תפילת הדרך | Tefilat haDerekh, a prayer for peace (trans. Rabbi David Seidenberg, neohasid.org)

Hebrew English

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְפָנֶיךָ
יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ,
שֶׁתּוֹלִיכֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם
וְתַצְעִידֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם
וְתַדְרִיכֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם,
וְתַגִּיעֵנוּ לִמְחוֹז חֶפְצֵנוּ
לְחַיִּים וּלְשִׂמְחָה וּלְשָׁלוֹם.
May the holy desire come from You,
YHVH, our Source and our ancestors’ Source,
that You will lead us toward peace
and make our every step be a step toward peace,
and our path be a path of peace,
May You help us reach the true target of our desire:
life, joy, and peace.

וְתַצִּילֵנוּ מִכַּף כָּל אוֹיֵב וְאוֹרֵב וְלִסְטִים
וְחַיּוֹת רָעוֹת בַּדֶּרֶךְ.
הַגָּן בַּעֲדֵינוּ מִכָּל מִינֵי מַשְׁחִית
וּמִכָּל מִינֵי פֻּרְעָנֻיּוֹת
הַמִּתְרַגְּשׁוֹת לָבוֹא לָעוֹלָם,
וְתִשְׁלַח בְּרָכָה בְּכָל מַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ.
וְתִתְּנֵנוּ לְחֵן וּלְחֶסֶד וּלְרַחֲמִים
בְּעֵינֶיךָ וּבְעֵינֵי כָל רֹאֵינוּ,
כִּי אל שׁוֹמֵעַ תְּפִלָּה
כָּל פֶּה.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה שׁוֹמֵעַ תְּפִלָּה׃
Rescue us from all enmity and ambush and theft
and predation (from all impulses to harm that confront us) on this path.
Be a shield on our side against all manner of destruction
and from any dangerous complications that may arise
from the passions that come into the world.
Bless our actions and handiwork
and grant us grace, love, and compassion
in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who behold us,
for You are the one who is listening to hear the prayer
of every mouth of every creature.
Blessed be You who listens for prayer.

In this Tefilat haDerekh (the prayer for travel), I’ve made a synthesis of Ashkenazi and Sefardi nusaḥ. Even though the translation is pretty close to literal in most places, it comes across as an extraordinary and activist prayer for peace. So I think of this prayer not just as a prayer for the beginning a physical journey, but for any spiritual journey, and especially for any campaign or action for justice and peace that a person or group might undertake. When applied to activism, the “enmity and ambush and theft and predation” we ask to be rescued from could also be interpreted as hatred, deceit, jealousy, and aggression, i.e., the kinds of feelings that cause people to work against each other, even within an organization, instead of working together. I first used this version of the prayer at the beginning of a tour of Israel and Palestine focused on the human rights and non-violent resistance, when the group passed through the first checkpoint of the trip.

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