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Halacha Talk, Tefilas Haderech

9 Sivan 5772
Harav Avraham Rosenthal

On Shabbos Parshas Baha’aloscha we read how the Bnei Yisrael set up their camp and how they traveled in the desert. The intention was that in this formation, they would travel to Eretz Yisrael. Unfortunately, because of the sin of the spies, they were instead forced to wander in the midbar for forty years. I heard a comment in the name of HaRav Moshe Wolfson shlita, that Parshas Baha’aloscha introduces a time of the year when there is a natural tendency for people to travel.

With that in mind, it would be very apropos at this point to discuss the halachos of tefilas haderech.

THE TYPE OF TRIP

What type of trip requires the recital of tefilas haderech?

Tefilas haderech is recited with the concluding bracha of “Boruch Atta Hashem, Shomeiya Tefilah,” in either of the following situations:

  • One will be traveling a minimum distance of 2.9 miles(4.7 km) beyond the outskirts of town. (Shiurin shel Torah 33)
  • Even if one will be traveling less than this distance, but the area of travel is known to be a dangerous place. (Mishnah Berurah 110:30)

If one will be traveling less than this distance, one may recite tefilas haderech without saying the Name of Hashem in the concluding bracha, i.e., “Baruch Atta Shomeiya Tefilah.” Even if over the course of the entire trip he will travel the entire minimum distance, i.e., half the distance in one direction and half during the return trip, nevertheless, tefilas haderech is not recited. (Shulchan Shlomo 110:2)

It does not matter whether one travels by foot, automobile, boat, train or airplane. As long as the trip consists of the minimum distance, tefilas haderech is recited. (Mishnah Berurah 110:30, Sefer Ishei Yisrael chap. 50, footnote 5, Sefer Tefilah K’Hilchasah 27:27, Shu”t Be’er Moshe vol. VII chap. 114:1)

As opposed to the Ashkenazic practice of that the recital of tefilas haderech is dependant on the distance traveled, some Sefardic communities only recite tefilas haderech with the concluding bracha if the trip will last a minimum of seventy-two minutes. (Sefer Tefilah K’Hilchasah 27:26, Shu”t Yabi’a Omer vol. I chap. 13)

CONTEMPORARY ROADS

In earlier generations intercity roads passed through desolate and totally unpopulated areas. Therefore, the danger of highwaymen and wild animals was very prevalent. It is for this reason that these two dangers are specifically mentioned in the text of tefilas haderech.

The question is, however, what is the status of our roadways? Very often, even intercity roads traverse populated areas, thus minimizing the original types of dangers mentioned in tefilas haderech. Does one recite tefilas haderech if he travels on such a road?

The crux of the issue is: Did Chazal institute tefilas haderech only because of those specifically mentioned dangers, or was it instituted for other types of danger as well?

This is debated by contemporary poskim. The Chazon Ish zt”l maintains that all types of dangers were included and since automobile travel is dangerous, one recites tefilas haderech even if traveling intercity in built up areas. HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, however, holds that tefilas haderech was instituted only for the stated types of danger. Hence on many of our roads, tefilas haderech is said without the concluding bracha.

Of course, if the area of travel is known to be a dangerous place, tefilas haderech is recited with the concluding bracha, as we previously mentioned. (Sefer Ishei Yisrael chap. 50, footnote 24)

WHEN IS IT RECITED?

There is a disagreement among the Acharonim at what point tefilas haderech is recited. There is an opinion that from the moment one decides to leave the city and prepares himself to do so, he may recite tefilas haderech. However, the majority of the Acharonim maintain that one cannot recite tefilas haderech until after one has left the city. The Mishnah Berurah concludes that it is preferable to follow the majority opinion. However, if one mistakenly recited tefilas haderech in the city, he does not repeat it. Also, if one will not be able to recite it after the leaving the city, he may rely on the minority opinion and recite it in the city.

This disagreement applies only to the beginning of one’s journey. However, if he is merely continuing his trip, i.e., he started traveling the day before, slept overnight in a city, and is starting out again in the morning, he can recite tefilas haderech immediately when preparing to leave, even if he is still in the city. This is because he is already considered to be “on the road.” (Sh.A. 7 and M.B. there)

It is preferable to recite tefilas haderech during the first 2.9 miles (4.7 km) after passing the outskirts of the city. If one forgot to do so, he still may recite it with the concluding bracha as long as he still has at least another 2.9 miles to the city of his destination. If the remaining distance is less than this, he recites tefilas haderech without the concluding bracha. (ibid.)

TEFILAS HADERECH ON AN AIRPLANE

For many travelers the merely getting to the closest airport requires the recital of tefilas haderech. However, if one does not need to do so, and is therefore “starting” his trip on the airplane, at what point does he recite tefilas haderech?

I posed this question to HaGaon HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg shlita. He responded that in this situation one recites tefilas haderech when the plane starts to taxi down the runway for takeoff. (See also Shu”t Be’er Moshe VII chap. 114:4)

THE TEXT

Although the text of tefilas haderech is formulated in the Gemara (Berachos 29b), several variations appear in the Rishonim. The differences continue to proliferate until our day, when it is nearly impossible to find two siddurim with the exact same text for this tefilah. Practically speaking, the precise text is irrelevant. As long as one includes in the tefilah a prayer for his success and that he be saved from any bad incidents, he has fulfilled his obligation. Thus, even if one started recited tefilas haderech by heart, and in the middle he realized that he does not know the entire text, he may conclude with the closing bracha provided he mentioned these two elements. (Sefer Ishei Yisrael 50:12)

The poskim maintain that when reciting tefilas haderech, it should be said in the plural form, as if he were reciting it for more than one person, even if he is traveling by himself. For example, one says, “she’tolichainu” – “You should lead us,” rather than “she’tolichaini” – “You should lead me.” The reason for this is because when one includes himself with the tzibbur, his tefilah is more readily accepted. However, if one did not do so and used the singular form, he has fulfilled his obligation. Incidentally, the Mishnah Berurah points out that this requirement to recite the tefilah in the plural format is only regarding a regular tefilah that is said by the public. If one wishes to recite a personal tefilah, he says it in the singular form. (Sh.A. 110:4, M.B. 18-20)

Although tefilas haderech is recited in the plural form, there is a difference of opinion regarding the word, “V’sitneini.” Some maintain that, based on Kabbalah, it also is recited in the plural (v’sitneinu), while others hold it is said in the singular. (Aruch HaShulchan 10, M.B. 19)

Another phrase in tefilas haderech over which there is a disagreement is, “v’sachazireinu l’baisainu l’shalom” – “return us to our homes in peace.” Some are of the opinion that it is unnecessary to specify this as it is included in the phrase, “and cause us to reach our desired destination,” while others include these words in the text. The prevalent custom is to include this phrase if one intends to return home that day. (Sefer Ishei Yisrael 50:2, footnote 3)

May one add personal requests to the text of tefilas haderech according to the situation in which one finds oneself? For example, can one add, “save us from traffic accidents,” or “save us from drivers with road rage?” This issue is a matter of disagreement between contemporary poskim. (ibid. footnote 4*)

WHERE IS THE “BARUCH”?

There is another element of the text of tefilas haderech that, in essence, relates to many other brachos. Based on the Gemara in Brachos (46), “short” brachos, or brachos that contain one idea or praise, such as a bracha rishonah or a bracha before performing a mizvah, start with the word “baruch,” but do not contain a concluding phrase that starts with “baruch.” On the other hand, “long” brachos, or brachos that contain a tefilah as well as a praise, open and conclude with “baruch.” The Gemara lists several exceptions to this rule. One of these exceptions is where the brachos are recited consecutively, such as in Shemoneh Esrei. Although all of the brachos in Shemoneh Esrei are “long” brachos, none of them begin with the word “baruch,” except the first. This is because each bracha follows immediately after the previous one, and therefore “relies” on the word “baruch” in the previous bracha.

This raises a question regarding tefilas haderech, which does not start with the word “baruch,” even though it is classified as a “long” bracha. Some Rishonim maintain that the Gemara’s rule only applies to brachos that are said all the time. Tefilas haderech, however, which is only recited occasionally, does not need to start with “baruch.” (Meiri – Brachos 46)

Other Rishonim hold that one should find a way to recite a bracha before tefilas haderech in order to utilize the word “baruch.” The Mechaber quotes the practice of one of the Rishonim who, when starting his journey before Shacharis, would recite tefilas haderech after concluding “gomeil chasadim tovim l’amo Yisrael.” The Mishnah Berurah comments that if one starts his trip after Shacharis and cannot follow this practice, he should either recite tefilas haderech after “asher yatzar” or after a bracha acharonah.

Another option that is discussed among the Acharonim is whether one can use a bracha rishonah before tefilas haderech. The problem here is whether tasting the food is considered an interruption between the bracha and tefilas haderech. If one does not have any other option, he may use a bracha rishonah. For example, one may take a candy, recite “shehakol,” and after tasting it, remove it from his mouth and recite tefilas haderech. (Sefer Ishei Yisrael 50:5)

The Mishnah Berurah concludes that if one has no option to recite a bracha beforehand, he should recite tefilas haderech even though it does not start with “baruch.” (Sh.A. 5 and M.B. there)

HOW IS IT RECITED?

If one is traveling by foot, it is preferable to stop in order to recite tefilas haderech. However, if he is with other people who do not wish to wait, he does not have to do so. Also, if stopping will cause him to become preoccupied over the lost time, he is permitted to recite it while traveling.

If one is driving a vehicle, optimally he should pull over to the side of the road in order to recite tefilas haderech, but he does not have to get out. Although Chazal instituted that it be said while standing, in this situation they did not wish to trouble him, as this would cause too much of a delay. If it is dangerous to stop, or if stopping will cause him to be become preoccupied over the loss of time, it is unnecessary to do so. In this situation, there are several options:

  • If there is another passenger in the car, the passenger should recite tefilas haderech for both of them.
  • If this is not possible, he should insert the text of tefilas haderech into the bracha of Shema Koleinu during the Shemoneh Esrei immediately prior to his trip. (Sh.A. 4, M.B. 21-22, Aruch HaShulchan 11, Sefer Ishei Yisrael 50:2, Sefer Tefilah K’Hilchasah chap. 27, footnote 80)
  • Another option, as we mentioned earlier, is to rely on the opinion that tefilas haderech can be recited even if one is still in the city.

One who is traveling on public transportation, such as a bus or train, should stand in order to recite tefilas haderech, if at all possible, since in this case, standing will not be a cause of delay.

Although one fulfills his obligation of tefilas haderech by hearing it recited by someone else, he should preferably not hear it through a loudspeaker, since the sound heard is not a valid bracha according to some opinions. (Sefer Ishei Yisrael 50, footnote 1, Sefer Halichos Shlomo 22:15)

LONG TRIPS

If one is traveling from point A to point B, and on the way stops at a motel to rest for a few hours, does he need to recite tefilas haderech a second time when he starts traveling again?

When one flies through the night, does he need to recite tefilas haderech again in the morning even though he recited it at the beginning of the trip on the previous day?

One is required to recite tefilas haderech only once a day. This is true even if he enters a city to rest for a while and continues his trip later that day. This is also the case if one reaches his destination and returns home on the same day. However, if one decides not to travel any further that day and then changes his mind, he must recite tefilas haderech a second time. Someone who travels through the night, even if he stops to rest for a while, should recite tefilas haderech in the morning without the concluding bracha. (Sh.A. 5 and M.B. there) Some have a custom in this situation to include the text of tefilas haderech in the bracha of Shema Koleinu of Shacharis that one recites while traveling.

EITZOS TOVOS

Interspersed throughout the halacha seforim, we find many practical suggestions for the traveler (Unless stated otherwise, the source of these halachos is Mishnah Berurah 110:20):

When parting company with someone who is going on a trip, one should say, “Leich l’shalom,” and not “leich b’shalom.” (Mishnah Berurah 110:17, quoting Gemara Brachos 64) The Maharsha explains the reason for this. When one says, “leich b’shalom,” this indicates that the trip should be “in peace,” but the arrival at his destination will not be. However, if he says, “leich l’shalom,” the connotation is that he should go to a place of peace.

While traveling, one should involve himself in Torah learning, as it says, “And you shall speak about them… when you go on the way.”

One should not eat to satiation while traveling, as this is hard on the stomach.

Since mishaps do occur, one should be careful to take bread along on a trip, even if traveling to a place where bread is available.

A G-d fearing person should take his talis and tefilin when traveling, even if he intends to return that day.

One should see to it that someone appoint him as a shaliach mitzvah before the trip. Alternatively, he can take money himself and have in mind to give it to tzedakah at his destination. (Kaf HaChaim 27)

The Acharonim mention that a segulah to prevent one from being hurt during the trip is to have someone escort him at the beginning of the trip a minimum distance of four ammos (7.5 feet). (Sha’arei Teshuvah 110:6)

It is proper to give tzedakah before traveling, as it says (Tehillim 85:14), “Righteousness (tzedek) will walk before him, and set his footsteps on the way.”

IM YIRTZEH HASHEM

We introduced this article with a thought from Parshas Baha’aloscha and we will conclude with one as well.

“According to the Word of Hashem they camped, and according to the Word of Hashem they traveled.” (9:20)

The Shelah HaKadosh comments that this passuk teaches us mussar. A person should always say “im yirtzeh Hashem or b’ezras Hashem” when speaking about any action that he is planning on doing. In this manner, he will be accustomed to mention Sheim Shamayim on a constant basis.


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