Question: In the course of my travels, I have discovered that some chazzanim say “ga’al Yisrael” right before Shemoneh Esreh aloud while others say it with their voices fading. Is one practice correct and the other incorrect?
Answer: My late good friend, mentor, and fellow halacha columnist at The Jewish Press, HaRav Yaakov Simcha Cohen, zt”l, discusses this issue in depth in his book Jewish Prayer The Right Way: Resolving halachic Dilemmas. We open and base our response upon his discussion.
‘The Shaliach Tzibbur should chant the beracha in a voice sufficiently audible for the congregation to hear. Common custom, however, does not observe this procedure. The general custom among Chassidim and [even some] non-Chassidim is for the Shaliach Tzibbur to chant the words Ga’al Yisrael, the conclusionary words of the beracha, silently.
“The rationale appears to be as follows: there is a general principle of semichat geula l’tefilla [lit. ‘to connect redemption to prayer’], for which the practical application means that there should be no interruption between the beracha of Ga’al Yisrael and Shemoneh Esreh. For this reason, even ‘Amen’ is not recited after the Ga’al Yisrael blessing.
“Accordingly, the Shaliach Tzibbur’s silent recitation of the concluding words of the blessing is a gracious protective device to withhold Jews, within the congregation, from committing a sin by erroneously responding with an unwarranted Amen. Yet, there are a number of difficulties with this formulation.
“The late Posek and Gadol Hador, Ha’Gaon Horav Eliyahu Henkin Zt”l, (Eidut L’Yisrael, p.161) ruled that such a practice is contrary to Halacha. Indeed, the formal role of a Shaliach Tzibbur is to chant aloud all the berachot from ‘Yotzer Ohr’ to the conclusion of the Amida. Such a custom [originally enacted to discharge the prayer obligation of those who were not sufficiently literate to fulfill that obligation on their own] is in effect even if the entire congregation has sufficient knowledge to pray by themselves (see Mechaber, Orach Chayyim 124:3, that even when the congregation are fully literate and fluent in the manner of their prayers, nevertheless, we have the Shaliach Tzibbur chant aloud in order to uphold the enactment of the sages).
“Accordingly, Rabbi Henkin notes, any Shaliach Tzibbur who does not audibly recite the conclusion of the beracha is not fulfilling his primary function of chanting the berachot. How is it possible for the Shaliach Tzibbur to include others in his prayers when he chants the beracha silently?
“The Mechaber (Orach Chayyim 111:1 based upon Zohar) rules that one should not recite ‘Amen’ after the beracha of Ga’al Yisrael [even though it is said aloud by the Shaliach Tzibbur]. Of interest is that, contrary to the general custom and perception, the Rema (ad loc.) rules that it is permissible to recite such an ‘Amen.’”
Thus, Rabbi Cohen notes: “Even if a congregant responds ‘Amen’ after the beracha, no sin would be committed. Indeed, it certainly is not a violation of Halacha to observe the ruling of the Rema.”
(To be continued)