By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
There are many who travel often and do not want to say the bracha of Tefillas Haderech on a daily basis because there may not be a chiyuv to say it if they travel in populated areas. There is an eitzah to say Tefillas Haderech in the Shemoneh Esrei in the bracha of Shema Koleinu right before they travel. In this way there is no problem of possibly saying a bracha L’vatala.
The following question arises when a person is not sure whether or not he will travel that day. There is a possibility that he might travel. May he add this tefillah in Shema Koleinu or should he not add a possible unnecessary tefillah in Shemoneh Esrei?
Reb Chaim Kanievsky responded to this question and said that when someone adds the tefillah in Shema Koleinu for safe travel he helps other travelers too; therefore, it is recommended to add in the tefillah even if one is not sure whether he will travel or not. Rabbi Yaakov Meir Stern explained Reb Chaim Kanievsky’s reasoning; that since the tefillah is said in plural form and not in singular terms, the tefillah is effective for other travelers too. Rabbi Stern is of the opinion that one should add to the beginning of his addition in Shmone Esrei that it is conditional “im esa hayom”, (if I will travel today.) This way, it will not appear as if the person who is davening is lying.
Many other Gedolim agreed with the psak of Reb Chaim Kanievsky including Rabbi Shammai Gross who added that this is the reason the tefillah is written in the future tense “shetolicheini l’shalom” (you should guide me peacefully.) In essence, this is proving that it is not a lie because even if he doesn’t travel today, he will eventually travel at some point. Nevertheless, says Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Stern, if one is sure he is not travelling on that day, one should not add the tefillah because it might be considered an unnecessary hefsek in Shmoneh Esrei.
This halacha would apply even if one is travelling for a mitzvah like meeting his Rebbe or collecting tzedaka despite the fact that we have a rule that “shluchei mitzvah einan nizokin” (people on a mission of mitzvah do not get hurt.) In the case of one traveling, the concept of “shachi-ach hezeika” (it is common place to get hurt) applies. Since it is commonplace for accidents to occur on the road, the mission of doing a mitzvah will not be enough protection because it is so prevalent. Therefore, one should make sure to say Tefillas Haderech while travelling or at the very least one should add it to Shema Koleinu in Shemoneh Esrei.
May everyone have safe travels.