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    A harbour cruise & gomel – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Would I need to bensch gomel after a harbour cruise?

    A. On returning from a journey, including a sea voyage, one has to say the hagomel blessing which thanks God for His protection. The blessing derives from Psalm 107, which specifically mentions “those that go down to the sea in ships” (verse 23). Sea voyages were perilous in ancient days and the element of danger has continued throughout history (think of the “Titanic”).

    Halachic authorities differ on what kind of sea voyage requires the gomel blessing. Some – like Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igg’rot Moshe, Orach Chayyim 2:59) – limit it to a major voyage lasting at least a number of days. Others – especially Sephardi authorities – rule that a short trip requires the blessing if it lasted 72 minutes or more and the vessel went sufficiently far as not to be visible from the shore.

    (I should add that this question came from an Australian who lives in Sydney and occasionally takes a harbour cruise from Circular Quay to Manly and back. Accidents have been known to happen with harbour ferries, but they’re so rare as not to affect the tenor of the above explanation.)

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