By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried
Please indulge me to take this opportunity to share some profound feelings that overtook me this week; feelings that invoked tears of trepidation followed by overwhelming tears of joy.
I will describe this in the context of a blessing we recite on occasion, a blessing known as “hagomel,” or the thanksgiving blessing (see Artscroll Siddur Page 143).
The full text of this blessing is “Blessed are You Hashem, King of the universe, Who bestows good things upon those who don’t deserve it; Who has conferred every goodness upon me.”
The Talmud teaches that there are four categories of people who recite this blessing, the common denominator being that they were in a life-threatening situation and were delivered safely. The four are:
- One who was very sick and was cured.
- Someone who was captured by dangerous captors and freed.
- One who traversed a dangerous desert and arrived safely to their destination.
- One who navigated an ocean and arrived safe and sound to shore.
Anyone who meets these criteria recites the blessing in front of a minyan; usually it is done at the Torah reading in shul, but not necessarily. Some women recite this after childbirth, either at the bris or some other time when a minyan is present.
The original source of this blessing was in the Temple offerings where a thanksgiving offering, korban todah, was brought by any of the same four individuals mentioned above. (See Rashi to Leviticus 7:12). Today, in place of that offering, we recite the thanksgiving blessing and have a thanksgiving feast every year on the date upon which one had a unique rescue from imminent mortal danger.
Last week, one of our beloved DATA rabbis, Rabbi Yehoshua Quinn, who is a Cohen, was in Austin performing a pidyon haben, a special ceremony done on the 30th day of the birth of a firstborn son. On the way back, near Temple, Texas, we were informed that he was in a terrible traffic accident, knocked under an 18-wheel tanker truck.
We could not reach him for a few hours and were completely in the dark as to his situation. All we could do was pray and weep.
After finding out that he was fine, and then seeing the Temple newscast that related what a miracle it was that he was alive and well, new tears of relief and joy replaced the previous tears.
It was truly a reason for thanksgiving, blessings and looking forward to the thanksgiving feast where all his colleagues and students can thank the almighty for the blessing that Rabbi Quinn will continue to enrich our lives and the lives of his family in the merit of the many mizvot he performs for many years to come.
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.