Ukrainian Traveler's Prayer

Friday, 29 April, 2022 - 12:42 pm

There is an ancient Jewish custom to recite a prayer when on the road, called Tefilat Haderech – the Traveler’s Prayer.  It reads as follows:

May it be Your will, G‑d, our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that You should lead us in peace and direct our steps in peace, and guide us in peace, and support us in peace, and cause us to reach our destination in life, joy, and peace (If one intends to return that day, one adds: and return us in peace). Save us from every enemy and ambush, from robbers and wild beasts on the trip, and from all kinds of punishments that rage and come to the world. May You confer blessing upon the work of our hands and grant me grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us, and bestow upon us abundant kindness and hearken to the voice of our prayer, for You hear the prayers of all. Blessed are You G‑d, who hearkens to prayer.

If you read it carefully, you will notice that there is a line there that is to be read if one intends to return that same day, “and return us in peace.” If one is taking a longer journey, where the return will be delayed beyond that day, that passage is omitted.

Back in late February or early March, at the early stage of the conflict in Ukraine, people started to flee to wherever they could to avoid the threat of attack. Many of the Chabad Shluchim, though initially hoping that they and their families could stay, realized that it was not prudent to do so. They helped and continue to help tens of thousands of Jews in their communities to escape to safer locales. Many of the Rabbis have since returned or go back and forth between their cities and where their families are located, travel permitting.

A video circulated of one of the Shluchos (female emissary) who was in a car with her children evacuating from their hometown to safety. The mother was reciting the Traveler’s Prayer with her children. They read the first part of the prayer word for word. When she got to the passage “and return us in peace,” she hesitated and then opted to include it in her prayer. When asked why she said that passage if it was only meant for a same day turn around, she replied, “We hope that to return this very day. We have a mandate from the Rebbe here in Ukraine to take care of the Jewish community. It is up to Hashem to grant us the fulfillment of that possibility.”

While that part of the prayer was not granted, this story conveys their attitude toward the whole situation. Many people, especially those with foreign citizenship, are eager to get away and never come back. The Chabad Shluchim and their families and chomping at the bit to return to restore Jewish life to their communities. May Hashem grant that peace and safety be brought to the region so they can continue their holy mission of keeping Yiddishkeit thriving in their communities. May Hashem take us all out of exile and bring us to the Holy Land in peace with the coming of Mashiach speedily.

In the meantime let’s continue to support their work,

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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