Halacha Date: 21 Av 5776 August 25 2016
In the previous Halachot we have discussed the general obligation of the four categories of people to recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing: Those travelling by sea upon docking safely, those travelling through the desert upon reaching an inhabited settlement, a sick person who has recovered, and a prisoner upon being released. A way to remember this is through the verse וכל החיי"ם יודוך סלה which is an acronym for CH’avush, Y’am, Y’isurim, M’idbar. Chavush refers to a person released from incarceration, Yam refers to sea travellers who have docked safely, Yisurim refers to the suffering endured by an ill person who was healed, and Midbar refers to one travelling through the desert who has reached an inhabited settlement.
Women are also obligated to recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing, for surely there is no distinction between men and women regarding one’s obligation to thank Hashem for the goodness He has bestowed upon him/her. Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein, among others, rules accordingly.
The author of the Kenesset Ha’Gedola (Hagaon Rabbeinu Chaim Benbinishti, student of Rabbeinu Yosef of Tarani, one of the greatest Acharonim who lived approximately 400 years ago) writes that he is astounded about the custom that women do not recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing. He writes that in his opinion, this is a mistaken custom, for since this a blessing of thanksgiving, who has exempted women from reciting it? Although this blessing must be recited in the presence of ten men (as we have explained in a previous Halacha) and it is not respectful for a woman to stand in front of ten men for “the glory of a king’s daughter is within,” nevertheless, this is not enough of a reason to exempt women from a blessing that they are obligated to recite. This is especially true since a woman can recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing while standing in the women’s section of the synagogue and the men praying in the main sanctuary will be able to hear her.
Based on this, several Poskim write that it is customary for the woman to go to the synagogue and she should ask her husband or someone else to notify the Gabbai that she would like to recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing during the reading of the weekly Torah portion at which point the congregation will answer “Amen” to her blessing. However, if ten men are not present, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that since according to Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch who rules that one must only recite this blessing in front of ten men, the woman should not recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing.
Seven days after a woman gives birth, she is considered to like any other ill person who has recovered and she must recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing in front of ten Jewish men. A woman who has given birth may recite this blessing in her home when there are ten men present. Similarly, if she has given birth to a baby boy, she may recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing during the festive meal following the Berit Milah or during the festive meal following the birth of a baby girl; all those in attendance should answer “Amen” to her blessing. (A woman should not abstain from reciting blessings, praying, and performing Mitzvot just because she is still impure).
The Poskim discuss whether the “Ha’Gomel” blessing should be recited at night as there are those that say that this blessing is customarily recited after the reading of the Torah; therefore, even women should only recite this blessing during the day and not during the night. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that the accepted custom is that women do in fact recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing on the eve of the Berit Yitzchak (the night preceding the Berit Milah) when a small gathering is held in the home of the woman who has given birth for ten (male) friends and relatives of the family, at which point the woman stands in front of them and recites the “Ha’Gomel” blessing. Thus, when necessary, the “Ha’Gomel” blessing can be recited at night as well.