Kosher Travel FAQ

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Thinking of heading out for a trip? Let’s hear from Rabbis Moshe and Hayim Asher Arking about common questions that can arise while traveling and how to best deal with them.

Are there any segulot for a safe trip?

Giving tsedaka is, in general, a protection. Therefore, it is customary to give tsedaka money to someone who is traveling for him to deliver at his destination. This makes the traveler a “shaliach mitsvah,” a messenger enroute to perform a mitsvah, thereby gaining protection throughout his travels. Escorting someone who is going to travel is also beneficial for his protection.

Must I pray with a minyan?

If one is driving and can find a minyan by going out of his way within eighteen minutes, then one should take out the time and do so. If by continuing along his route there will be a minyan within the next seventy-two minutes, then one should continue on to meet up with the minyan. GoDaven.com has a database for worldwide minyanim. However, when praying without a minyan one should try to pray at the same time as a local minyan is praying.

May I pray while sitting?

While traveling, one may pray sitting if he will have more concentration this way. When doing so, keep your feet together while sitting. One should bow at the appropriate times to bow, by either bending forward in his seat or, if possible, stand up and bow. If one is a passenger in a car, he should preferably request that the car stop while he is praying the Amidah; however, if this is not possible then he may pray while the car is in motion. However, the driver  may not pray while driving, even if he will miss the time for prayer.

Which direction should I face?

Ideally, one should pray facing towards Israel. If one is in Israel face towards Yerushalayim, and if one is in Yerushalayim, face towards the Kotel. If one cannot determine the proper direction or feels he will have more concentration facing another direction, in his heart he should direct his prayer toward Yerushalayim.

When flying, how do I know when it is time to pray?

The proper time to pray or to recite Shema is determined by standing at sea level under the location of where your plane is at that moment. Just looking out the window may mislead you by up to a half hour, especially because many airplane windows are darkened during daylight. You can go to myzmanim.com where you can enter your departure, arrival location, and time and it will calculate your route and tell you all of your halachic times throughout your flight.

What if the “fasten seatbelt” sign goes on while I am standing praying the Amidah?

On an airplane, if passengers or staff are going to be disturbed by congregating, it is better not to make a minyan in the first place, and to pray individually.

If one was able to find a spot to stand and pray and the “fasten seatbelt” sign went on, one should sit down without saying a word or making any gestures and resume his prayer. Even if there is no danger involved it is proper to obey the rules and to be courteous to the staff who request that you remain seated.

May one pray in a non-denominational chapel?

Many airports or hospitals have rooms designated for prayer. As we know, one may not enter a church even just to sightsee. Since such a room is designated for people of all faiths to use for prayer, a Jew should not pray there.

If I am in the airport with my tefillin bag in hand, may I enter the bathroom?

Although anything holy must be covered twice before being exposed, tefillin is an exception; therefore, even in its regular tefillin/tallet bag it may be brought into a bathroom if it cannot be properly guarded otherwise. If there is a siddur or ketoret in the bag, then the bag will require one additional covering. However, do not place the bag with the tefillin in it on the floor.

Can I recite a beracha or pray if I am not properly clothed?

When praying one should be dressed as if he were having an important meeting. However, if in a pressing situation one can pray as long as something covers his chest and lower body, with a separation between the two. As for a beracha, as long as he is wearing something, e.g. a bathing suit, and one’s head is covered, he can recite a beracha. The covering of one’s head is to be with something other than one’s own hand (in a pressing situation, another person’s hand may serve to cover his head).

Can I recite a beracha or pray if others are not properly clothed?

One may not recite a beracha or pray facing any woman or girl over the age of seven who is not properly dressed. Ideally, one should turn around to recite a beracha; otherwise, if not possible, it is sufficient to close one’s eyes. When praying one should find a secluded spot where he can concentrate and not be exposed even to a screen showing anything inappropriate.

Can I wash my hands in the bathroom on the plane?

One can use the airplane bathroom to wash their hands for bread or for the morning netilat yadayim. One need not wash when walking into such a bathroom without using the facilities. However, for a regular bathroom, it is preferable for one to dry his hands outside of the bathroom.

What if I don’t have a cup to wash my hands with?

If there is no cup with which to wash one’s hands, one may turn on the faucet and wash with the first flow at each part of the washing. Therefore, one would place their hand under the spout and turn on the water then shut the water off, turn it on, then shut it off, three times. For washing in the morning, one would begin by placing his right hand under the faucet and then turning it on, then off. Next, place his left hand under the faucet, turn it on and shut it off, repeating this three times alternately.

If there is a lake or a pond, one may dip his hands into it, and then recite the beracha of “al netilat yadayim.

What if I have no water with what to wash?

If one has no water, one may use other drinks to wash one’s hands. A minimum of three ounces should be used. When using liquids other than water, a beracha of “al netilat yadayim” should not be recited.

If one is traveling and does not anticipate having water within the next seventy-two minutes of their journey, and cannot get water without deviating eighteen minutes out of the way, then one may wrap their hands (not the food) in a cloth or bag and eat, without touching the bread. So too, if one cannot get up without waking up his fellow passenger, then they can wipe their hands very well on a cloth.

May I eat the breakfast offered by the hotel?

Bread, bagels, muffins, and individual cereal packets require proper kosher certification. Fresh fruit, such as apples, oranges, and bananas, of course, do not need to be certified outside of Israel. In Israel, in addition to making sure all produce has been properly tithed (terumot and ma’asrot taken), this year is the Sabbatical (shmitta) year, which has many restrictions regarding produce.

Even if no other ingredients are added to scrambled or hard-boiled eggs, if prepared by a non-Jew the food is considered to be bishul akum and may not be eaten. The pan or pot used is also forbidden due to the absorption of bishul akum. Additionally, the pot or pan is assumed to be not kosher from other ingredients.

Juice that is 100% pure is fine (unless it is grape juice). Once any flavors are added the juice will require certification. In order to have 100 percent juice from a fountain machine that serves non-kosher drinks, such as non-certified fruit punch or pink lemonade, let its spout run a minute before taking some of the kosher drink. If juice is in the hotel pitcher, look for the original container.

Coordinated by Pnina Souid