Moment of silence before a trip (Russian Jewish superstition)

Before leaving the house on a long journey, the entire present family must sit in silence for a period of time (which varies by family and local custom) in silence. This is often considered a useful custom because in the frenzy of preparing for a trip, this time allows for people to think carefully about whether they have forgotten to pack a useful item, but it is also considered good luck to sit with the departing family in order to protect them on their upcoming journey or, if they die during the trip, to attain closure so that one does not retroactively regret not taking time with this person before they leave.

THE INFORMANT: Mid-twenties woman who has studied Russian and Georgian culture for many years, despite not having grown up in either cultural group. She currently works in diplomacy and is researching Russian Jewish superstitions for an unrelated project and out of intellectual curiosity. She says this is also put into practice in Georgian communities in which she has lived and it is mostly considered a time of meditation and respect for the traveler putting themselves in the risky situation of long travel.

ANALYSIS: Due to the anxiety that the prospect of a long trip can often induce, it is unsurprising that so many superstitions have developed as pre-travel rituals. Furthermore, the focus on familial relationships that pervades Jewish culture, as well as the many folktales and superstitions from Russian culture, have combined here to create a more or less secular experience that is still retained in many families (both in Russia/Eastern Europe and in immigrant homes) as a way to protect the departing travelers. Many cultures have similar customs, such as the Christian blessing or prayer to be said before a journey, asking for protection. In the Catholic tradition, this idea of protection is translated into a physical emblem, as the St. Christopher medal is used to protect weary travelers from potential harm.