Question: Many chazzanim say the words “ga’al yisrael” before shemoneh esrei quietly. Is this practice proper?
Answer: The rationale for this practice is as follows. There is a general rule that nothing should separate “ga’al yisrael” from the Amida – semichat geulah l’tefillah. Now, if the chazzan would say “ga’al yisrael” out loud, the congregation would say “Amen,” which might constitute an interruption. Therefore, to prevent this potential problem, the chazzan says “ga’al yisrael” quietly.
HaRav HaGoan R. Henkin, however, railed against this practice (Eidut L’Yisrael, p.161). The late posek hador in America, Rav Henkin noted that although the Shulchan Aruch (based on the Zohar) rules that one should not recite “Amen” after “ga’al yisrael,” the Rema rules that doing so is permissible. If it is permissible, there is no reason for chazzanim to say “ga’al yisrael” quietly.
Furthermore, if the chazzan says “ga’al yisrael” quietly, he is failing his role as shliach tzibbur. A shliach tzibbur is responsible to include everyone who doesn’t know how to pray in his davening. This only works, however, if these congregants hear the chazzan say all the berachot. If they don’t, they are not included in his davening.
In addition, some contend that a shliach tzibbur who has proper kavanah may include even people who know how to pray in his davening because compared to someone who has kavanah these people “do not know how to pray” (see Ba’er Moshe, Orach Chayim 124:17 cited in the name of the Ayshel Avraham). But these additional congregants also can’t be counted in the shliach tzibbur’s davening if he says certain berachot quietly.
Therefore, both the Derech HaChayim and the Shulhan Aruch HaRav suggest that it is preferable for the whole shul to say “ga’al yisrael” together rather than the chazzan saying the words quietly.