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?
Last week we cited “Jewish Prayer The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas” by Rabbi Yaakov Simcha Cohen, zt”l, who notes that the custom to fade out while saying “Ga’al Yisrael” may be to prevent the congregation from saying “Amen” and thus separate “geulah” from “tefilla.” Rabbi Eliyahu Henkin, zt”l (“Eidut L’Yisrael,” p. 161), however, rules that this custom is not in accordance with halacha, which requires the chazzan to discharge the prayer obligations of the congregants. Rabbi Cohen also cites the dispute between the Mechaber and Rema (O.C. 111.1) regarding whether one should say Amen after the chazzan says “Ga’al Yisrael.”
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Rabbi Cohen notes a similar dispute: “There is a debate among scholars as to whether Amen should be recited [in response to ‘Ha’bocher b’amo Yisrael b’ahavah’] prior to the Shema. The Mishna Berurah (O.C. 60: sk25) notes that a preferred custom is to conclude the beracha with the Shaliach Tzibbur so that no one need respond Amen after the beracha. Of concern is why such a custom is not suggested for the Ga’al Yisrael Beracha?
“Indeed, the congregation should recite the conclusion of the beracha together with the Shaliach Tzibbur. There is no need to alter the structural role of the Shaliach Tzibbur in order to militate against an unwarranted response of Amen. In many large congregations, it is customary for the Tzur Yisrael introductory phrases of the Ga’al Yisrael beracha to be sung in unison with the Shaliach Tzibbur. Yet the actual beracha of ‘Baruch Atah Hashem…’ is sung only by the Shaliach Tzibbur, with the concluding phrase, ‘Ga’al Yisrael,’ is recited silently.
“A Custom more suited to Halachic principles would be for all to sing together the beracha itself, though this is not common practice. It should be noted that HaGaon Rav Yaakov Lorberbaum of Lissa, the famed author of Chavat Daat, ruled that it is preferred custom to recite the Ga’al Yisrael beracha together with the Shaliach Tzibbur (Derech HaChayyim).
“The Shulchan Aruch Harav (penned by the noted founder of the Chabad movement, HaGaon HaRav Shneur Zalman of Liadi Zt”l.) also rules (Orach Chayyim 66:sk9) that common custom is to recite Amen after the Shaliach Tzibbur’s beracha of Ga’al Yisrael. Those who wish to accommodate all positions, suggests HaRav Shneur Zalman, should conclude the beracha simultaneously with the Shaliach Tzibbur.” Rabbi Cohen concludes: “Perhaps this custom should be reinstituted for congregational prayer.”
I found the following in Chayeh Adam (the famous halachic work of HaRav Avraham Danzig, rav in Vilna, Klal 21:18): “One must connect geulah to tefillah and it is forbidden to interrupt between them at all, even for Kaddish or Kedusha. And it is proper to conclude with the shaliach tzibbur for then one is not duty-bound to answer Amen, and connecting geulah to tefillah supersedes tefillah b’tzibbur (congregational prayer).
When I first saw this ruling, I was taken aback. Is not congregational prayer the optimal form of prayer? I subsequently saw the following in the Mechaber (Orach Chayim 111:3): “If a person had not yet recited Keriat Shema and finds the congregation already praying [Shemoneh Esreh], he should not pray with them. Rather, he should say Keriat Shema and then pray [Shemoneh Esreh] for connecting geulah to tefillah is a priority.
Why are we required to connect geulah to tefillah? The Rema (infra 111:1, citing the Tur) states: “Some say that one may answer Amen when hearing the blessing Ga’al Yisrael, and such is the custom. Some also say that the requirement to connect geulah to tefillah only applies on weekdays or Yom Tov but not on Shabbos since the reason we connect geulah to tefillah is because of the juxtaposition of [Psalms 19:15 and Psalms 20:2].” The first concerns geulah, “Yih’yu l’ratzon imrei fi v’hegyon libi lifanecha Hashem Tzuri v’Goali – May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before You, Hashem, my Rock and my Redeemer.” The second concerns tefillah, “Ya’ancha Hashem b’yom tzarah yesageb’cha Shem Elokei Yaakov – May Hashem answer you on the day of your distress, may the Name of the G-d of Jacob make you impregnable.” Shabbos, however, is not a time of “tzarah – distress.”
The Rema continues: “In my humble opinion, it seems that weekdays and Yom Tov [are different] because they are considered days of judgment, as the Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 1:2) states: ‘On Pesach we are judged insofar the growth of our crops…’”
The Taz (ad loc.) notes the obvious – that the Mechaber does not agree with the Rema (or the Tur whom he cites for this matter) as he states that the juxtaposition of these two verses merely provides a scriptural support and is of no consequence. Notwithstanding, there is a requirement to connect geulah to tefillah.
(To be continued)