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Reciting Birkat Ha’gomel After Air Travel

Halacha requires reciting Birkat Ha’gomel after taking a flight of 72 minutes or longer. One might have thought that the requirement of Birkat Ha’gomel does not apply to a situation of air travel, since the Beracha was originally instituted to be recited after traveling through dangerous areas such as deserts, where one is exposed to thieves and animals. The Beracha was established to thank God for protecting us from these dangers, and not from accidents. The risks of animals and criminals do not arise when one flies in an airplane, and thus one might have assumed that Birkat Ha’gomel is not recited after a flight. However, the general consensus among the Halachic authorities is that we do not draw such a distinction, and that the Beracha should be recited after a flight of 72 minutes or longer. This is the ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein (Russia-New York, 1895-1986), in his Iggerot Moshe (Orah Haim 59), and of Hacham Ovadia Yosef, in his Yabia Omer (vol. 1, Orah Haim 14).

It makes no difference whether the flight was above the sea or dry land, or whether it was over an uninhabited wilderness or cities. In all cases, one recites Birkat Ha’gomel after landing in his destination.

Hacham Ben Sion Abba Shaul (Israel, 1923-1998), in his responsa (vol. 2, 14:43), draws a distinction in this regard between commercial jets and private planes. In a commercial airliner, many passengers fly together, and they do not know one another, and there is thus the risk of being harmed by another person during travel. In cases of a chartered jet or helicopter, by contrast, or in an army jet, where all the travelers know one another or are members of the same unit or army, there is no such risk. Therefore, according to Hacham Ben Sion, one recites Birkat Ha’gomel after flying in a commercial jet, but not after flying in a private jet or after a soldier flies in an army jet or helicopter.

Other authorities, however, including Hacham Ovadia Yosef, as well as Rav Shelomo Zalman Auerbach (Israel, 1910-1995) as cited in Halichot Shelomo (Hilchot Tefila, 23:5), do not draw this distinction. The accepted Halacha, then, as Rav Shemuel Pinhasi (contemporary) writes in his Kuntras Ve’chol Ha’haim (p. 34; listen to audio recording for precise citation), is that in any situation of a flight that lasted 72 or longer, one must recite Birkat Ha’gomel after landing.

Summary: One recites Birkat Ha’gomel after traveling in an airplane for 72 minutes or longer, in all situations.

 


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