The Traveler's Prayer – Tefillat HaDerech – is said whenever we leave town on a trip (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Haim, 110). How big a trip warrants saying this bracha?
The Gemara in Brachot 30a states that Tefillat HaDerech is said when travelling a "parsah" or more outside of town (see Rashi ibid). A "parsah" is equal to 4 "mil", which is about 4 kilometers (opinions range from 3.840 km /2.385 miles to 4.640 km / 2.9 miles).
Our question is do we count this in distance or time? Some opinions say that a parsah is a distance, so we always calculate it as a spatial measurement (see Mishna Brurah, ibid 30). Based on this, there are many trips today in which we travel a parsah outside of town in an area devoid of houses, and we would hence need to say the bracha.
On the other hand, some authorities understand this to mean the time it takes to walk a parsah, which is 72 minutes. Therefore, only when travelling out of town through an unpopulated area for a journey of 72 minutes or more would one say this bracha (see She'arim Metzuyanim BeHalacha on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 68,2, and Rav Ovadya Yosef zt"l's Yabiah Omer 1, 13).
Perhaps we could explain this argument based on the reason why Tefillat HaDerech was established. If we say it was written for people who would be in a dangerous situation for a length of time, then the meaning of a "parsah" should be measured in minutes. The bracha was intended for those who would be "bederech", that is on a dangerous trip for a length of time. On the other hand, it could be that the rabbis understood that already a parsah's distance outside of town, there is a danger of bandits and wild animals. If so, the measure should be one of distance and not time, for as soon as a person reaches a parsah out of town, the danger begins – no matter how long he will be on the road.
Many rabbis write that today, when the major danger of travel is from traffic accidents, Tefillat HaDerech should be said whenever one will be on an intercity road (of more than 4 kilometers outside town) – for we see that even on a trip of less than 72 minutes, the danger of being on the road warrants saying the bracha. We don't say the bracha in town, even though there are many car accidents also inside the city, because the blessing was established for travelers on the way, and only outside town does one fall under the category of a "traveler". But as soon as one is on the way, the dangers are immediate, and not a function of how much time is spent on the road. Therefore it makes sense to say the bracha immediately after leaving town, if traveling for more than 4 kilometers, even if for less than 72 minutes.
May we all merit to have safe trips.שיעורים נוספים ניתן למצוא בקטגוריות הבאות: ברכות
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