This morning is my 38th birthday. My dad wished me a happy birthday and then as per his mathematical mind also made me aware that both my Hebrew and English birthday fall out on the same day this year because I had completed another 19 years for the second time around. (When my dad met my husband for the first time at my son’s birthday/bar mitzvah, which was incidentally also my husband’s birthday, we spent the first fifteen minutes understanding why my husband was celebrating both on the Gregorian and the Jewish calendar on the same day – my dad did the calculations and it’s because my husband was 46 which is 38+8 and every eight years both birthdays are a day or a half day apart.)
These two synchronous birthdays signify for me two extraordinarily uncommon celebrations that my immediate family was fortunate to celebrate. The first celebration of this kind was more than a decade ago after my son survived drowning as a toddler and the second was this year when my niece came home from the hospital after a few months of intensive care as a result of being born at 26 weeks.
There are four reasons explained in Brachos why a person can say Hagomel and arrange a Seudat Mitzvah more commonly called a Seudat Hodaya: After being released from prison, after surviving a ship-wreck and drowning, after a prolonged illness, and when safely arriving from traveling in the desert.
In the case of my son who proudly celebrated his bar mitzvah this year and my niece who came home a few months ago we didn’t say Hagomel because the bracha is only recited by the person himself who was miraculously saved. In both occurrences the child was too small to recite the bracha himself. Instead we said Perek Shira which is the tefillah where all of God’s creations praise Him.
After celebrating my own personal salvation this year and with a lot of gratitude I’d like to summarize with just one passuk from Perek Shira:
לִוְיָתַן אוֹמֵר. הוֹדוּ לַיי כִּי טוֹב כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ: (תהילים קלו א)