In this bright, colorful book Buchin and Miller deliver a version of the Traveler’s Prayer for children, in English. The short prayer is accompanied by diagrams that reflect, in abbreviated form, how the Jews have moved around since circa 1900 BCE until the present day.
The first few pages of diagrams reflect biblical drawings, showing the exodus from Egypt in 1280 BCE, the conquest of Canaan in 1240 BCE and the Babylonian exile in 587 BCE. Children glimpse their ancestors’ journeys through times happy and sad, in countries ranging from Babylonia to India, China to England, and Spain to Europe.
Certain chapters of Jewish history are bypassed. For example, the text “You are a God who hears those who call out to You” is accompanied by diagrams of Eastern European shtetls, with no mention of pogroms or expulsions. Similarly, we move from the Jews’ arrival in America, and the text “Blessed are You, God, who listens to prayers,” directly to the founding of the state of Israel — with no mention of the Holocaust. Of course, as this is a book designed for children to give them a sense of Jewish journeys as they recite a prayer for the start of their own journey, it would not have made sense to try and delve, even obliquely, into the darker chapters of recent Jewish history. The timeline Tefilat HaDerech covers is vast and selective, erring on the side of happy journeys rather than dark, scary ones.
At the back of the book Buchin adds the Traveler’s Prayer in Hebrew with an English translation, as well as Psalm 121, “A Song for Going Up.” “Remembering the role that God and the Jewish tradition play in our lives can help ease the transitions and hurdles that traveling can present,” he reflects, in his last word. “If we remember that we are not alone — that we are surrounded by community, part of a continuum of Jewish history and sheltered by God — all of our journeys will be sanctified in holiness.”
Tefilat HaDerech is a nice addition to a child’s Jewish library and gives a brief sense of that continuum of Jewish journeying. Recommended for ages 4 – 9.