Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bentching Gomel

I have never bentched gomel before. For the uninitiated, "bentching gomel" is basically saying a blessing asking God for (quoting Artscroll:) "bestowing good things upon the guilty," meaning giving me good things that I might or might not necessarily deserve. Earlier last month, I was in a pretty horrible car accident. My car was partially wrecked (about half the body was replaced) and I emerged with just a few colorful bruises, a headache and some throwing up. Bee aitch. Bee aitch a million times over. So when you defy death, you are supposed to thank God in a more formal way, namely saying Birkat HaGomel, or the Thanksgiving Blessing. You need to recite it out loud in front of a minyan (quorum of ten men) and they answer you "Amen and may He who bestowed goodness on you continue to bestow goodness on you forever." Nice.

Having never done this, I was a little intimidated by the idea of this little ceremony. Actually, I was very intimidated. I don't like audiences and I don't like being the center of attention, even if just for a few moments. I put off asking the Rabbi of my synagogue, Rabbi Blankity Blank about this for way too long (I later found out that I should have done this within three days of the accident).

Last night I finally asked him. Rabbi Blank asked me if I wanted to do it on Shabbos or during the week. Figuring that doing it during the week would be a much smaller affair, I opted for the latter.

So I went to Maariv tonight. I peered through the window of the Beis Medrash, where the men were already up to davening shmonah esray. Alas, no mechitzah in sight. Damn. How was I gonna do this?

But wait! There in the corner in the back....there was one lonely panel of a portable-on-wheels mechitzah thing. So I slip in to the room quietly, get a few curious looks from some of the daveners, work my way across the room into the corner and sort of pull the mechitzah in front of me. I feel like a rat in a maze. The men finish, say a few kaddishes, and then Rabbi Blank asks them to answer my bracha. I recite it, they answer. The whole things takes about 20, maybe 25 seconds.

That's it. What a total denouement. The accident, the aftershock, dealing with it, the whole thing. 25 seconds, I thank God, boom boom boom it's over. I might as well have blurted out in my living room, "Hey, yo, God, thanks for not squashing me like a bug, even though I probably didn't deserve to be saved. Really, thanks so much. " It would have been more ceremonious. I dunno. My concern over reciting it in front of a minyan was more of a big deal than actually saying it.

The whole thing seemed so small.

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