Travel, Prayer for

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TRAVEL, PRAYER FOR (Heb. תְּפִלַּת הַדֶּרֶךֶ, Tefillat ha-Derekh), prayer recited upon setting out on a journey to protect the traveler from the dangers associated with travel. The Talmud attributes the institution of this practice to the prophet Elijah, who cautioned a scholar that "when thou goest forth on a journey, seek counsel of thy Maker and go forth." The talmudic text of this prayer is:

May it be Thy will, O Lord my God, to lead me forth in peace, and direct my steps in peace and uphold me in peace, and deliver me from the hand of every enemy and ambush by the way, and send a blessing on the works of my hands, and cause me to find grace, kindness, and mercy in Thy eyes and in the eyes of all who see me. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who hearkenest unto prayer (Ber. 29b).

With only slight alterations, this text has since been used as the traveler's prayer among both Ashkenazim and Sephardim (Hertz, Prayer, 1044). It is, however, recited in the first person plural in accordance with the dictum of Abbaye that "a man should always associate himself with the congregation" (Ber. 29b–30a). It is recited once daily at the start of each day's travels, as long as a distance of 1 Persian mile (about 3 miles) is to be covered. It is preferable to recite this prayer while standing, although it may be said while sitting in places where it is difficult to stand (Ber. 30a; Sh. Ar., oḤ 110:4–7), as in an automobile or airplane. It has also become customary to recite appropriate biblical selections (e.g., Gen. 32:2–3; Ex. 23:20; Ps. 91) at the conclusion of the prayer. Additions have also been made for sea and air travel. Alternative versions of this prayer for paratroopers, pilots, sailors, and soldiers were composed by S. Goren, the former chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces.


Idelsohn, Liturgy, 172.