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Pack The Traveler’s Prayer
On Your Next Trip

In Judaism, there is a prayer for everything, whether it’s finding lost luggage or helping someone find their perfect match, both of which I’ve done recently.

When we open our eyes in the morning, we thank God for the gift of a new day. Modeh ani. When we go to bed at night, we ask God to protect us while we sleep. The Sh’ma. And during the day and for every special occasion and holiday, we say prayers of gratitude that deepen our connection to God.

And when we travel, especially long distances, there is a prayer for that, too. Tefilat Haderech. And a new prayer that I just discovered for lost objects, Eloka d’Meir, aneini said three times followed up with tzedakah, which came in handy when the airport lost my husband’s luggage for three days while we were in Israel. When we finally picked up his roller duffle bag at a hotel in Tzvat, a different one that we were staying at, I said a big Baruch Hashem!

The Talmud defines prayer as the service of the heart—meaning it comes from the soul and the sincerest part of our being. The Jewish religion has a myriad of blessings (berachot) for every type of food and drink, from bread and fruit to grains and vegetables, and of course kiddish over the wine. Before a meal we say hamotzi and after a meal we say grace, hazan et hakol.  Shehecheyanu is recited for all the wonders of God in nature, for example, when the stormy sky turns into the colors of rainbow. Every time we are in awe of God’s presence, such as the birth of a new child, we say Shehecheyanu (Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this time).

Traditionally, Jews daven (pray) three times a day—evening, morning, and afternoon—and there is a fixed form to these prayers, which can be recited at home or at synagogue. The Rabbis designed this daily ritual so it would become a habit not for the purpose of memorization or reciting words without much thought, but rather this disciplined practice of praying is meant to increase our yearning to learn more, keep growing, and deepen our Jewish understanding of who we are. When a group of 10 men pray together it is called a minyan, meaning “number” in Hebrew, which represents a “community of Israel.” A minyan is required for specific prayers or public reading of the Torah. Even if someone joins a minyan who does not read Hebrew or is unaware of the prayer, he still completes the group which reinforces that each individual matters and has a divine purpose not just in a minyan but in this world.

Our prayers, whether they are inscribed in the Torah or created in our own words, are meant to reflect our values and ideals and are a way to talk directly to God.  For instance, in the Ve’ahavta, which is recited at every evening and morning service, we find: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind, with all your strength, with all your being. Set these words, which I command you this day, upon your heart. Teach them faithfully to your children; speak of them in your home and on your way, when you lie down and when you rise up.” This passage shows our love of God, the value of learning, and the importance of sharing Judaism with our children, l’dor v’dor, which is the Hebrew for “from generation to generation.”

The Hebrew word for prayer is tefilah, based on the verb lehitpalel, which means “to judge oneself.” Through prayer, we regularly work to improve ourselves and our relationship with God. For me, when prayer is set to music, such as when the cantor (or Barbara Streisand) sings the  Avinu Malkeinu, “Our Father, Our King,” on Yom Kippur and other fast days, the words and message come alive and very emotional.

As I get ready to embark on a special journey to Israel to see my son, I will be joining many Jews on their way back the homeland after Passover. Men will be davening in the back of the crowded plane, while babies will be crying, kids will be nudging the seat in front of them, people will be chatty and snoring and waiting in line to use the bathroom. Hence, my noise blocking headphones will come in handy during the 12 hour flight to Tel Aviv. One of my new rituals before I fly is to say the traveler’s prayer, also known as the Wayfarer’s Prayer or Tefilat Haderech in Hebrew.  This prayer is said at the onset of any journey especially a long flight. We ask God to deliver us safely, to protect us from danger and return us to our destination and finally back home in peace.

The English version:

May it be Your will, Lord, our God and the God of our ancestors, that You lead us toward peace, guide our footsteps toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace. May You rescue us from the hand of every foe, ambush along the way, and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to earth. May You send blessing in our handiwork, and grant us grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us. May You hear the sound of our humble request because You are God Who hears prayer requests. Blessed are You, Lord, Who hears prayer.

And in Hebrew:

Y’hi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu ve-lohei avoteinu she-tolichenu l’shalom v’tatz’idenu l’shalom, v’tism’chenu l’shalom, v’tadrichenu l’shalom, v’tagi’enu limchoz cheftzenu l’chayim ul’simha ul’shalom. V’tatzilenu mi-kaf kol oyev v’orev v’listim v’chayot ra-ot ba-derech, u-mi-kol min-ei pur’aniyot hamitrag’shot la-vo la-olam. V’tishlach b’racha b’chol ma’a’se yadeinu v’tit’neinu l’chen ul’chesed ul’rachamim b’einecha uv’einei kol ro-einu. V’tishma kol tachanuneinu ki el sho-me-ah t’fila v’tachanun ata. Baruch ata Adonai sho-me’a t’fila.

To hear the traveler’s prayer in Hebrew, go here: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/tefilat-haderekh-the-travelers-prayer/

Wherever your destination, safe travels and pack your prayers (and Dramamine).