Tefilas HaDerech

With the summer vacation upon us, many people will be travelling. When embarking on a trip outside city limits, generally the Halacha dictates that Tefilas HaDerech must be recited. I wanted to mention a few points relating to the Halachos of this Tefila.

 

There are Poskim who opine that the obligation of Tefilas HaDerech was only enacted when one travels in a normal manner. Consequently, they question the propriety of saying Tefilas HaDerech on an airplane trip. While flying is not less dangerous than driving, and one certainly should express his hope and trust in Hashem before embarking on a flight, the Beracha and text of the Tefilla may not be appropriate. HaRav Shmuel Kaminetzky shlita advised me that if the airport is outside city limits, as is often the case, Tefilas HaDerech can and should be recited on the ride to the airport. Under circumstance where this is not feasible, such as an airport inside city limits, he instructed me that Tefilas HaDerech should not be omitted. However, he did suggest that ideally it should be recited while taxiing down the runway prior to takeoff, and not while airborne. If I understood him correctly, if one failed to say it before takeoff, he should still say it afterwards.

 

Another point also based on my experiences with the Rosh Yeshiva relates to the common custom of one individual reciting Tefilas HaDerech out loud to be Motzi everyone. It frequently occurs that not everyone has a Siddur handy in the car or bus, and in any event the driver, even if he knows the Tefila by heart, may find it difficult to recite it accurately while simultaneously focusing on the road.

Regarding the ability to fulfill ones obligations by hearing a Bracha instead of reciting it oneself, there are two distinct categories of prayers. A Bracha, such as Hamotzi, may always be recited by a single individual on behalf of many others, on condition they hear every word and answer Amein. However, a Tefila like Shmona Esrei is much more limited, even though it also consists of a number of Berachos. Ideally each individual must say every word personally, and a dispensation to rely on another’s recitation is only granted to an individual who is incapable of saying it himself. Even then, one may only be lenient in the presence of a Minyan; hence the original source of our Chazaras HaShatz. HaRav Shmuel Kaminetzky shlita ruled that Tefilas HaDerech is a Tefila and not merely a Bracha. Consequently, he advised the Bochrim in Yeshiva that each must recite it himself, and not rely on a single individual saying it out loud for everyone. Of course, if it is not feasible for the driver to stop and look inside a Siddur and he cannot recite Tefilas HaDerech otherwise, hearing it from another is better than nothing. Especially considering that there are dissenting opinions.

11 thoughts on “Tefilas HaDerech

  1. I have three comments:
    1) It is statistically safer to fly than to drive.
    2) Nevertheless, I was taught years ago to say Tefillas HaDerech the moment the tires leave the tarmak. I presume that once the plane is 10 tefachim off the ground, it would be considered as if it left the city.
    3) The idea that everyone should say the tefilla since it is a tefilla and not just a bracha is quite compelling.

    • Thank you very much for taking the interest to comment.
      1) Statistics are always a tricky field. In this case, it depends whether you compare deaths per mile or deaths per hour. Regardless of statistics, in a plane you are suspended in mid-air, which is intrinsically a dangerous place to be, not unlike seas and deserts of yore.
      2) I was merely relating what my Rosh Yeshiva paskened and would not advise you to abandon a psak you received. Rav Shmuel was concerned, as I understood him, that since the air is not a typical “Derech”, air travel might not be included in Chazal’s takana of Tefilas HaDerech, and it is preferable not to wait until airborne.
      3) Agreed.

  2. Well written, Rabbi Moncharsh, Yishar kochakha!
    Please permit me two comments.
    1 – Indeed, other poskim, too, hold that tefillat haderekh should be said by each individual traveler. This makes it all the more interesting, to note the force of common custom, as follows. Since it is quite common for one person to say tefillat haderekh for many, even for a whole busload of travelers – either a) – when one determines how to pasken where there are differences of opinion, awareness of the common custom may lead a rav to decide to override the views of poskim who hold otherwise, or one may gain an understanding from the custom of the way most people perceive the tefillah, and use davka that perception to reach a decision (generally supporting, or at least explaining, the legitimacy of the common custom.
    2 – Tefillat haderekh comes with clear-cut halakhic strictures. Yet it seems clear that the dangers of driving call for some appeal to G-d for help before driving, even in town. For just that purpose I composed a driver’s prayer over 15 years ago, for use in my community. A few years ago, I realized it is still relevant, and a graphic artist friend of mine prepared a lovely, illustrated card that has tefilat haderekh on one side and the driver’s prayer – that has no halakhic restrictions at all – on the other. So far I’ve distributed some 9,000 such cards, and people – young and old, men and women – have told me it has helped improve their driving habits. later I discovered that what I had written was precisely what Rav Kook wrote tefillat haderekh is for. If you’re interested, I can send you the card, and a link to the reference in the writings of Rav Kook.

  3. Can you send to my email an address to which I can send the card?
    The one I have is solely in Hebrew – I’m in Israel – although two friends of mine did distribute a few hundred copies of the card with an English translation in the US.
    Here’s the link. Please note, Rav Kook’s style is often poetic and not easy to follow, but I think this selection should be clear. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. http://he.wikisource.org/wiki/%D7%A2%D7%99%D7%9F_%D7%90%D7%99%D7%94_%D7%A2%D7%9C_%D7%91%D7%A8%D7%9B%D7%95%D7%AA_%D7%93_%D7%A0%D7%92

  4. My father told me that R’ Tuvia Goldstein told him that he had asked R’ Moshe what the basis is for people being yotze tefilas haderech with others, and R’ Moshe did not have an answer for him on the spot, but unfortunately that was the last time R’ Tuvia saw him before he passed away. I also know that my rav is also of the opinion that each person should recite it.

    However, I think perhaps there is some support for the common custom, in the Gemara. The Gemara in Berachos (29b-30a) says אמר אביי לעולם לישתף איניש נפשיה בהדי ציבורא, היכי נימא, יהי רצון… שתולכנו לשלום. Based on Rashi’s explanation, the reason we say tefilas haderech in the plural form is because a short tefila is better received when one includes the tzibur. If this is the case, then perhaps one can conclude that even better than just speaking in plural might be to actually include others, even though it goes against the general rule of not being motzi others in a tefila.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *