Tfilat Haderech (The Traveler’s Prayer)

Prior to embarking upon intercity travel, it is customary in Jewish tradition to recite Tfilat Haderech (the traveler’s prayer) and bless ourselves that we will reach our destination in peace and joy.

Resource Ages: 9-11, 12-14

Source

May it be your will, God, our God and the God of our ancestors, that you should lead us in peace and direct our steps in peace, and guide us in peace, and support us in peace, and cause us to reach our desired destination in life, joy, and peace (and return us in peace). Save us from every enemy and ambush, from robbers and wild beasts along the way, and from all kinds of punishments that rage and come to the world. May you confer blessing upon the work of our hands and grant us grace, kindness, and mercy in your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us, and bestow upon us abundant kindness and hear the voice of our prayer, for you hear the prayers of all. Blessed are you God, who hears prayer.

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ וֵא-לֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ,
שֶׁתּוֹלִיכֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם וְתַצְעִידֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם וְתַדְרִיכֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם,
וְתַגִּיעֵנוּ לִמְחוֹז חֶפְצֵנוּ לְחַיִּים וּלְשִׂמְחָה וּלְשָׁלוֹם (וְתַחְזִירֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם).
וְתַצִּילֵנוּ מִכַּף כָּל אוֹיֵב וְאוֹרֵב וְלִסְטִים וְחַיּוֹת רָעוֹת בַּדֶּרֶךְ,
וּמִכָּל מִינֵי פֻּרְעָנֻיּוֹת הַמִּתְרַגְּשׁוֹת לָבוֹא לָעוֹלָם,
וְתִשְׁלַח בְּרָכָה בְּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ.
וְתִתְּנֵנוּ לְחֵן וּלְחֶסֶד וּלְרַחֲמִים בְּעֵינֶיךָ וּבְעֵינֵי כָל רֹאֵינוּ,
וְתִשְׁמַע קוֹל תַּחֲנוּנֵינוּ,
כִּי אל שׁוֹמֵעַ תְּפִלָּה וְתַחֲנוּן אַתָּה.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה, שׁוֹמֵעַ תְּפִלָּה.

Foundations for Planning

Essential Questions

  • How does being Jewish affect what I do in my daily/weekly life?
  • How is prayer a vehicle to help us access connections to God?
  • How can prayers serve as a vehicle to express our feelings: wishes, hopes, fears, etc.

Content Questions Related to the Essential Questions

  • How do prayers affect the way we conduct ourselves on a daily basis? 
  • How does prayer affect the person praying? 
  • To what extent can prayer impact reality? 
  • Could prayer be significant even for someone who does not believe in God? 
  • Why do long journeys make us feel vulnerable or in need of protection?

Background for Teacher

Tfilat Haderech was written by Rabbi Hasda. It is first cited in the Talmud in Masechet Brachot (daf 29, page 2). In the past, trips lasted much longer than they do today, and dangers lurked along the way, from robbers to harmful animals. However,...

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Tfilat Haderech was written by Rabbi Hasda. It is first cited in the Talmud in Masechet Brachot (daf 29, page 2). In the past, trips lasted much longer than they do today, and dangers lurked along the way, from robbers to harmful animals. However, in our days, there are new dangers that did not exist then – most notably, car accidents. As such, there are those who add a specific request concerning road accidents to their prayer (and there is also a special prayer for airplane rides). 

Like many prayers, Tfilat Haderech invites a person to increase their awareness during routine and everyday activities, infusing such activities with a spiritual dimension. Although the source of the prayer relates to travel or a journey in the more physical sense, we can study the prayer in the context of other kinds of journeys; for example, you might teach the prayer when beginning something new, like the start of the school year, a new project or a special process.

Optional Hooks
In-Depth Discussion
Suggested Activities
Further Study

A journey I experienced: For younger students, you can focus on a physical journey. For older students, suggest that it’s possible to relate the prayer to different kinds of journeys (for example, any kind of change or process that they have gone through).

  • Ask the students to remember a journey they made, or ask them to consider what difficulties might arise during a journey? They can use the questions in the template.  Instead of writing: Do a guided imagery for students on the same topic and explore the same questions: How did I prepare for the journey? How did I feel before the journey, during the journey and at the end of the journey? Did I have partners on the journey? Was the journey successful? Has anything changed as a result of the journey?

Click here to view our consolidated list of suggested interactive pedagogies for classroom discussion.

  1. Why, in your opinion, was a special prayer written to be said before setting out on a journey? What can we learn from the very composition of this prayer?
  2. Why does it say “our God and God of our ancestors” at the beginning of the prayer? Why not just “God”? 
  3. Look at the first three sentences of the prayer. What word repeats itself? Suggest a reason for this repetition. Why is this word so important in the prayer? 
  4. The prayer lists various dangers we might meet along the way. The examples brought relate to the time in which the prayer was written. What dangers would you list now? (Think of different types of dangers.) 
  5. The prayer also asks God to “confer blessing upon the work of our hands” – in other words, the journey should lead to positive action. Give an example of a journey that leads to positive action, as opposed to one that leads to negative action.
  6. How can reciting Tfilat Haderech affect the people who are travelling? (Think about the travellers, the passengers, the drivers.)

Make a personal Tfilat Haderech: 

  • You can make a keychain or ornament with an excerpt from Tfilat Haderech to hang on a mirror or in the car. Choose a sentence or words from the prayer that you think are significant, and write them on the ornament. You can also write your own sentence in the spirit of the prayer, expressing your personal hopes for an upcoming journey of any kind.
  • Think of something you ride, like a bicycle or scooter. Then think of words from the traditional Tfilat Haderech prayer, or make up your own words that might increase your personal awareness to be careful while riding. Write out the sentence and hang it on your riding vehicle so that you’ll see it at the beginning of every ride.
  • Musical versions of the prayer:
    Tfilat Haderech performed by the Ramatayim Choir
    Tfilat Haderech performed by Shai Tsabari
  • You can apply Tfilat Haderech to a journey of any kind, and use it to deepen your understanding of it. For example, if you apply it to the “journey” of a new school year, use it to discuss with the students questions such as: How is a new year similar to the beginning of a journey? What is your “desired destination” this year? What blessings do you hope to receive this year? What/who are some obstacles that concern you? Who are your partners along the way and how can you help one another on the journey? What provisions are you bringing with you that can help strengthen you along the way? You can then write an alternative (personal or class-wide) tfilat hadrerech. As mentioned, the prayer can be connected to any project or process you undergo as a class. 
  • Read Dr. Seuss’ book Oh, The Places You’ll Go, or watch the clip (in “settings” you’ll see an option to apply subtitles in many languages) . Focus  on the difficulties that the boy encounters on his journey and the way he copes with them. In the book, like in Tfilat Haderech, fears are expressed, alongside anticipation and hopes for the journey. 
  • An additional song that relates to a journey:Lechi Lach, written by Debbie Friedman and performed by Bat Ella, inspired by God’s commandment to Abraham “Lech Lecha”. 
  • You can teach the students the new prayer for drivers.
  • You can study a text from the sages entitled “All beginning are difficult” (Midrash Mechilta D’Rabi Yishmael, Yitro, Parsha 2)