Tefi­lat HaDerech: The Trav­el­er’s Prayer

Joshua Buchin
  • Review
By – April 30, 2012

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.

Lau­ren Kramer is a Van­cou­ver-based jour­nal­ist, wife, and moth­er with a life­long pas­sion for lit­er­a­ture. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, she has won awards for her writ­ing and report­ed from many cor­ners of the world. Read more of her work at www​.lau​renkramer​.net.

Discussion Questions