The Traveler's Prayer - Tefilat HaDerech
Jewish prayer enhances our ability to appreciate life’s everyday gifts. It is important to recognize that the things we frequently take for granted – like the light turning on, the warm water for showers, and the food on our table – is something that many people in this world do not have at their fingertips.
Whether we are getting ready to eat a snack, wake up in the morning, or travel to another state or country – there is a prayer. The Traveler’s Prayer or Tefilat HaDerech is the prayer that we recite at the beginning of a journey. This prayer is a request for safe travels that are free from trouble.
The origin of the Traveler’s prayer is found in the Gemara, which is part of the Talmud or oral law. The Gemara contains the rabbinical analysis of the Mishnah, the text of the written oral law. Together - the Gemara and the Mishnah comprise the Talmud.
Some have a custom of eating a snack prior to reciting Tefilat HaDerech. When this is done, the blessing is flanked on either side by a prayer. We thank G-d for something prior to making a request, and we offer our thanks again at the end of the request.
In order to recite the blessing of the Traveler’s Prayer, one might carry a Siddur (a Jewish prayer book). It is also easy to find a laminated version of the Traveler’s Prayer that can be easily carried in one’s wallet. It is also possible to download the Traveler’s Prayer for your iPhone or other electronic device through the corresponding app store.
No matter the mode of travel, it is customary to recite Tefilat HaDerech once one has left city limits and if one is traveling at least one parsah, roughly three miles. One person can recite the prayer for an entire group with the group responding “Amen” at the end of the blessing.
The translation of the Traveler’s Prayer from my Artscroll Siddur is: “May it be your will, Hashem, our G-d and G-d of our forefathers that You lead us toward peace, emplace our footsteps toward peace, guide us toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace. May You rescue us from the hand of every foe, ambush, bandits, and evil animals along the way and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to earth. May you send blessing in our every handiwork, and grant us grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us. May You hear the sound of our supplication, because you are G-d Who hears prayer and supplication. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who hears prayer”.
Following the recitation of the Traveler’s Prayer, it is customary to recite scriptural passages that mention G-d’s protection during travel.
If it is not currently your custom, I invite you to consider the Traveler’s Prayer when you head out of town. Begin your journey with intention and mindfulness of what it takes to get from point A to point B in a safe manner.
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