Yihi l’ratzon milfanecha…
The Tefillat Ha’Derech, the prayer of the road, is an ancient ritual that Jewish travellers have recited for generations upon leaving their homes. It invokes God to protect us and guard us as we leave the normal world of our every day and step into the unknown. Travel, to our ancestors, was one of the most dangerous and challenging things that one could do. To venture onto the sea, to depart civilization and head out into the wild places of the world, was to take your life into your own hands. It was an act of faith that you would return to those you loved, to those who loved you. It was not only a moment worthy of blessing but a time that required the intervention of the divine.
Today, travel is exciting and joyous! It is an opportunity to expand your horizons and experience God’s creation. To behold the natural wonders of the world and the exciting diversity of humankind. To quote the author, chef, and famed world traveller Anthony Bourdain z’l, “Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life- and travel- leaves marks on you.”
In just a few days Lisa Isen Baumal and I will be stepping onto an airplane with some of our most amazing Holy Blossom teenagers and travelling to Israel! And for me, for the first time in a very long time, I feel that classic sense of nervousness, as if I were departing for a new place. This will be a new style of trip for me. I’m used to shepherding young couples who are unengaged, helping them ‘reattach themselves’ to Judaism. The teens who are coming with me are some of the most engaged Jews, of any age, I know!
I am nervous about this trip. Good nerves, excited nerves, shpielkes nerves. I can’t wait to show our confirmands the wonders of our spiritual homeland, the joy and the challenge of the Jewish state. I know that the peace work and conversations we will engage in will be meaningful and complicated for them. I am holding my breath, hopeful that the ancient sites and stones that our people have walked down will echo with history and potential for our next generation, filling their hearts and souls with Jewish pride. And I pray that they will fall in love like I did the first time I travelled to Israel independent of my family. That they will see themselves in the state of Israel and know that it can be their home. Whether it is their home for a moment, for a few years or for a lifetime.
And so, these words of the Tefillat Ha’Derech come pouring out of my lips.
May it be your will oh God, that you should lead us in peace, direct our steps in peace, guide us in peace, support us in peace, and that when we reach our destination it will be for life, joy and peace! Amen!
You can learn more about your own chance to travel to Israel, and beyond, with Holy Blossom HERE!