First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/balak-perilous-roads/
Baal Haturim Numbers: Balak
Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations. -Oliver Goldsmith
Although ubiquitous and constant and despite the marvels of modern technology at our disposal, travel remains one of the most fatal human activities, with more people dying from transportation accidents then any other non-medical cause. The advent of smartphones has likely increased the dangers we all face.
The Baal Haturim on Numbers 22:22 states that all roads are to be considered a source of danger. It does not matter how accustomed to the road we are or how many times we’ve travelled it.
There is an ancient Jewish Law, that when one sets upon the road to go any distance outside ones city, they must say the Wayfarer’s Prayer. It is a short, simple, direct prayer, beseeching God to protect us from the dangers of the road and to insure we reach our destination safely. We are so concerned about the pitfalls of travel that there is another short blessing of thanks (Birkat Hagomel) which is required for sea and air journeys that must be stated in a Minyan (a quorum of ten men). This is the same blessing as for one who was freed from prison, traversed the desert or recuperated from a bedridden illness.
May we take all appropriate physical, mental and spiritual precautions as we travel from place to place.
To David Taragan, who would so expertly take me safely from place to place.