On Sunday, the esteemed Rebbetzin and I drove from Allentown to Toronto, with two of our children; we drove back to Allentown yesterday afternoon.
My other trips to Toronto have been by plane, but for the sake of having a car at hand, and because we needed to bring two of the kids, we chose to drive for this trip. It was good having all of those hours to spend with the family, although the long, fast-moving stretches were better than the hours at the border on Sunday evening.
Two particularly interesting things came out of the drive:
1. Thanks to the GPS we were loaned, I now know how to say “Recalculating,” “Turn left” and “Turn right” in a great many languages, including something called Eeski, which sounded vaguely Slavic or Scandinavian. The kids enjoyed it, so did I, and the rebbetzin reluctantly endured it because I was doing the driving.
2. But second, on a more sober note, I realized after arriving home that we entirely forgot to say Tefillat haDerech (“the traveler’s prayer”). The tefillah certainly was warranted for such a long highway trip, but we simply forgot.
It’s not that I am normally ungrateful; I am pretty good about saying it on a plane at wheels-up. My wallet holds a UJC card with the text. And I do believe that highway driving is dangerous; just yesterday there was a report on Toronto news radio about a crash involving an SUV that blew a tire. The vehicle crossed the median hit a Greyhound bus carrying a semi-pro football team, the London Silverbacks. The driver of the SUV was killed when her vehicle caught fire, and there were injuries on the bus. No matter how good your driving, you can’t escape a situation like that, so I feel pretty grateful to have been protected… and yet we didn’t say the tefillah.
(Yes, the vast majority of drivers arrive home safely. And yes, it is certainly true that other modes of transportation are as dangerous, or more so – cf. the train crash in Washington DC and the Brazil-Paris flight. But neither of those points are relevant here.)
Forgetting to say Tefillat haDerech feels terribly wrong. It’s like a total neglect to remember the good that Gd does for me. I feel like a bit of a jerk today, for forgetting it. But there really is no make-up, other than to make myself more aware of HaShem’s protection in the future, both in driving and in general.
And, I suppose, to make others aware by posting this reminder. You can find the text here.