Be Your will, Lord, our God and God of our ancestors, that you lead us towards peace, that you guide our steps towards peace and that we reach the desired goal of life, joy and peace. … Send Your blessing into our hands, and give us grace, goodness and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us.
The Traveler's Prayer, also known as the Traveler's Prayer or Tefilat Haderech in Hebrew, is an invocation recited at the beginning of a journey. Usually recited when someone embarks on a long journey, the prayer is a request for safety and security, but also for the traveler to be a blessing to those he meets on his journey.
Daniel Herszberg, a 30-year-old doctoral student from Australia, said the prayer was common among Jewish travelers and the "beautiful text" traveled with him as he visited all197 countriesworldwide in the last 10 years.
After completing his feat by setting foot in Tonga in March 2023, Herszberg became the 145th most traveled person in the world. Along the way, he also accumulated79,000 Instagram followers at @dhersz. He too became an unofficial student of humanity, appreciating the opportunity to learn more about the world's religions and connect with Jewish communities spread across the globe.
From Addis Ababa to Tehran, Herszberg visited synagogues, schools, cemeteries and Sabbath services in hospitable homes. In Suriname and Poland, Pakistan and Sudan, Barbados and Brazil, Herszberg not only discovered valuable archives and legacies, but also connected with local people who shared his stories, both lived and forgotten. In some cases, she was the first person to visit Jewish heritage sites in decades.
It's a responsibility the 30-year-old global citizen is quite philosophical about, whether in terms of what it means for the diaspora as a whole or who he is as a modern Jewish traveler.
"No matter how far you travel," Herszberg said, "it always comes back to where it started: home."
Experience the religious diversity of the world first hand.
Herszberg said he grew up in a "typical Jewish suburb" in Melbourne, Australia. But at the age of two, his South African-born mother took him to visit his great-grandmother in Canada.
It was his first trip abroad, and not long after, Herszberg became fascinated with the idea of traveling. He saidSydney Morning Heraldthat since he was a child with flags of the world hanging in his bedroom he was hooked on the idea of visiting other countries.
As a student at Yeshiva College in the suburb of St. Kilda and a student of law and arts at the city's Monash University, Herszberg took every opportunity to go abroad. Money earned from holiday jobs funded his first trips, and education scholarships gave him opportunities to study abroad in China and the UK. He later he worked as a lawyer in Hong Kong.
Then, in 2019, Herszberg quit his job and began traveling full-time, hoping to become the youngest Australian to visit every country in the world. But lockdowns due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions disrupted his plans and he was only able to pitch after the quarantines were lifted.
While the records may not be his, Herszberg said that seeing the world from a different perspective and stepping out of his comfort zone far outweighs any accolade or title. The opportunity to grow in his experience and knowledge of other religions was a special blessing of the trip, he said. “I had never been to church until some of my trips in my early 20s,” Herszberg said, “and there was so much I didn't know or understand. I felt uncomfortable, I didn't know where to sit, if I could sit, so I stood up and walked."
That discomfort, Herszberg said, stemmed not from hostility but from curiosity. As he began to travel more, he sought opportunities to visit more churches and other holy places: temples, mosques, and monasteries. "So much of this journey has been about pushing ourselves beyond various limits," he said, "and overcoming barriers that we've placed on ourselves because of our religious, cultural or ethnic backgrounds."
The more Herszberg traveled, the more that initial fascination turned into a certain familiarity. While he initially noted more differences between Christianity, Islam or Buddhism and the Jewish faith with which he was familiar, Herszberg slowly came to appreciate the similarities they shared. As time passed and as he was invited to people's places of prayer or witnessed a ritual or ceremony, Herszberg began to see how each religion channels something of the common human desires, fears, or longings for community.
"There is a moment when you are in a certain place or participating in an experience that you can feel that there is something in the air, a higher element that the people around you are looking for together," he said.
Exploring the ends of the Jewish diaspora
Although Herszberg does not consider himself religious, the conceptcommunity—or shared intimacy—resonated with him as he connected with the Jewish people and stories from around the world. If he attended a synagogue in Damascus, Syria; "mikveh" - ritual bath - in Cairo, Egypt; or Jewish schools in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Herszberg always had the feeling that they wereyour nation
"I didn't really have a sense of spirituality when I went to these places, but there was always an element of collective belonging," he said.
In fact, Herszberg said he almost experienced "the end of the diaspora" in a way. “The Jewish people have always been scattered and defined by dispersion,” he said, “but the more I traveled and the more people and stories I met, the more I realized how these scattered communities are connected. That they know each other, both literary and in terms of common identity".
Finally, Herszberg said that he believes the global Jewish community is quite small. "In all the countries I have visited, if I had been there on a Friday, someone would have invited me to Shabbat dinner," he said. Later, during the evening's conversation, Herszberg said that he would find someone that both parties knew.
These moments made Herszberg feel right at home no matter where he traveled. Herszberg said that whether he was in Uzbekistan or Ghana, the smells were the same, the conversations sounded similar and the whole experience was familiar. "Literally," he said, "these Shabbat dinners felt like home."
Herszberg tells a story from Tehran, where a seemingly random man approached him and invited him to dinner. As Herszberg sat down, the conversation soon turned into a roundtable about the various relationships they shared. “I was sitting there wondering, 'How is this happening in Iran?'” Herszberg said. "Such experiences make the global diaspora feel like a very real and personal community."
However, Herszberg's journey was not just one of making new connections and relationships. It was both dealing with the loss and coming to terms withcurrent absencesJewish communities destroyed or expelled in the past.
Whether facing mounds of human ashes in concentration camps in Central Europe or walking through neighborhoods that once defined daily Jewish life, Herszberg wrestled with the tensions between loss and legacy, lived and unspoken stories.
In certain places he felt the weight of tragedies such as the Holocaust or the great displacement of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa between the 1940s and 1970s. Herszberg said he felt a sick familiarity as he walked through the suburbs of Warsaw, Poland, or Prague, Czech Republic, and places like Aleppo, Syria or Baghdad, Iraq. In every neighborhood, Herszberg could almost hear the weight of the screams of the past, the forgotten sounds of synagogues and schools, kosher stores and Jewish cemeteries that still echoed off the walls around him.
At the same time, while visiting these lost Jewish heritage sites, sometimes as the first Jew to return in about 50 years, Herszberg said he also found stories of coexistence and tolerance. He spoke particularly fondly of an Arab pastor he met in an old synagogue in Cairo, Egypt. Living in the old mikveh, his father and his grandfather were guardians of the synagogue. "As soon as he found out I was Jewish, he started singing all the Jewish songs to me," Herszberg said, "and then he repeated playing the shofar, the ram's horn that is used as a musical instrument in Jewish religious rituals."
For the rest of the day, the guard led Herszberg through the old neighborhood, pointing out the apartments and naming the people who used to live there, what they did together, and how they felt. "He brought the whole place to life," Herszberg said, "and told a different story than maybe we're used to hearing."
These moments led Herszberg to what he called an ongoing renegotiation with the very meaning of the cliché about "finding one's place in the world." The things he learned and the memories he still has were not only intellectual or adventurous, but also emotional. "I experienced it as respect," he said.
'In a sense, all Jews are companions'
Over time, Jewish travelers set out to explore the world and share their story with others. Elisa Uusimäki of Aarhus University in Denmark said the very idea of movement and travel is central to Judaism's broader social memory. INspecial issue of the Association for Jewish Studies', Uusimäki wrote that stories of patriarchs and their families moving from Mesopotamia to Canaan to Egypt, the Exodus, or exile in Babylon are central to global Jewish identities.
They also illuminate and challenge contemporary notions of what it means to travel. Anthropologist and author Ruth Behar, who was born in Havana, Cuba to a mixed Ashkenazi-Sephardic family, wrote in her book “Traveling Hard: A Memory Between Trips”, that although travelers go to other places of their own free will, they must be distinguished from immigrants, refugees and exiles.
Unfortunately, most Jewish travel falls into the latter category, Behar wrote, but a few travel stories have been told by some Jewish authors over the years. A particularly famous traveler who recorded his experiences wasBenjamin of Tudela, who traveled Western Asia nearly a century before Marco Polo completed the same journey on his way to becoming a household name.
Another was Israel Joseph Benjamin, known by his pen name Benjamin II after Benjamin above. Benjamin has always wanted to go in search of the so-called "lost tribes" of Israel. And so, in 1844 he left his hometown of Fălticeni, in present-day Romania, touring Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Kurdistan, Mesopotamia, India, Afghanistan, Persia, Singapore, and Canton. Upon his return in 1851, he recorded impressions of his journey in Hebrew.
then there ishappy hamelina, a Jewish woman from Hamburg, Germany, who lived between 1646 and 1724. On a business trip, Glückelhe recorded his encounters with pirates and bandits in Yiddish for family and friends to read. They were finally released to the public in 1896.
Notes from scientist Elka Weberthat these Jewish travel writers used their memoirs as an extended form of self-definition. Traveling from the familiar surroundings of their home to distant and foreign lands offered them the opportunity to consider themselves in relation to the places and people they encountered, just like Herszberg.
The immersive nature of these travelers' encounters with the language, food, prayer, and celebrations of others, whether Jewish or not, created paradoxical feelings. By taking expats out of our comfort zone and into an unknown land that can also seem strangely familiar, travel brings together the learned and the personal, the mundane and the transcendent, becoming a spiritual activity in itself.
The best journey takes you home
Today, opportunities abound for Jewish travelers who want to connect with this long history or follow Herszberg's lead in counting as many countries as possible: There are"ruta shtetl” offering heritage interpretation tours in the footsteps of Jewish culture in smaller towns in Central and Eastern Europe;trips to the occupied territoriesthat offer the possibility to see the situation from the Palestinian point of view; and places likeHotel kosher Château Blancin Cuba, which meets the needs of Jewish travelers on that Caribbean island.
Aaron Wexler, 37, of Los Angeles, California, said he has always loved to travel, but it wasn't until last summer that he linked his travels to his Judaism.
"It happened while I was walking through the gates of the Buchenwald concentration camp in central Germany," Wexler said. "I suddenly realized that this place is part of me, my story, my story." Wexler then visited other Jewish heritage sites in the area, including the Jewish Quarter in Old Town Erfurt andsynagogue and mikveh in a rural town where Jews no longer live.
Wexler's great-grandparents left Germany in the 1920s, and the idea of the Holocaust always seemed to him more of an educational experience or collective memorial than something personal. A trip to Germany changed that, Wexler said. "I ended up learning things I didn't know, didn't know I knew, or knew in my head but not in my heart," she said.
While he's not trying to visit every country in the world, he said Herszberg's trip, and his own experiences in Germany, have already inspired additional travel. On a winter trip with his family to the island of Curaçao, Wexler went toMikve Israel-Emanuel near Willemstad. Dedicated in 1732, it is the oldest synagogue in continuous use in America. This summer, Wexler plans to take his children to Morocco to learn about the Jewish community there.
Like Herszberg, Wexler said that no matter how far he goes, he always feels like he's coming home.
"Wherever I go, I learn something more about the world, but also more about myself," he said. "It's a bit of a cliché, but I've heard it said 'the best journeys lead you home' and I find that the more I travel, the more at home I feel in the world."
by Ken Chitwood, a Germany-based religious nerd, writer, and scholar of global Islam and American religion. He is currently doing postdoctoral research at the Free University of Berlin's Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Culture and Society and is a journalist at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California. Follow Ken on Twitter@kchitwood.
- Christianity (31.1%)
- Islam (24.9%)
- Irreligion (15.6%)
- Hinduism (15.2%)
- Buddhism (6.6%)
- Folk religions (5.6%)
These include (a) giving meaning and purpose to life, (b) reinforcing social unity and stability, (c) serving as an agent of social control of behavior, (d) promoting physical and psychological well-being, and (e) motivating people to work for positive social change.What are the 3 benefits of religion? ›
Religion can be a source of comfort and guidance. It can provide a basis for moral beliefs and behaviors. It can also provide a sense of community and connection to tradition. Some research even suggests that it may affect health.Why religion is important in our life? ›
Religion helps in creating an ethical framework and also a regulator for values in day to day life. This particular approach helps in character building of a person. In other words, Religion acts as an agency of socialization. Thus, religion helps in building values like love, empathy, respect, and harmony.What is the most powerful religion in us? ›
The U.S. has the world's largest Christian population and, more specifically, contains the largest Protestant population in the world. Christianity is the largest religion in the United States at 63% of the population, with the various Protestant Churches having the most adherents.Which is the most powerful god? ›
Indra also called Śakra, the supreme god, is the first of the 33, followed by Agni.What is the most important religion and why? ›
Of the world's major religions, Christianity is the largest, with more than two billion followers. Christianity is based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and is approximately 2,000 years old.What is the oldest religion in the world? ›
The word Hindu is an exonym, and while Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, many practitioners refer to their religion as Sanātana Dharma (Sanskrit: सनातन धर्म, lit. ''the Eternal Dharma'') which refers to the idea that its origins lie beyond human history, as revealed in the Hindu texts.What are the 4 types of religion? ›
Four religions—Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism—account for over 77% of the world's population, and 92% of the world either follows one of those four religions or identifies as nonreligious, meaning that the remaining 9,000+ faiths account for only 8% of the population combined.What religion was Jesus? ›
He was born of a Jewish mother, in Galilee, a Jewish part of the world. All of his friends, associates, colleagues, disciples, all of them were Jews. He regularly worshipped in Jewish communal worship, what we call synagogues. He preached from Jewish text, from the Bible.
'In the majority of studies religious involvement is correlated with well-being, happiness and life satisfaction; hope and optimism; purpose and meaning in life; higher self-esteem; better adaptation to bereavement; greater social support and less loneliness; lower rates of depression and faster recovery from ...What are the benefits of faith in God? ›
- He Knows Better Than We Do. God knows everything we are going through at this very moment and everything we will go through in the future. ...
- All Things Are Possible With God. ...
- He Is Worthy Of Our Trust. ...
- He Knows What He Is Doing.
Religion is uniquely powerful in the way that it creates meaning, motivates, and helps believers to cope with traumatic events. facilitator of social support. It is important to account for the aspect of religion that distinguishes it from other human processes, religious beliefs.What is religion in simple words? ›
Religion is belief in a god or gods and the activities that are connected with this belief, such as praying or worshipping in a building such as a church or temple.How does religion affect people? ›
Religious belief and practice contribute substantially to the formation of personal moral criteria and sound moral judgment. Regular religious practice generally inoculates individuals against a host of social problems, including suicide, drug abuse, out-of-wedlock births, crime, and divorce.What is the number 1 in religion? ›
Christianity. The world's largest religion, Christianity, is practiced by about 2.4 billion people.Which religion is growing in America? ›
According to various scholars and sources Pentecostalism – a Protestant Christian movement – is the fastest growing religion in the world, this growth is primarily due to religious conversion. According to Pulitzer Center 35,000 people become Pentecostal or "Born again" every day.What religion is America known for? ›
Christianity has been the most prevalent and influential religion in American society since its introduction during the colonial period. For instance, while non-Christian religious groups are growing, they represent less than 6% of the population.Who was the 1st god? ›
Brahma the creator
In the beginning, Brahma sprang from the cosmic golden egg and he then created good and evil and light and dark from his own person. He also created the four types: gods, demons, ancestors and men, the first of whom was Manu. Brahma then made all the other living creatures upon the earth.
The goddess Parvati as Kushmanda gives birth to the universe in the form of a cosmic egg which manifests as the universe.
Key points. At least 18,000 different gods, goddesses and various animals or objects have been worshipped by humans.What is the best thing about religion? ›
Benefits of Religion
People who are highly religious—who pray each day and go to services at least once a week—are “more engaged with their extended families, more likely to volunteer, more involved in their communities and generally happier with the way things are going in their lives,” according to Pew Research.
The quick and easy answer to why people are religious is that God – in whichever form you believe he/she/they take(s) – is real and people believe because they communicate with it and perceive evidence of its involvement in the world.Do all religions believe in God? ›
Most religions, in some way, attempt to contemplate the divine; and some of them get closer than others. In this sense we can say that all religions lead to God.Is the Quran older than the Bible? ›
Knowing that versions written in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament does predate the Quran, Christians reason the Quran as being derived directly or indirectly from the earlier materials.Which is the newest religion? ›
|Adidam, previously Free Daist Communion, Dawn Horse Fellowship, etc.||Adi Da||Neo-Hindu-inspired|
|Adonai-Shomo||Frederick T. Howland||Adventist Communal|
|Adonism||Franz Sättler||Modern Pagan|
|Adventures in Enlightenment, A Foundation||Terry Cole-Whittaker||Religious Science|
Christianity developed out of Second Temple Judaism in the 1st century CE. It is founded on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and those who follow it are called Christians. Islam developed in the 7th century CE.Which religions do not believe in God? ›
Atheism. Atheism describes a state of having no theistic beliefs; that is, no beliefs in gods or supernatural beings.What is the religion with no God? ›
2 The literal definition of “atheist” is “a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods,” according to Merriam-Webster. And the vast majority of U.S. atheists fit this description: 81% say they do not believe in God or a higher power or in a spiritual force of any kind.What religion believes in all religions? ›
Omnism is the respect of or belief in all religions with their gods or lack thereof. Those who hold this belief are called omnists, sometimes written as omniest. In recent years, the term has been resurfacing due to the interest of modern-day self-described omnists who have rediscovered and begun to redefine the term.
Jesus' name in Hebrew was “Yeshua” which translates to English as Joshua.What language did Jesus speak? ›
Aramaic is best known as the language Jesus spoke. It is a Semitic language originating in the middle Euphrates. In 800-600 BC it spread from there to Syria and Mesopotamia. The oldest preserved inscriptions are from this period and written in Old Aramaic.How many wives did Jesus have? ›
"Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim," King said in a press release.What is the difference between the soul and the spirit? ›
Your soul speaks of your inner-life in relation to your own experience: your mind, heart, will, and imagination. It also includes your thoughts, desires, passions, and dreams. But your spirit speaks of the same inner-life in relation to God: your faith, hope, love, character, and perseverance.What is the difference between spiritual and religious? ›
There are some pretty clear ways in which religion and spirituality differ. Religion: This is a specific set of organised beliefs and practices, usually shared by a community or group. Spirituality: This is more of an individual practice, and has to do with having a sense of peace and purpose.What is a spiritual life? ›
Spirituality involves exploring certain universal themes – love, compassion, altruism, life after death, wisdom and truth, with the knowledge that some people such as saints or enlightened individuals have achieved and manifested higher levels of development than the ordinary person.What is the power of faith? ›
Having faith in something means trusting it completely. People with strong faith are confident in their knowledge that they can do anything they set their minds to and weather the toughest times. Having faith in yourself, the people around you, your luck, and the universe can help you achieve even your loftiest goals.Does faith give us power? ›
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ brings power to grow spiritually and deal with temporal affairs. The Lord promised that He will help provide for us. The Lord will not command us in all things.What are the benefits of living by faith? ›
Having faith helps you focus on God and not what's going on.
2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “ For we walk by faith, not by sight” (HCSB). Having faith helps us see what cannot be seen. It helps us trust God no matter what's going on around us. Having faith got us through that first night in the hospital with our first born.
: the service and worship of God or the supernatural. (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.
James said: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). The wording is simple and unpretentious, yet the meaning is profound and has deep significance.What is faith in religion? ›
Faith can be thought of as confidence or trust in a person, thing, or concept. In the context of religion, one can define faith as "belief in a god or in the doctrines or teachings of religion.How does faith affect your life? ›
“Faith gives you a concept of the dignity and worth of all work, even simple work, without which work could bore you.” Christian faith gives us a new conception of work as the means by which God loves and cares for his world through us.Why is religion important to culture? ›
Religion as a cultural system of symbols and values assists in establishing the communal, pervasive, and long-lasting motivations and behaviors in expressing one's innate desire for a connection with a transcendental reality.How do we connect our faith with everyday life? ›
- Participate in Virtual Mass Every Sunday. ...
- Begin Each Day with Morning Prayer or Meditation. ...
- Read Bible Verses During Regular Nature Walks. ...
- Participate in Small Group Bible Study Sessions. ...
- Participate in Socially Distant Volunteer Opportunities.
Sometimes called the official religion of ancient Persia, Zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest surviving religions, with teachings older than Buddhism, older than Judaism, and far older than Christianity or Islam. Zoroastrianism is thought to have arisen “in the late second millennium B.C.E.What is the oldest religion? ›
The word Hindu is an exonym, and while Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, many practitioners refer to their religion as Sanātana Dharma (Sanskrit: सनातन धर्म, lit. ''the Eternal Dharma'') which refers to the idea that its origins lie beyond human history, as revealed in the Hindu texts.Who is the supreme God in Christianity? ›
God in Christianity is believed to be the eternal, supreme being who created and preserves all things. Christians believe in a monotheistic conception of God, which is both transcendent (wholly independent of, and removed from, the material universe) and immanent (involved in the material universe).Is Christianity the world's largest religion True or false? ›
Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. It is the world's largest and most widespread religion with roughly 2.4 billion followers representing one-third of the global population.What was the first religion from God? ›
Hinduism is the world's oldest religion, according to many scholars, with roots and customs dating back more than 4,000 years.
Judaism, the oldest Abrahamic religion, is based on a strict, exclusive monotheism, finding its origins in the sole veneration of Yahweh, the predecessor to the Abrahamic conception of God. The names of God used most often in the Hebrew Bible are the Tetragrammaton (Hebrew: יהוה, romanized: YHWH) and Elohim.Who is the oldest known God? ›
Inanna is among the oldest deities whose names are recorded in ancient Sumer. She is listed among the earliest seven divine powers: Anu, Enlil, Enki, Ninhursag, Nanna, Utu, and Inanna. These seven would form the basis for many of the characteristics of the gods who followed.What religion spread the fastest? ›
Studies in the 21st century suggest that, in terms of percentage and worldwide spread, Islam is the fastest-growing major religion in the world.What's God's name in the Bible? ›
Yahweh, name for the God of the Israelites, representing the biblical pronunciation of “YHWH,” the Hebrew name revealed to Moses in the book of Exodus. The name YHWH, consisting of the sequence of consonants Yod, Heh, Waw, and Heh, is known as the tetragrammaton.Who is the Holy Spirit? ›
For the majority of Christian denominations, the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and is Almighty God. As such he is personal and also fully God, co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and Son of God.Where is God according to the Bible? ›
God exists everywhere at all times. He cannot be contained by any space. God is all-knowing. Psalm139:2-4 says, “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.What is the number one religion in Christianity? ›
Catholicism – 1.345 billion
Catholicism is the largest branch of Christianity with 1.345 billion, and the Catholic Church is the largest among churches.
Polytheism means believing in many gods. A person that believes in polytheism is called a polytheist. A religion with polytheism can be called a polytheistic religion. Polytheism is well documented in historical religions of classical antiquity, especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.What is next to Christianity it is the largest religion in the world? ›
Christians—2.2 billion followers (representing 31.5% of the world's population) Muslims—1.6 billion (23.2%) Non-religious people—1.1 billion (16.3%) Hindus—1 billion (15.0%)