Wayfarer's Prayer

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Joseph Herman Hertz (1872—1946) chief rabbi


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The prayer recited before setting out on a journey. The source for this prayer is in the Talmud (Berakhot 29b), where the prayer for the journey (tefillat ha-derekh) is referred to as taking counsel with the Creator before setting out. The Talmud gives the following version of this prayer: ‘May it be Thy will, O Lord my God, to conduct me in peace, to direct my steps in peace, to uphold me in peace and to deliver me from every enemy and ambush by the way. Send a blessing upon the work of my hands and let me obtain grace, loving-kindness and mercy in Thine eyes and in the eyes of all who behold me. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, Who hearkeneth unto prayer.’ However, Abbaye says in the passage that prayers should be offered in the plural in order for the individual to associate himself with the community, so that the wording should be: ‘May it be Thy will, O Lord our God, to conduct us in peace’, and so on. The practice, therefore, is to follow Abbaye and in most versions of the prayer the plural is used. In the Hertz Siddur, for some reason, the prayer is in the singular and a number of scriptural verses have been added, based on earlier prayer books. It is customary nowadays to recite the wayfarer's prayer before travelling in a plane, even though the hazards are far less than they would have been when journeying in a caravan in Talmudic times.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.

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