Tradition & Innovation
Powered By The Reconstructionist Movement

A Family Ritual for a New Driver

By Rabbi Rona Shapiro

Undoubtedly, receiving one's first driver's license has become a major milestone on the road to adulthood. Usually, its means different things to the teenager and to the parents -- the teenager is filled with the excitement of her new independence and freedom and the recognition of her adult privileges; the parents are filled with trepidation -- is their child really ready for this momentous moment? Will they drive safely and exercise good judgement? A ritual for parents and children helps to integrate this mixture of feelings, enabling the parents to recognize the child's accomplishment while simultaneously offering words of caution and protection.

The Ritual

  • On or close to the day on which the child receives her driver's license, prepare her favorite meal and plan to have everyone home to celebrate.
  • Together, write a contract, in which parents and children spell out expectations around use of the car. A sample contract1 might look like this:

Respecting the privilege of driving, I will:

  • Wear a seatbelt and ask my passengers to do the same
  • Drive at or under the posted speed limit
  • Respect the rules of the road
  • Drive with courtesy and caution
  • Be home on time or call before I am late
  • Take care of the car, reporting problems immediately
  • Refuse to drink or use any drugs when driving

We will:

  • Expect to be called if any problem with the car or passengers arise
  • Come get you, no questions asked, when you need us
  • Always take care of repairs needed on the car.

Both parties should sign the contract and keep it somewhere safe.

Parents and the new driver can then read tefilat haderech (prayer for the road) together. One can also find this prayer printed on a plastic keyring or a plastic version that hangs from the rear view mirror which would make an appropriate gift for the occasion. Also see the driver's prayer in the personal milestones section of ritualwell.org.

Tefilat Haderech (Traveller's Prayer)


Yehi ratzon milfanekha Adonai Eloheinu ve'Elohei avoteinu shetolikhenu l'shalom,
v'tatzidenu l'shalom, v'tadrikhenu l'shalom, v'tagi'enu limchoz cheftzenu l'chayim
ul'simchah ul'shalom v'tatzilenu mikaf kol oyev v'orev (v'listim v'chayot ra'ot)
baderekh, umikol minei puranuyot hamitragshot lavo la-olam, v'tishlach brakhah
be(khol) ma'aseh yadeinu, v'titnenu l'chen ul'chesed ul'rachamim b'einekha uv'einei khol
ro'einu, v'tishma kol tachanuneinu, ki El shome'a t'filah v'tachanun attah. Barukh
attah Adonai, shome'a t'filah.


T'hi ratzon milfanayikh Adonai Eloheinu v'Elohei imoteinu shetolikhinu l'shalom,
v'tatzi'dinu l'shalom, v'tadrikhinu l'shalom, v'tagi'inu limchoz cheftzenu l'chayim
ul'simchah ul'shalom v'tatzilinu mikaf kol oyev v'orev (v'listim v'chayot ra'ot)
baderekh, umikol minei puranuyot hamitragshot lavo la-olam, v'tishl'chi brakhah
be(khol) ma'aseh yadeinu, v'titninu l'chen ul'chesed ul'rachamim b'einekha uv'einei khol
ro'einu, v'tishmi kol tachanuneinu, ki El shoma'at t'filah v'tachanun at. B'rukhah
at Yah, shoma'at t'filah.

May it be Your will, Lord our God and God our ancestors, that you lead us toward peace, place our footsteps toward peace, guide us toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness and peace and return us to our homes in peace. May You rescue us from the hand of every foe, ambush along the way and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to earth. May You send blessing in our handiwork, and grant us grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us. May You hear the sound of our supplication, because You are God Who hears prayer and supplication. Blessed are You, God, Who hears prayer.


1. Sample Contract taken from How to Bury a Goldfish...and 113 Other Family Rituals for Everyday Life by Virginia E. Lang and Louise B. Nayer (Daybreak Books, 2000).

Used by permission of the author

Complete Ceremony