The topic of Tefilas HaDerech really comes up later in Mesechta Berachos, but I found a way to sneak it in this week. There are many questions surrounding the recital of Tefilas HaDerech. The most basic one is what travel warrants the recital of Tefillas haderech. That question I will leave for a later time. But I just wanted to mention it because I wanted to somehow get the siyum hashas into this article!
My brother-in-law was travelling to the siyum hashas via a New Jersery transit train. Among the 500 siyum bound Jews on the train, was a Talmid Muvhak of HaRav Moshe Feisntein. The talmid and three other people recited Tefilas HaDerech. No one else did. There clearly is some debate about when Tefilas HaDerech is required.
I once had the “opportunity” to ride on a bus together with a large group of seventh graders. There was an announcement that the recital of Tefilas HaDerech was imminent. One boy then quickly went around the bus asking everyone if they had any “extra” food they could give him. He explained that he had a minhag to eat before saying Tefilas HaDerech. Now, there are people who call Judaism a gastrocentric religion. This though is a little too much. Is there a Mitzvah to experience motion sickness? Or was his request just a clever ploy to schnorr food?
Actually, there is a Halachic basis for his request, sort of. Most long Berachos begin with and end with the formula “Baruch Atoh Hashem…” The Beracha of Asher Yotzar, for example, has the phrase Baruch Atoh in the beginning and the end. Some long Berachos though, only have the phrase Baruch Atoh at the end. The Second Berachah of Bentching for example, ends with Baruch Atoh Hashem Al Ha’aeretz V’al Hamozon. However, it starts directly with Nodeh Lecha without any preamble. Since the first Beracha of Bentching ends with Boruch Atoh Hashem Hazan Es Hakol, the proximity of that phrase to Nodeh Lechah, the next Beracah, obviates the need for another “Boruch Atoh” preamble to start the second Beracha. The term for this is called “Beracha Hasemucha L’chaveirta”. One when beractoh.ha is recited directly after another beracha, it may not need to start with Boruch A
The prayer of Teffilas HaDerech is a long Beracha that culminates with Boruch Atoh Hahsem Shomeia Tefillah.. The question arises as to why it doesn’t start with Baruch Atoh. It is seemingly an independent beracha. All independent blessings that are not part of a series should start with Boruch Atah. The Maharam MiRotenburg explains that the Beracha was intended to be recited after the long Beracha of Ma’avir Sheina. The proximity of the end of that beracha “Boruch Atah…Gomeil Lachasadim” precludes the need for Tefilas HaDerech to start with Boruch Atah.
Where one already said the Beracha of Ma’avir Sheina, the Mishna Berurah (OC 110) advises one to orchestrate the need to say any long beracha such as Asher Yotzor, Al HaMichya and Boresi Nefashos. This necessary blessing should then be followed by Tefilas HaDerech. So what the boy perceived as his family’s custom of eating before Tefilas HaDerech, was actually just the preparation necessary to say the Beracha Achrona of Al Hamichya or Borei Nefashos. This boy though only knew he had a mitzvah to eat!
The Chasam Sofer writes in his glosses to Shulchan Aruch that his Rebbe used to smell spices before Tefillas HaDerech. Rebbe Nosson Adler, the Chasam Sofer’s Rebbe, apparently held that even a short beracha, such as the one recited on spices, recited before Tefilas HaDerech would also obviate the need to start Tefilas HaDerech with Boruch Atah. Why didn’t he use a beracha on food instead? Why didn’t he recite Borei Pri HaEtz, take a bite out of an apple and recite Tefilas HaDerech? He felt that eating would be an interruption between the beracha and tefilas haderech. Consequently, Teflias HaDerech would still need a Boruch Atah opening. Rebbe Nosson Adler felt that smelling spices, however, would not be an interruption. The Chasam Sofer himself disagreed and felt that even smelling spices would qualify as an interruption. The Mishna Berura perhaps concurred, and therefore only listed Asher Yotzar and Berachos Acharonos as possible berachos to use.
However, if this technique is not possible, one should certainly not start Tefilas HaDerech with Boruch Atah, rather he should use the text found in the siddur.
There is a limud zechus why people are not careful about this Halacha to even attempt to recite a required beracha before Tefilas HaDerech from our gemora. Kohanim who were involved in the Avodah had precious few moments to daven. Our sages instituted the required minimum blessings and prayers that they had to recite. One such blessing was one of the berachos recited before morning Kriyas Shema. According to one opinion they recited Ahava Rabba. The Rashba concludes from this gemora that one may recite birchos kriyas shema out of order. The Rashba is bothered by the fact that the kohanim and anyone who recites the berachos out of order, is starting the Beracha of Ahava Rabba without Boruch Atah. Normally it is recited after Boruch Atah Hasshem Yotzer Hamioros.
The proximity of that beracha to Ahava Rabba obviates the need for the usual blessing preamble. However, the Kohanim recite Ahava Rabba alone! Why shouldn’t they start Ahava Rabba with Boruch Atoh? The Rashba answers that once chazal instituted a blessing, they did not change the text even if it is recited under other circumstances. Once Ahava Rabba was formulated without a Boruch Atoh opening there is no need to even attempt to place it next to another beracha. Most of the time it is placed next to another beracha, yotzer hameoros. The kohanim who are the exception to the normal practice need not be concerned because they are acting appropriately be reciting Ahava Rabba independently.
The Tziz Eliezer (6:2) says that this logic is most apparent from the Rashba’s inclusion of Tefilas HaDerech into the list of berachos that were instituted not to open with Boruch Atah. Shomeia Tefilah is a beracha we recite every weekday in Shemoneh Esrai. Tefilas HaDerech ends with Shomeia Tefilah. Although the content of both berachos are markedly different, they still conclude exactly the same way. Shomea Tefilah in Shemoneh Esraih does not start with Boruch Atoh since it is adjacent to Bouruch Atoh Hahsem Matzmiach Keren Yeshua.
Once our sages instituted that Shomea Tefilla should not start with Boruch Atoh, all Shomea Tefillos blessings do not start with Boruch Atoh. (The Tzitz Eliezer takes pains to explain that the logic is not simply that since most times it is recited samuch lachaveirta, it is always viewed that way. Rather, our sages chose to formulate certain berachos as shortened berachos because it is usually samuch lachveirta) Therefore, according to the Rashba, there is no need to even attempt to recite another beracha before Tefillas HaDerech. Unlike the Maharam MiRottenburg, the Rashba holds that Tefilas HaDerech was originally formulated to be an indoenedet beracha.
However, the Shulchan Aruch and the Mishne Berurah still rule that one should attempt to recite another required beracha before Tefillas HaDerech. So the appropriate response to “Let’s recite Teffilas HaDerech” should be I’ll drink to that!