1. Since any form of travel, whether by land, sea or air involves a certain degree of danger — notwithstanding that the desire to travel is preordained and caused by G‑d, it is necessary to say a special tefilah, commonly referred to as “Tefilas Haderech” for a safe and uneventful trip.
2.The recitation of Tefilas Haderech is an edict established by the chachamim, and it is just as important to observe it as any of the other rabbinical decrees. Thus, neglecting to say Tefilas Haderech is comparable to neglecting hand-washing before eating bread or failing to listen to the Megilah [on Purim], and one who does so is called an “avaryan” (transgressor) .
Women have the same obligation in saying Tefilas Haderech as men do. Even though women are generally exempt from mitzvos which are time-related, Tefilas Haderech is not so categorized, since it is a prayer for a successful journey .
Children, should also say Tefilas Haderech.
The main text of Tefilas Haderech is the section beginning with the words “Yehi ratzon” and concluding with the words “shomei’ah tefilah.” In this tefilah we ask G‑d to guide and lead us to our desired destination in peace and joy and to prevent us from encountering delays and dangers.
While there are slight variations in the wording of the different texts (nuscha’os), the request is the same. [See the end of this volume for the complete versions of Nusach Ashkenaz, Sefard and Chabad.]
Depending on one’s custom, additional verses are recited after the initial prayer, ranging from as little as three verses to dozens of verses and complete chapters of Tehilim. A number of these customs and prayers are presented at the end of this volume.
Regarding adding a special request for a safe return trip, a great number of the sidurim that the author has perused have no such insertion.
In sidurim following Nusach Chabad there is a parenthetical statement that if one is planning on returning right away he should insert the words “vesachazireinu leshalom” (ותחזירנו לשלום) — “and return us in peace.” Thus, he would recite the Tefilas Haderech just once, on the way there. However, on longer trips, it appears that these two words are not said .
“Returning immediately” means before the next morning.
However, according to HaRav Betzalel Stern, the words “vesachazireinu leshalom” should always be inserted when one has intention of returning home, even if it will be after a long absence, such as a prolonged business trip, vacation, and the like. If, however, one is making a one-way, long distance move and is not returning, these two words are not added .
Just as in Shemoneh Esrei and other prayers one should have others in mind which is accomplished by wording one’s tefilos and requests in the plural, so too, the wording in Tefilas Haderech is in the plural, for example, “Elokeinu” — “our G‑d,” and “mechoz cheftzeinu” — “our destination .”
If a person prays on behalf of others as well, his prayers are more readily accepted.
Saying the tefilah in plural, even when one is traveling alone, is not considered to be in vain because there are surely other people throughout the world traveling at the same time .
Since Tefilas Haderech is a prayer rather than a blessing, it does not start off with the words “Baruch Atah.....” However, on account of its length, we do conclude “Baruch Atah Ado‑nai shomai’eh tefilah .”
Since this is similar to the berachah of “Shema Koleinu” in Shemoneh Esrei [and in fact many people would include the Tefilas Haderech as part of this berachah, as explained later on] which followed the previous berachos of Shemoneh Esrei, thus not requiring an opening berachah, the chachamim did not want to institute an opening berachah for Tefilas Haderech when being said alone .
If one inadvertently says the requests of Tefilas Haderech in a singular form, such as shetolicheini (that He should lead me) rather than in the plural (shetolicheinu), he has nonetheless fulfilled his obligation and does not have to repeat the Tefilas Haderech .
According to most versions there is one exception to the abovementioned rule. The word “vesitneini” (ותתנני) is said in the singular based upon esoteric teachings of the Torah .
According to some opinions this word should be said in the plural as well — “vesitneinu” (ותתננו) “grant me.”
In some texts of Tefilas Haderech the words “vesatzileinu mimayim ra’im vehazeidonim” (ותצילנו ממים רעים והזדונים) are added during the tefilah when traveling on the seas or oceans.
The Ramban composed a separate tefilah for those traveling on sea, which is included at the end of this volume.
If one does not have a text available from which to say Tefilas Haderech, nor does he know it by heart, then he may say the prayer in his own words in the language that he understands. He should still say it in the plural.
It is preferable for each individual to say his or her own Tefilas Haderech. A person who does not know how to say it may listen to another person’s recitation and answer “amen.”
If one does know how to say Tefilas Haderech and instead listens to someone else say it and answers “amen,” then bedi’eved he has fulfilled his obligation.