In the previous Halachot we have discussed the laws of blessings of thanksgiving, such as the “Ha’Gomel” blessing, which require several conditions in order to recite them. Now we shall explain the law of “one who hears is like one who recites”.
Our Sages teach us in Masechet Sukkah (38b) an important rule that applies to all Mitzvot of the Torah related to speaking (reciting), for instance, Birkat Hamazon and the like, that the halachic status of one listening to the blessing is tantamount to that of the one actually reciting the blessing. For example, if one would like to recite the “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” blessing on a certain fruit and nearby is another person wishing to recite “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” before partaking of a fruit, both individuals can fulfill their obligation to recite this blessing with the blessing of just one of them by one of them reciting the blessing while having in mind for his friend listening to him fulfill his obligation as well. This is usually the procedure for the Kiddush and the “Hamotzi” blessings on Shabbat when the head of the family recites the blessings on the wine and bread and the rest of the family merely listens and answers “Amen” and everyone subsequently tastes a bit of the wine and bread; however, these blessings are not recited again since all those present have already fulfilled their obligation by listening to the blessings recited by the head of the household.
The same applies to the “Ha’Gomel” in that if there are several people who are obligated to recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing, there is no need for each one to come up and recite it on his own; rather, only one of them should recite it and have in mind to have all the obligated listeners fulfill their obligation of this blessing and by doing so, he thereby exempts all listeners and they are no longer required to recite this blessing. Such is the custom among many Sephardic synagogues where it is customary to recite the “Ha’Gomel” for inter-city travel (provided that the time one was on the road between the two cities is at least seventy-two minutes, as we have already explained), since it is very common to have many people who are required to recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing, we do not wish to overburden the congregation by having every single one recite his own blessing; rather, one of the people who is obligated should come up to the Sefer Torah on Shabbat day and the Rabbi or Chazzan announces that whoever needs to recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing should rise and have in mind to fulfill his obligation with the recitation of this man and this man will subsequently have in mind to have all listeners fulfill their obligation, and this is sufficient, for one who hears is exactly like the one who recited. Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 219) writes: “If one recites “Ha’Gomel” and had in mind to have another [listener] fulfill his obligation and the listener had in mind to fulfill his obligation as well, he [the listener] fulfills his obligation even without answering ‘Amen.’” The Rama notes: “Since the one reciting the blessing is also obligated, the listener fulfills his obligation even without answering ‘Amen.’” All Poskim, including the great Rishon Le’Zion, Hagaon Harav Yitzchak Yosef Shlit”a in his Yalkut Yosef, rule likewise.
The reason why the listener must have in mind to fulfill his obligation is because of the law that “Mitzvot require intention”. Thus, if one performs a Mitzvah with no intention of doing so whatsoever, one has not fulfilled one’s obligation of performing that Mitzvah (although there are many details involved in this Halacha which we will not delve into now). Therefore, the listener, who is performing a Mitzvah by listening to this blessing being recited, cannot fulfill his obligation if he does not have in mind the fact that he will be fulfilling his obligation by listening.
The great Chatam Sofer records in his personal diary that when he and his community experienced great miracles and salvation during the period of the Napoleonic Wars and they were saved from a war that claimed many lives, he writes: “On the day that everyone gathered together, I went up to the Torah and I recited the “Ha’Gomel” blessing in plural form (just as we recite the text of ‘Ha’Gomel Le’Chayavim’) and the community members that were with me answered, ‘He who has bestowed goodness onto us should continue to bestow goodness upon us forever.’”
Nevertheless, Hagaon Harav David Yosef Shlit”a writes in his Sefer Halacha Berura (Volume 11) that since he has found that the Meiri writes that the law of “One who hears is like one who recites” does not apply to the “Ha’Gomel” blessing since one must personally thank Hashem for the kindness He has bestowed upon him, therefore, it is preferable wherever possible that any person obligated to recite the “Ha’Gomel” blessing recite the blessing on his own.