It is traditional to say T’fillat haDerech, the Traveler’s Prayer, when one sets out on a journey by sea, plane, car or other means of transportation. A section of the prayer reads:

שֶׁתּוֹלִיכֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם. וְתַצְעִידֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם. וְתַדְרִיכֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם. וְתִסְמְכֵנוּ לְשָׁלוֹם

“You should lead us in peace and direct our steps in peace, and guide us in peace, and support us in peace, and cause us to reach our destination in life, joy and peace.”

Kitat Erez, the third grade class, spent the first few days of school practicing routines and building community. They talked about how their third grade year is a journey and wrote their own T’fillat haDerech (prayer for travel) through third grade:

יהי רָצוֹן מִלּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹקנוּ וֵאֱלֹקי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ

May it be Your will, Adonai our God and God of our ancestors, that You guide us through this year, our classes, and problems with hope.

Bring us peace, friends, happiness, joy, and knowledge. Protect us from anger, sadness, violence, bullies, COVID, any more playground injuries, and noogies.

Bless us with Your heart, joy, smartness, kindness, love, peace, safety and a peaceful, happy year.

We hope that when You look at us You see good people, kind and smart children, kindness upon us, amazing third graders, and a new generation.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ שׁוֹמֵעַ תְּפִלָּה

Blessed are You, God, who hears our prayer.

How fitting for Kitat Erez to begin their journey in third grade by crafting their own version of T’fillat haDerech! By mimicking the cadence of the traditional prayer, we witness a modern-day version of a prayer that still has much resonance today. In fact, you can peek into what is on our students’ hearts and minds just by reading the specific words they incorporated into their class prayer. We witness their insights, hopes and dreams as they enter this new year full of excitement, eagerness and anticipation.

Today, we find ourselves on a different derech, a path, consisting of our own personal journeys during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, the 10 Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Similar to the third graders who pointedly ask God to “guide us through problems with hope,” these 10 days of repentance launch us on a personal journey that can feel daunting but be equally as hopeful. When we look at ourselves in the mirror and face our mistakes from the previous year, we can sometimes feel paralyzed and unable to find a way forward or, when thinking about important relationships that may have drifted, we can feel overwhelmed with emotion. And yet the Aseret Yemei Teshuva have an interesting twist in that these days invite us to not only look back and reflect but ask us to look forward and commit to positive change in the future.

We are a work in progress, and at JCDS we work hard to impart the value of a growth mindset to our students, faculty and staff. Mistakes are regarded as learning opportunities and problems are celebrated when faced courageously and collaboratively. So, as we continue on our own personal journeys to be the best versions of ourselves, during these Aseret Yemei Teshuva, I invite you to draw inspiration from the third grade and create your own T’fillat haDerech for this coming year. What do you need in order to move forward with success and joy?

Shira Deener is the head of school at JCDS Boston.

The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

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