Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer Road Trip? Remember to say Tefilat haDerech

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.


  1. Thank you for the reminder.
    On a recent trip out of town, I said Tefillat Haderech on the way there, but completely forgot to say it on the way back. I also felt bad about it the whole day.

  2. Let's talk, Rabbi. You've got some points stored up :)

  3. Well, at least your children also got the lesson that even rabbis (and fathers whether or not they happen to be rabbis) make mistakes sometimes...

    ...and that in life sometimes you just don't get a "do over".

    Just wondering: Would a daily commute of over 100 miles each way (by bus) also warrant the Tefilat haDerech?

  4. SuperRaizy-
    Misery loves company; thanks!

    Thanks; much appreciated.

    Knowing your commute, I think tefilat haderech would be a good idea, yes.

    Not sure. I tried Googling it and that was the closest guess I could get. I was surprised to find that Wikipedia didn't have a listing for it at all.

  5. I usually say it before I fly, although I suppose that driving...

  6. former allentownerJune 26, 2009 at 4:08 PM

    chassidim (try to) say tfillat haderech in their shacharit prayers (per tosefot i learnt while living in allentown in kei'tzat mevorchim)

    problem for me (such as today) when i drive before shacharit

    also, for superaizy, its said once per trip, applies to round trip
    (within same day). esp if you say the "returning words"

    as for fruma, i always thought that the responsibility of an out of town rav includes deciding the "borders" of where tfilat haderech is to be said. such as what points on rt 22 / 78 / pa turnpike it is to be said. (something having to do with built up areas, etc)
    perhaps to be posted by your successor on the shul website.

  7. Jack-
    Where you live, you should have it on a constant loop until you arrive...

    The borders are relatively straightforward: It's when you leave the area of homes and businesses.

  8. According to Rav Stav, you can say Tefillas Haderech as soon as you get on the highway - the highway itself is a dangerous thing. I don't know if he'd say tefillas haderech if he's traveling within the city on the highway, but if you're going to be leaving the city, he says you can say it as soon as you drive up that onramp.

  9. Michael-
    Rav Stav doesn't believe in halting to say it?