- Question: [Monday, 9th Elul 5781]
When taking a flight, when is the prayer of Tefilas Haderech to be recited? Should it be said on the airplane or on the way to the airport? If it should be said on the airplane, then should it be said after takeoff or before takeoff?
If the airport from which you are flying from is not within your city and you must travel more than a Parsa distance [i.e. 3.8 km] from your city until you get to the airport, then you are to recite the prayer of Tefilas Haderech during your travel to the airport after leaving your city, and this will include also your flight. [Thus, one who lives in northern or southern Israel and must travel to Ben-Gurion airport to catch his flight, is to recite Tefilas Haderech on his way to the airport.] If, however, the airport is within the same city, such as one who lives in New York City who is taking a flight from JFK, then the prayer of Tefilas Haderech is only to be recited on the plane. Ideally, it should be recited only after the plane takes off. Nonetheless, many Rabbanim are of the opinion that it should be recited while still on the runway directly prior to takeoff or within takeoff. Practically, one who did not say prior to takeoff should say it after taking off.
Explanation: Whenever one travels a distance of a Parsa on the road he needs to say the prayer of Tefilas Haderech, and certainly this should apply when one flies, as flying involves potential danger. Nonetheless, some Poskim say that flying is not considered a road or Derech according to Halacha, and hence it should not be recited. Practically, we do not rule like this opinion as the main thing is the danger of travel and not the technical Hebrew wording of the form of travel. Nonetheless, we still find a debate regarding when the prayer is to be said when taking a flight. It is obvious, if your travel to the airport itself requires the prayer to be said, then it should be said at this time, during this travel to the airport, and should not be delayed until the flight. If, however, the travel to the airport does not deserve the prayer, then it is only to be said on the flight, and since the rule is that one only begins saying Tefilas Haderech after he is already engaged in the travel and has left the city, therefore also on the plane Tefilas Haderech should only be said after takeoff when one has already left the city. Nonetheless, many Rabbanim rule that the prayer should be said before takeoff, seemingly due to the fact that many people begin to have anxiety and panic right before takeoff or during takeoff, and hence it is considered the more dangerous part of the flight.
Sources: Poskim who rule to say when flying: Rebbe in Likkutei Sichos 12:152, Shulchan Menachem 1:135; Sefer Haminhagim Chabad p. 14; Yechaveh Daas 2:26; Rav Epshtein of the Eida Hachareidis, brought in Betzeil Hachochmah 1 p. 190; Beis Avi 4:18; Piskeiy Teshuvos 110:2; Halacha Berurah [Yosef] 110:10; Poskim who rule not to say by flight: Rogotchaver, brought in Ishim Vishitos of Rav Zevin p. 97 based on Chulin 139b; Chelkas Yaakov 2:9; Reb Aaron of Belz; Poskim who rule to recite on way to airport if not in same city: Rebbe in Likkutei Sichos 12:152, Shulchan Menachem 1:135; Sefer Haminhagim Chabad p. 14; Piskeiy Teshuvos 110:2 footnote 16; Rav Elyashiv in his Shiurim; Poskim who rule to say while still on runway by start of takeoff: Shulchan Halevi [Belsky] 2:10 in name of previous Rabbanim; Emes Leyaakov [Kaminetzky] footnote 139; Kuntrus Ubilechtecha Baderech p. 9;See Mishneh Halachos Tinyana 77; Beir Moshe 7 Kuntrus Elektri 83, 7:114; Poskim who rule to say after takeoff, when high enough to be danger to fall off plane: Rav SZ”A in Halichos Shlomo 21:4
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