Saying Hagomel upon flying

Does one say Hagomel upon flying?[1]

Some Poskim[2] rule that one is to bless Hagomel anytime one travels by plane, even if he is traveling over populated land.[3] Other Poskim[4] however rule that one is to only recite Hagomel if he is traveling by plane over a sea or desert, while if he is traveling over populated areas then Hagomel is not recited.[5] Others[6] rule the blessing is only recited if one traveled a distance of 72 minutes. Others[7] are accustomed to never recite Hagomel with Hashem’s name even after traveling by plane over the sea or desert.

Final ruling and custom: Practically, the worldly custom, and so is the Chabad custom[8], is to follow the middle opinion that Hagomel is recited when flying over sea or desert but not when flying over land. Thus, one who travels cross country by plane, from the U.S. east coast to the U.S. west coast, or vice versa, does not recite a blessing. Based on this, one is technically to recite the blessing of Hagomel when he travels from Miami to New York, or vice versa, being that the flight pattern flies over the Atlantic.[9] Nonetheless, the widespread custom is only to recite the blessing when traveling a far distance across the ocean, such as from New York to Israel while by short journeys, even if they are over the sea, Hagomel is not recited. It is thus not customary for one who travels from Miami to New York and the like is to recite Hagomel.[10] If one is unsure as to whether Hagomel is customarily recited by a certain flight pattern, he is to check with the local community as to their custom.

[1] See Piskeiy Teshuvos 219/4

[2] Ketzos Hashulchan 65 footnote 2; Igros Moshe 2/59; Beir Moshe 7/69; See Likkutei Sichos 12/152 which implies there is room to say the blessing even when traveling over land

[3] The reason: As traveling on plane is dangerous, irrelevant as to what area one is traveling over. [ibid] Furthermore, even though in today’s times traveling by plane is relatively safe [even safer than traveling by car] nevertheless since if anything happens to the plane while in the air, it is impossible to survive, therefore it is similar to the sea and desert in which the Sages required a blessing. [Igros Moshe ibid; See also Tzitz Eliezer 11/14]

[4] Minchas Yitzchak 2/47; Betzeil Hachochmah 1/20; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1/193; Tzitz Eliezer 11/14; Taharas Yom Tov 8/97; Yabia Omer 2/14; Yechaveh Daas 2/46; Many Gedolei Haposkim brought in Piskeiy Teshuvos 219 footnote 16; See Likkutei Sichos 12/152

[5] The reason: As today the plains are relatively safe and hence Hagomel is not to be recited unless one is also traveling over sea or desert. [See Tzitz Eliezer ibid]

[6] Yechaveh Daas 2/46

[7] Custom of the Tzaddik of Belz; Gaon of Brisk and Tchenbin, brought in Poskim ibid

[8] See Likkutei Sichos ibid and Sefer Haminhagim p. 31 [English] which imply it is to be said in all cases; However see the response of Rav Groner in Hiskashrus 666 p. 17 that the Chabad custom is not to say Hagomel when traveling within the U.S.A. even if coming from a  far distance. This was the Rebbe’s directive, even though the Rebbe in one instance told a Chassid to recite the blessing. See also Hiskashurs 701 that the Rebbe told Rabbi Reitchik in a Yechidus that in today’s times the traveling on a plane is no longer as dangerous and hence does not justify Hagomel [unless traveling over sea or desert]. 

[9] Some Rabbanim rule like this approach and hence say one should recite Hagomel when traveling from Miami to New York, however this is not the custom.

[10] Heard from Rabbi Leibal Shapiro [Rosh Yeshiva in Miami], and Rabbi Yossi Marlow [Rav of Beis Menachem NMB] that the custom is not to recite Hagomel for this flight pattern. Rabbi Groner in a correspondence to me wrote that the Rebbe directed not to say Hagomel in such instances, and hence the only time remaining in which Hagomel is recited for flying is by a substantial flight over the sea.

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