel time (or walking time) between the two cities, one must recite Tefillat Ha’Derech along with Hashem’s name.

Summary: The distance of a “Parsa” refers to a travel or walking time of seventy-minutes. If one departs to a different city and is in transit for seventy-two minutes or more, even if the seventy-two-minute transit time is a combination of the commute to the other city as well as the trip back home (as long as one travels back and forth on the same day), one must recite Tefillat Ha’Derech along with Hashem’s name. Additionally, according to the Sephardic custom, one must likewise recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing before ten men, as we have established.

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