A Traveler’s Guide to Tefilas Haderech

Summer 2021

During the past year and a half, STAR-K mashgichim continued to conduct inspections in the United States and abroad in a manner deemed safe for them and factory personnel. STAR-K is very thankful for their tremendous mesiras nefesh to ensure that our certified products maintained the highest level of kashrus, even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Still, many consumers who frequently travel stayed home. With great siyata d’Shmaya, an effective vaccine was developed that has allowed us to resume our busy travel schedules and to once again recite Tefilas Haderech on a regular basis. Let us examine the halachos of this beautiful tefilla.[1]

The Tefilla

Tefilas Haderech is based on the Gemara in Brachos (29b-30a), with some minor variations, depending upon one’s nusach.  The Gemara says it is recited in loshon rabim (plural; e.g., shetolicheinu, etc.).[2]  When returning the same the day, the words v’sachzireinu l’shalom are added after l’chaim, ul’simcha, ul’shalom.[3]

The bracha is recited only once a day, even when traveling a long distance.[4]  “Day” has the same guidelines as Birkas Hatorah: it begins after one wakes up in the morning and concludes when one goes to sleep. For instance, if someone drove 1300 miles from New York to Miami, leaving at 6:00 a.m. on Monday and arriving in Miami 20 hours later at 2:00 a.m. on Tuesday, he would recite Tefilas Haderech only once (i.e., upon leaving New York). The same is true if one left New York on Monday at 3:00 a.m.

If one travels over the course of a few days, Tefilas Haderech is recited every day that one travels. For example, assume someone drove from New York to San Diego and booked a hotel room in two cities along the way, with the following itinerary:

  • Sunday: New York to St. Louis (overnight in a hotel in St. Louis)
  • Monday: Spend the day touring St. Louis (overnight in a hotel in St. Louis)
  • Tuesday: St. Louis to Albuquerque (overnight in a hotel in Albuquerque)
  • Wednesday: Albuquerque to San Diego (arrive at destination)

In this case, Tefilas Haderech was recited only on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, since those were the travel days. It was not recited on Monday, as there was no travel outside the city, nor on the days after reaching the destination in San Diego (i.e., Thursday and onward until he departs from there).[5] See below for when one should recite the tefilla on a multi-day journey.

What Distance Must be Traveled?

If one travels the distance of a parsa (2.8 miles) out of town, one should recite Tefilas Haderech. However, “town” does not mean the “city limits.” Rather, to be considered a long enough trip, the traveler must meet both of the following two conditions:

  • He must travel a parsa (2.8 miles) past an “open area” where there are no houses.[6]  
  • He must leave the general metropolitan area of the city (ibura shel ir).

Besides long-distance trips (e.g., New York – Detroit), this would include shorter “out of town” trips, for example Lakewood – Monsey or Lakewood – New York, as these trips meet both of the above “trip” conditions.

The following are three examples when Tefilas Haderech is not recited:

  1. One drove 35 miles from Yeshivah Shaar Hatorah in Queens to The Yeshivah of Staten Island. Since the trip, albeit lengthy, was entirely in the city of New York, Tefilas Haderech was not recited.
  2. One drove 5 miles from Telshe Yeshivah in Chicago to Yeshivah Bais Medrash L’Torah in Skokie. Although Skokie is a different city, it is in the metropolitan area of Chicago, so this does not constitute a trip that requires Tefilas Haderech. Furthermore, the entire route includes a built-up area.
  3. One drives 29 miles via U.S. 101/Hollywood Freeway and Ventura Freeway from Yeshivah Gedola of Los Angeles to Mesivta of Greater Los Angeles near Calabasas. Since it is built-up along the way with houses, Tefilas Haderech was not recited as the driver never left the metropolitan area.

At What Point in the Journey Is Tefilas Haderech Recited?

Once a trip is deemed long enough to require the recitation of Tefilas Haderech, one must determine the ideal place to recite it. The Mishnah Brurah states[7]  that it should ideally be recited within the first parsa (2.8 miles) after leaving the ibura shel ir – that is to say, after traveling slightly more than 70 amos (42 yards) past the last house of the built-up area of the metropolitan region. The latest time to say Tefilas Haderech is before reaching within a parsa (2.8 miles) of the metropolitan area of one’s destination.

Typically, Tefilas Haderech is recited during a long stretch of highway with no houses on either side, or when crossing a bridge over a wide river (a stretch of road that obviously has no houses).

The following are examples of the ideal locations for the recitation of Tefilas Haderech when traveling from Baltimore out of town on the various Interstate highways:

  • When traveling from Baltimore to New York or New Jersey on I-95, the ideal location is when crossing the bridge over Big Gunpowder Falls (mile marker 70.2, about 6 miles after getting on I-95 from the I-695 Beltway ), as that is the first area of the trip that is not built-up.
  • When traveling westbound on I-70 to Pittsburgh,[8] Cleveland, or beyond, recite Tefilas Haderech when crossing the Patapsco River Bridge shortly after exiting the beltway.
  • When traveling south on I-95 to Richmond or beyond, recite Tefilas Haderech on the Patapsco River Bridge after I-195.
  • When traveling to Ocean City, Maryland, recite Tefilas Haderech on I-97 after exit 10 as you cross the Severn Run.
  • When travelling northbound on I-83 to Harrisburg and Toronto, recite Tefilas Haderech when crossing the Western Run Bridge about one mile past Exit 20A/Shawan Road-East.

If someone is traveling for a few days, Tefilas Haderech may be said in the hotel when preparing to leave, beginning with the second day of travel.[9]  For example, on a trip from New York to Atlanta, Tefilas Haderech would be recited on the first day on the Outerbridge Crossing, or on the Goethals Bridge from Staten Island to New Jersey. If the person stayed in Baltimore overnight, Tefilas Haderech could be said either in the hotel when preparing to leave or when driving through Baltimore City as he begins the second leg of his trip.

If traveling by air, the accepted minhag is as follows:

  •  If the airport is in town, one should ideally recite Tefilas Haderech on the runway shortly before takeoff. If one is concerned that he might forget, he may say it after the plane begins to taxi on the runway or even upon boarding the plane. B’dieved, if he forgot, he may also say it after takeoff.
  • If the airport is out of town, one may say it on the way to the airport after leaving the built-up area. This is true even if one would not recite Tefilas Haderech when just driving to the airport (i.e., going to that airport does not constitute a trip in and of itself).

Reciting Tefilas Haderech

Ideally one should recite Tefilas Haderech while standing up and stationary. However, since it is generally not safe to pull over to the shoulder (and certainly not to get out of the car on the shoulder of the road, unless it is an emergency), the accepted minhag is to recite Tefilas Haderech while driving.

Because Tefilas Haderech does not begin with ‘Baruch Ata Hashem’, there is a hiddur (stringency) to first recite a “long” bracha immediately prior to Tefilas Haderech. Examples of long brachos include ‘Mei’ein Shalosh’ and ‘Asher Yatzar’.[10] For instance, if someone ate dates and grapes at the beginning of the trip, at the time one is obligated to say Tefilas Haderech, one would first recite the bracha of ’Al Ha’eitz‘, thereby creating a bracha hasmucha l’chaverta, and then follow immediately[11] with Yehi Ratzon of Tefilas Haderech. But this is not mandatory.

When being motzi others in Tefilas Haderech,[12] one must meet all the conditions of “shomei’a k’ona”.[13]  Furthermore, when traveling in a group (e.g., on a bus), if one person recites Tefilas Haderech to be motzi others, it may not be recited over a microphone.  If those in the back of the bus cannot hear the person in the front reciting Tefilas Haderech, an additional person should be appointed to recite it from the middle of the bus for those in the back to properly hear it and be yotzei.  If one is on a bus and hears someone reciting Tefilas Haderech over a microphone, he should repeat it for himself.

It is no coincidence that when discussing Tefilas Haderech, the Gemara reminds us to recite it b’loshon rabim (something that applies to all tefilos). The Gemara is reminding us that even when alone on a trip in the most isolated places, far away from our families and kehilos,we are indeed part of the heilige tzibur known as Klal Yisroel. Internalizing this reminder gives us the siyata d’Shmaya to bez”H stay safe – physically and spiritually – wherever we travel.

[1] These halachos are based on the psak of HaRav Moshe Heinemann, shlit”a, Rabbinic Administrator of STAR-K. For a full discussion of this topic, see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim (O.C.) and Mishna Brurah, siman 110.  Two excellent contemporary seforim are Sefer Darchei Zmaneinu by Rabbi Moshe Finkel and Kuntres Tefilas Haderech by Rabbi Aron Stauber.

[2] Note, however, that the word v’sitneini is said by many in loshon yachid (singular, ending with “ni” instead of “nu”).  See Mishnah Brurah 110:19.

[3] There is a machlokes Rishonim (differing opinions amongst the early commentaries) as to whether “v’sachzireinu l’shalom” (we should return peacefully) is always part of Tefilas Haderech. The Shulchan Aruch Harav in his Siddur makes “a compromise” by adding this only if “one’s intention is to return immediately”.  The term “immediately” is understood to mean the same day. Many have adapted the minhag of this “p’shara” (compromise). If one forgot to add these words on the day he was traveling round trip, Tefilas Haderech should not be repeated later on the way home as, b’dieved, the regular Tefilas Haderech without v’sachzireinu covers the return trip if he traveled the same day.

[4] The exception to this is if one stopped with an intention to stay overnight, and then the person changed his mind. For example, someone drove from New York to Cleveland and checked into a hotel intending to leave for Chicago the next morning. After hearing the weather report of a blizzard the next day, the person changed his mind and decided to leave immediately for Chicago. Tefilas Haderech would be recited for a second time that day.  See Shulchan Aruch O.C. 110:5.

[5] If after departing one continued traveling all night and then the next day, there is aquestion as to whether Tefilas Haderech is recited on the second day of the trip. For example, if one flew on Tuesday from Newark to London and then on Wednesday morning boarded a plane from London to Tel Aviv, should he say Tefilas Haderech again on Wednesday morning? Another example is three people drove 1800 miles from Lakewood to Denver, left at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, drove all night and arrived at 1:00 p.m. the next day. Should they say Tefilas Haderech again on Wednesday morning?  In these cases, Rav Heinemann is of the opinion that Tefilas Haderech is not recited on the second day. However, in order to satisfy all opinions, one should ideally insert Tefilas Haderech into the bracha of Shma Koleinu during Shacharis Shemona Esrei on Wednesday morning.

[6] Warehouses, offices, and businesses would be considered part of the parsa [2.8 miles] of open area as no one lives at these locations.

[7] Siman 110 seif katan 29. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid. se’if 7) maintains that one should recite it when one is “hichzik baderech”, and the Rema (ibid.) explains this to mean within the first parsa(2.8 miles) of the trip. The Mishnah Berurah then states this does not mean within the first parsa of one’s home, but rather after leaving town. B’dieved, if one said it before leaving the city he is yotzei.  See Mishnah Berurah 110:29.

[8] In this section, we give examples of travel to some popular destinations. Indeed, if one travels towards Pittsburgh to Breezewood, for example, one would still recite Tefilas Haderech. If you are not sure if your trip is long enough to require Tefilas Haderech, consult your rav.

[9] See Mishnah Berurah 110:29.

[10] It is important not to “delay” the recitation of Asher Yatzar. If one used the restroom before departing, one should not “save” the Asher Yatzar for later in order to precede Tefilas Haderech.

[11] In this case, if being motzi others, do not say “birshus” between the bracha and Tefilas Haderech.

[12] There is a discussion as to whether a minyan is required to be motzi others in Tefilas Haderech. The custom is to be lenient and allow one person to be motzi another even with no minyan present.

[13] For example, the person reciting Tefilas Haderech must have daas (in mind) to be motzi others (his recitation allows others listening to fulfill their obligation) and those listening must have daas to be yotzei (have their obligation fulfilled). The person reciting must be on the same level of chiyuv (obligation) as the listener. Therefore, a child cannot be motzi a gadol (adult) in Tefilas Haderech. There are several other conditions (which also apply to Kiddush and other tefilos) that are beyond the scope of this discussion.