Dear B’nai Shalom members, families, and friends:
With summer upon us, many families begin to view this portion of the calendar as a time when one’s existence is far more enhanced by virtue of blue skies, sunshiny days, pleasant weather, and opportunities to be with family.
With the summer months here now, people are undoubtedly thinking about taking vacations and anticipating well planned trips and enjoyable travels.
Even as we exult in warm summer days, I urge everyone – all Jews everywhere — to “not take a vacation from performing mitzvot (fulfilling the Torah’s commandments) and maasim tovim (acts of goodness and kindness).” So I offer at this time the message for our B’nai Shalom members, families, and friends, “not to take a vacation” from your Yiddishkeit.
I present this reminder, with all due respect, in order to recall that the mitzvot are on a “year round” schedule. The expectations and obligations of the Torah apply to us throughout the year and are meant to be part of our lives wherever we are, and at all times throughout the lifecycle of our Jewish people.
Lighting Shabbat candles on time, remaining strict about kashrut — paying close attention to what we eat and those things forbidden to us, davening three times a day, giving tzedakah on a regular basis, visiting and checking on those friends and others ailing around us, wearing tzitzit, putting on tefillin, remaining true to the laws of family purity, reciting brachot (blessings) before and after we eat and following the use of the washroom — these are all examples of typical, daily, routine, mitzvot (commandments) that surround us regularly BUT from which we could, if we permitted, take a vacation during these long and carefree summer days.
And really, the adjective “carefree” is the key. While it is not unusual for us to think of our blissful summer days as “carefree,” that truly is antithetical to Jewish thought. At no time in our lives, at any time on the Jewish calendar, are we to find ourselves “carefree.” Quite the opposite. We are ALWAYS expected remain careFUL, not careFREE. We are to take care of ourselves, our families, our people, our Torah, and all the tenets of a Torah-directed life.
That being the case, whether our travels take us to Honolulu, Key Biscayne, San Diego, or Paris, Amsterdam, London, or Eretz Yisrael, we should take great care to continue to fulfill the mitzvot– the laws, traditions, customs, and values of our Torah at all times, wherever we find ourselves.
On an instructive note for travelers, one should be familiar with the following directions concerning the Jewish “Travelers’ Prayer,” known as Tefillat HaDerech. This is a prayer said upon embarking on a journey that will take one out of one’s own city or town. The text is typically recited at the very beginning of one’s trip, whether traveling by car, plane or boat. For those traveling on a plane or boat, it should be said immediately upon take- off or leaving the port, respectively. For those doing their traveling by car, the prayer should be recited as soon as one reaches a portion of the trip where: a.) one has left his/her own city or town AND, b.) one has arrived in an area that appears to be a non- residential area. Therefore, upon driving out of Chicago, one would NOT say Tefillat HaDerech while driving through one suburb after another until eventually reaching a clearly-conspicuous non-residential area.
One may only recite the prayer one time in a 24-hour period beginning. For purposes of determining one full day, a full day is naturally determined by the Hebrew designation of the start of the day, beginning with sundown and continuing for the next 24 hours. Saying Tefillat HaDerech at any point within that 24 hour period counts for the rest of that entire day even if there are multiple, small trips taken during that time. Once one begins the new day with sundown (of the next Hebrew day), one may then recite the prayer for the rest of the next 24 hour day.
One selected person in a car, boat, or airplane, may say the prayer for other travelers who are able to hear the person reciting the prayer. This would work for anyone who keeps in mind that the prayer is being said for them.
Be healthy, be safe, travel well, and have a marvelous summertime.
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin