Contact Us

Traveling at Night

Traveling at Night

 Email

1. A person should avoid traveling at all during the night.

The Talmud1 states that a person should arrive at his destination or leave when it is “ki tov” — “it is good” — which refers to light, [as it states at the beginning of Bereishis regarding the creation of light “G‑d saw the light that it was good”].

The reasons for leaving and arriving while it is still light and not traveling during the night are manifold:

(a) At night the mazikim (damaging spiritual forces) prevail.

(b) One may stumble into the pits, ditches (or potholes) which are not visible at night.

(c) In earlier times highwaymen would roam the roads at night and it was easy to be held up and robbed of one’s belongings.

(d) When coming into the city in the silence of night, one may be suspected of being a spy2.

2. It may happen that one is unconcerned about many of the specific reasons for not traveling at night. One may be traveling with a group of two or more (who need not be concerned about mazikim since they have no effect on groups of two or more). One may also be unconcerned about entering or leaving his own city since he is well aware of the ditches and other obstacles. Nevertheless, one should still avoid traveling at night due to the other reasons mentioned by Rashi (see above 1c,d)3.

There are those who permit two people traveling together to leave at night if one of them is an inhabitant of the city4.

3. Nowadays that the streets and roads are lit, traveling at night is considered similar to traveling during the day5.

4. Nowadays, most people are not particular about not starting trips during the day only, and they have reliable halachic authorities upon whom to rely.

The rationale for this is that

(a) The roads (generally) don’t have ditches or pits.

(b) Since the roads are used by many people, highwaymen and robbers are not a common occurrence, and

(c) The lights of the moving vehicles provide the same protection against mazikim as that provided by not traveling alone6.

5. In a directive issued by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson many years ago after a number of car accidents that occurred during the night hours, he states that one who is driving at night should stop every hour for a short while, or if there is more than one driver, they should drive in shifts and sleep when not at the wheel7

6. When one will be going to sleep during his trip — whether on an airplane, bus, train or car — and he intends to sleep for a lengthy time and he has nothing on his mind that will disturb his sleep, he should recite the Shema and “hamapil.”

However, if the duration will be a minimal number of hours (such as 1 or 2) and his sleep will not be relaxed, then he should say the Shema without the “hamapil.”

Some examples of what would not allow a person to sleep properly on a trip are:

(a) concerns he might miss his stop, if the bus or train makes a number of stops and he has no one to wake him up.

(b) worry that someone may mistakenly take his baggage8.

7. One who on account of exhaustion, will be falling asleep while it is still day [towards evening] and who will sleep into the night, [and eventually wake up to daven Ma’ariv] should recite the Shema without “hamapil,” which is not said when the sleep starts during the daytime9.

It once happened that the Chasam Sofer spent some time in Vienna. For eight days he stayed with a wealthy successful businessman from his city of Pressburg, who also happened to be a Torah scholar. The Chasam Sofer was perplexed to notice that the merchant was so occupied with his business dealings that he did not set aside any time each day for Torah study, as he was accustomed to do at home. The Chasam Sofer reproached the merchant for this behavior and the merchant explained that when he was at home he was able to free himself from his business and occupy himself with Torah study. However, when he was on the road, and especially in Vienna, he just couldn’t manage to find the time. To this the Chasam Sofer replied, “Come and I will show you that the Torah itself provides advice from G‑d which addresses this problem. In the Shema it says “and you shall speak of them when you sit at home and while you walk on the way, when you lie down and when you get up,” (Devorim 6:7). The verse can be interpreted as follows,” continued the Chasam Sofer. ‘And you shall speak of them’ — words of Torah — every day on a regular basis. When it is easy for you to free yourself from your worldly occupation, then you can do it ‘when you sit at home.’ But what should you do when ‘you walk on your way,’ when you are on a journey away from home? For this you have the suggestion ‘when you lie down and when you get up.’ At least just before going to bed and right after getting up in the morning and saying the blessings on the Torah, grab a few moments to learn something. To neglect Torah study completely is certainly not acceptable.”

Footnotes
1.
תענית י:, פסחים ב.
2.
רש"י תענית י: ד"ה ויכנס בכי טוב, תוס' פסחים ב. ד"ה יכנס בכי טוב
3.
מחצית השקל או"ח סימן ק"י סק"י
4.
שו"ע הרב או"ח סי' ק"י סק"ט, ערוך השלחן שם סק"י
5.
שערים מצויינים בהלכה סימן ס"ח הערה ד'
6.
אהלך באמיתך פרק ג: אות י"ד והערה כ"א
7.
This directive was given orally through his secretary, and while the directive as stated above may not be stated precisely as it was given, the gist of the directive is there. The author has not yet found anyone who remembers exactly all the details of the directive.
8.
אהלך באמיתך פרק י"ג: אותיות א-ה
9.
אהלך באמיתך פרק י"ג: אות ז
Rabbi Eliezer Wenger taught at the Beth Rivkah High School in Montreal, Canada, was rabbi at Congregation Oneg Shabbos in Montreal and the author of over a dozen works on Jewish law.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Start a Discussion
1000 characters remaining
Related Topics