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Jewish Prayers: The Blessing of Gomel

GOMEL, BLESSING OF (Heb. בִּרְכַּת הַגּוֹמֵל, i.e., "He who bestows"), a thanksgiving benediction recited by those who have been saved from acute danger to life. Those who have crossed the sea or a wilderness, have recovered from illness, or been released from prison are especially obligated to pronounce this blessing (Ber. 54b). The Talmud (ibid.) derives the duty to recite the Gomel from the verses: "Let them give thanks unto the Lord for His mercy, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!" (Ps. 107:8, 15, 21,31); and "Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, And praise Him in the seat of the elders" (Ps. 107:32). The blessing should preferably be said in the presence of ten men (an "assembly of the people"), two of whom should be rabbis (recited at the "seat of the elders"; Sh. Ar., OḤ 219:3), and should be pronounced within three days after the person has been delivered from danger. It has become customary to recite this blessing after being called to the Reading of the Law in the synagogue on Mondays, Thursdays, or Sabbaths. In many communities it is recited by women after childbirth in front of the Ark after the service. The wording suggested by the Talmud is: "Blessed is He who bestows lovingkindness" (Ber. 54b). The accepted text for the benediction is "Blessed art Thou… Who doest good unto the undeserving, and Who hast dealt kindly with me" (Yad, Berakhot 10:8). The congregation responds "He who hath shown thee kindness, may He deal kindly with thee for ever" (Hertz, Prayer, 487). A Gomel benediction can be recited by an entire community. In Israel, this benediction is also recited by military reservists after a stretch of active service.

Sources:Idelsohn, Liturgy, 114f.

Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.