|Tractate Berachot, Chapter 6
Tosefta 211[A person] who enters a city2 [should] pray two [prayers], one when he enters [the city] and one when he exits [the city].3 Rebbi Shimon4 says, “[He should pray] four [prayers], two [prayers] when he enters [the city] and two [prayers] when he exits [the city].”5 What [prayer should] he say [right before] he enters [the city]? “May it be Your will, Hashem, my God,6 that You will bring me into this city in peace.” [After] he has entered [the city] in peace, he [should] say [the following prayer]: “I thank You, Hashem, My God, that You brought me in peace. May it be Your will, Hashem, my God, that You will take me out from this city in peace.” [After] he has exited [the city] in peace, he [should] say [the following prayer]: “I thank You, Hashem, my God, that you took me out in peace. May it be Your will, Hashem, my God, that You will [allow] me to reach my place [of residence] in peace.”7
מסכת ברכות פרק ו
הנכנס לכרך מתפלל שתים אחת בכניסתו ואחת ביציאתו. רבי שמעון אומר ארבע, שתים בכניסתו ושתים ביציאתו. בכניסתו מה הוא אומר? יהי רצון מלפניך ה’ אלהי שתכניסני לכרך זה לשלום. נכנס לשלום אומר, מודה אני לפניך ה’ אלהי שהכנסתני לשלום. יהי רצון מלפניך ה’ אלהי שתוציאני מכרך זה לשלום. יצא לשלום אומר, מודה אני לפניך ה’ אלהי שהוצאתני לשלום. יהי רצון מלפניך ה’ אלהי שתגיעני למקומי לשלום.
- Mishna 4 of chapter 9 quotes the argument of how many prayers a person should say when he enters and exits a city. Our Tosefta quotes the same argument, but in the name of a different Tanna and quotes the text of the prayers that he should say.
- In the Roman Empire there seemed to be a prevalent notion that cities are more dangerous than villages due to rampant poverty, crime and desease. See Gregory S. Aldrete, “Daily life in the Roman city: Rome, Pompeii and Ostia”, 2004, p.4, p. 103-104. Roman cities including Rome itself, and obviously the cities in the Land of Israel had no police force of any kind. The responsibility to catch criminals rested on the people themselves. Since no one really cared much for the welfare of others outside of his own family the city could be a rather dangerous place especially for a visitor who does not have any connections and anyone to protect him from city criminals. It is interesting to note that Talmud Bavli (Berachot 60a) mentions the opinion of Rav Matna who says that the law of this Tosefta regarding prayers for going in and out of the city only applies to a city that does not have a court that has the authority to execute people, but if the city has such a court then the prayers do not need to be said. Rav Matna was a Babylonian Amora who studied under Shmuel in Nehardea, which places him in the first half of the 3rd century CE. This implies that in Babylonia in the 3rd century, which was under the control of the Persian Sassanid Empire (starting with Ardashir I in 226 CE), in cities that had a court in them that could perform executions there was a lot less crime than in other cities and therefore the prayers were not necessary. I am convinced that Rav Matna is not referring to a Jewish court, but rather to a regular Persian court, since by his time Jewish courts did not execute anyone, and even before the destruicton of the Bet Hamikdash when Jewish courts performed executions such occurencies were extremely rare. However it is possible that a Persian court could execute someone for a crime relatively fast and such executions were frequent, which would increase public fear and reduce crime. I do not think that presence of a capital court in the city meant that automatically there was a police force there as well which helped reduce crime. Even without police the mere fear of a possible execution would cause people to be more cautious about commiting crimes.
- The opinion of the Tanna Kama (the first Tanna) is that the person does not need to thank God for what already occurred. He only needs to request from God that nothing bad should happen to him. Therefore only one prayer with the request for the safe entry and for the safe exit is necessary.
- In the Erfurt manuscript the name of the Tanna who says this is Ben Azzai, just like it is in the Mishna. I have quoted the text to say Rebbi Shimon according to the Vienna manuscript.
- Rebbi Shimon holds that it is not enough to just request from God safe entry and exit, but rather a person should also thank God for providing him with a safe entry and exit. Therefore Rebbi Shimon adds a prayer of thanks upon entry into the city and a prayer of thanks upon exit from the city.
- In the Erfurt manuscript the text of the prayer reads, “Hashem, our God” instead of “Hashem, my God”. It seems to me that the way the Vienna manuscript quotes the text, “my God”, makes more sense, because this is a personal prayer that the Rabbis have not coined to the extent that the person must follow official text in Hebrew as obligatory prayers are, such as Berachot and Shemoneh Esreh, all of which always say “our God”. See the next note. Therefore the reading, “my God”, seems to be more applicable in this case.
- The Rambam (Perush Hamishnayot, Mishna Berachot 9:4) explains that this prayer is not formal as regular required prayers such as Shemoneh Esreh. Therefore a person is not required to face the Bet Hamikdash when he says it, is not required to prepare himself by setting his mind upon it, and it is not written in the formal text of a Beracha. But rather it is a personal supplication to God. Based on the Rambam’s explanation it seems that the Rabbis have not coined the exact text of this prayer, but merely suggested what a person should say. However this prayer does not need to be said in Hebrew and its text can vary some what. Based on this understanding of the Rambam it can be explained why the Rambam in his Mishna Torah does not quote the Halacha (law) that originates from Talmud Bavli (Berachot 29b) that a when a person goes out on a journey he needs to say Tefilat Hederech (A Prayer for a Journey). See Bet Yosef (Tur, Orach Chaim 110, Veharambam) who seems to be the first who asked this question. The Kol Bo (87, Hilchot Berachot, page 56a, right column, in the Lemberg 1860 edition), a halachic work by an anonymous Rishon (Medieval authority), says that this last prayer in our Tosefta that a person should say when he leaves the city is basically the same prayer as the prayer of Tefilat Haderech. I would like to propose that the Rambam agrees with the Kol Bo on this point and therefore since the Rambam already quoted the law from this Tosefta in Hilchot Berachot 10:25 he does not need to separately quote the law of Tefilat Haderech, because it would be redundant duplication. However, the Rambam disagrees with the Kol Bo regarding the point of how formal these prayers are. According to the Kol Bo Tefilat Haderech as well as the prayers quoted in our Tosefta, are formal prayers and therefore they should be said in the exact fashion that it is quoted in the Gemara, in plural form (i.e. “our God”, not “my God”) and end with a Beracha – Baruch Ata Hashem Shomeah Tefillah (Blessed You Hashem Who hears prayer), because that is the way the Rabbis have coined it, however according to the Rambam the text of Tefillat Haderech quoted in the Gemara is a mere suggestion and is not formally coined just like the rest of the prayers quoted in this Tosefta and therefore technically a person can say them in any language and using any expression he likes. Since there is no formal text of Tefilat Haderech the Rambam does not need to quote it in the Mishna Torah, but rather all he needs to say that a person should say some kind of a prayer when he leaves the city, as he did in Hilchot Berachot 10:25, and that would be sufficient for us to know that we need to say a prayer when we go out on a journey. As a side note I just would like to clarify that the whole long quote in the Kol Bo about Tefilat Haderech in the name of Ram (ר”מ) is not referring to the Rambam, but rather to Maharam Merutenburg who was sometimes called the Ram (Rabeinu Meir), and should not cause confusion.