From “Guidelines to Tefilla” by Rabbi Elozor Barclay and Rabbi Yitzchok Jaeger
For which journeys should one recite tefillas haderech?
When traveling at least 4.7km (2.9 miles) beyond the outskirts of the town.
When should it be recited?
- Ideally, it should be recited soon after passing the last house of the town, before one has traveled a further 4.7km (2.9 miles).
- If this distance passed, the b’racha may still be recited as long as one is still 4.7km away from the town of destination.
May one recite it while still in the town?
No, but if one did so the b’racha is valid and should not be repeated.
Should the b’racha be recited sitting or standing?
It is preferable to stand, if it is not difficult to do so.
How should a driver recite it?
- If possible, he should halt the car by the side of the road and recite the b’racha. He is not required to leave the car in order to stand.
- If it is not possible to halt, he should listen to another passenger reciting the b’racha and have in mind to be included.
- If he cannot halt and is driving alone, he should not recite the b’racha, since it is impossible to fully concentrate on two things simultaneously. If he anticipates this situation, he should insert tefillas haderech in the b’racha shema koleinu during the shemoneh esrei prior to his departure.
Why do some people eat food before reciting tefillas haderech?
Since tefillas haderech does not begin with the word baruch, it is preferable to recite it immediately after another b’racha that concludes with baruch. For example, one should eat some food or have a drink, recite the after-bracha al hamichya or borei nefashos, and immediately follow it with tefillas haderech.
May one also use the b’racha before food for this purpose?
Opinions differ whether this is valid, since one must eat a little food between the b’racha and tefillas haderech. However, if no other option is available, this method may be used.
What if one has no food or drink?
Tefillas haderech should be recited nevertheless.
May one recite the b’racha more than once a day?
Usually, the b’racha should only be recited once a day. For example, if a person stops in a town for a few hours in the middle of the journey, he should not repeat the b’racha when continuing. Similarly, if he arrives at his destination and returns home on the same day, he should not repeat the b’racha.
What if he returns home at night?
For these laws, the day is reckoned from dawn to dawn. Therefore, if a person recites tefillas haderech in the morning, he should not repeat it during the following evening.
What if one travels for more than a day?
- If he stops traveling at night, he should repeat the b’racha when continuing the journey in the morning.
- If he travels through the night, he should not repeat the b’racha in the morning, even if he sleeps at night (e.g. on a plane, train). However, it is correct to recite tefillas haderech omitting the name of Hashem at the conclusion of the b’racha when continuing the journey, or insert tefillas haderech in the b’racha shema koleinu when davening shacharis.
When should the b’racha be repeated on the same day?
If one arrived at a town and decided to spend the night there, and then changed his mind to continue the journey or return home. In this situation he must repeat tefillas haderech, although it is still the same day. Similarly, if one unexpectedly had to undertake a second journey on one day, the b’racha must be repeated.
When should one recite the b’racha when traveling by plane?
- If he leaves the city to travel to the airport, he should recite the b’racha then, and have in mind to include the flight.
- If the airport is within the city, he should recite the b’racha on the plane as it begins to accelerate for take-off.
May one person recite the b’racha for others?
Yes. The others should have in mind to be included and should listen carefully to the words. The b’racha should not be recited with a loudspeaker, since the sound heard is not a valid b’racha according to some opinions.
Should women recite tefillas haderech?
May a traveler daven shemoneh esrei sitting?
Every effort should be made to avoid the necessity to do this. Therefore, time permitting, one should daven shemoneh esrei standing before the journey begins, or wait until he arrives at his destination.
Is it better to daven shacharis standing before sunrise or sitting after sunrise?
It is better to daven standing before sunrise before the journey than to daven sitting after sunrise while traveling. Nevertheless, one may not daven shacharis before halachic dawn.
Should one daven shacharis after one third of the day in order to stand?
No. It is better to daven sitting before one third of the day while traveling than to daven standing after this time when arriving at one’s destination. This applies even if he will find a minyan after he arrives.
Should one daven mincha after sunset in order to stand?
No. It is better to daven mincha sitting before sunset than standing after sunset.
May one daven ma’ariv before nightfall in order to stand?
Yes. It is better to daven ma’ariv standing before nightfall than sitting after nightfall. This is true only if mincha was recited before plag hamincha. Additionally, ma’ariv must be recited after plag hamincha and shema repeated after nightfall.
May one daven ma’ariv after midnight in order to stand?
Yes. It is better to daven ma’ariv standing after midnight than sitting before midnight. However, one should recite shema before midnight while traveling.
Should one try to stand for shemoneh esrei when davening while traveling?
Yes, provided that one will be able to concentrate properly. Therefore, one should not stand in the aisle of a bus or plane to daven shemoneh esrei, since he will be constantly disturbed by other people wishing to pass.
Which direction should one face?
If possible, one should face Yerushalayim as usual. If this is difficult, or he does not know the correct direction, he may face any direction and focus his attention on Hashem.
May one lean or hold onto something while standing?
Although this is usually forbidden during shemoneh esrei, it is permitted while traveling, if necessary (e.g. he is afraid he may fall). This is better than davening shemoneh esrei while sitting.
Should one try to stand for part of shemoneh esrei ?
Yes. If one must sit for shemoneh esrei, he should try to stand for the following, if practical:
- The first b’racha.
- The places where one should bow.
- When saying oseh shalom at the conclusion.
If this is not possible, he may sit for the entire shemoneh esrei.
How should one be positioned when sitting for shemoneh esrei ?
- One should place the feet together as usual.
- One must sit up straight without leaning one’s back on the chair.
- One should bow his head downwards.
May one leave a bus in the middle of shemoneh esrei ?
If a person began shemoneh esrei on a bus and reached his destination before finishing shemoneh esrei, he may leave the bus and continue outside. Extreme care must be taken not to talk.
What should a driver do about davening?
It is forbidden to daven anything while driving, and it is dangerous to attempt to do so. If possible, he should break his journey at a convenient place (e.g. restaurant, gas station) in order to daven.
When is a traveler obligated to recite bircas hagomel?
After a journey by ship. The custom is also to recite the b’racha after a flight over the sea.
What if the flight is not over the sea?
- According to many opinions, the b’racha should not be recited, and this is the widespread custom.
- According to some opinions, the b’racha should be recited.
What if one stops for a few days in the middle of the journey?
The b’racha should not be recited until one has reached his final destination.
What if he is staying at his destination for only one day?
He should recite the b’racha when arriving at his destination and repeat it after returning home.
When should one recite the b’racha?
The custom is to recite it in shul at the first krias hatorah following his arrival. The b’racha should be recited loudly so that at least ten men will hear it.
What if he missed the first opportunity?
- Ideally, the b’racha should be recited within three days of his arrival.
- If this passed, he should try to recite it within five days.
- If this passed, he may recite it within thirty days, but no longer.
Must he be called up to the Torah?
This is preferable but not essential, and is not a reason to postpone reciting the b’racha. He certainly does not override a person who has an obligation to be called up.
May one person recite the b’racha for others?
Yes. If several people need to recite it, one person can have in mind to include the others with his b’racha. The others should listen carefully to the b’racha having in mind to fulfill their obligation through this, and answer amen. The text should be adjusted to the plural form – shegemalanu.
If he is called up to the last portion of the Torah reading, should he recite the b’racha before or after kaddish?
Opinions differ and one should follow the local custom.
Should women recite the b’racha?
The custom is that women do not recite bircas hagomel. (In some communities, women recite the b’racha after giving birth, but not on other occasions, e.g. after a safe journey.) A woman who wishes to thank Hashem for a safe journey should have extra concentration when saying hagomel chasadim tovim le’amo Yisroel in the morning brachos.