by Rav Yaakov Klass, originally published in The Jewish Press

Ga’al Yisrael Aloud, Part III

Question: In the course of my travels I have discovered that different synagogues and sometimes-different chazzanim treat the blessing of Ga’al Yisrael, right before Shemoneh Esreh differently with some saying it aloud and others fading it, before they begin the silent Shemoneh Esreh. Is one way correct and the other incorrect?

M. Goldman

Via email

Synopsis: We began our discussion citing from the work of Rabbi Yaakov Simcha Cohen Zt”l “Jewish Prayer The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dillemmas” [Urim publications, Jerusalem . New York.]. He noted that the Shaliach Tzibbur in Chassidic congregations and even among some non-Chassidim fade out the last words of the blessing Ga’al Yisrael. Thus answering Amen is preempted in order to fulfill “semichat geulah l’tefilla. On the other hand Rabbi Eliyahu Henkin Zt”l (Eidut L’Yisrael, p. 161) ruled that this is not according to Halacha, especially as the Shaliach Tzibbur is to discharge the congregants prayer and blessing requirements. Rabbi Cohen then cited the dispute between the Mechaber and Rema (O.C. 111.1) the former ruling one is not to answer Amen to the Shaliach Tzibbur’s blessing Ga’al Yisrael and the latter permitting the Amen response. Rabbi Cohen notes a similar dispute regarding the blessing “Ha’Bocher B’Amo Yisrael B’Ahavah” prior to Shema. Mishnah Berurah states that preferred is to recite with the Shaliach Tzibbur thus avoiding the need to respond Amen. Leaving the question why not suggest the same with Ga’al Yisrael? Rabbi Cohen notes that many do accordingly. He quotes Rabbi Yaakov of Lissa, who suggests that as the proper practice. He concludes with a citation from Shulchan Aruch Harav, who says while common custom is to respond Amen, notwithstanding he too suggests concluding with the Shaliach Tzibbur. I then cited Chayyeh Adam who notes that one must always connect Geulah to Tefillah even at the cost of Tefillah B’Tzibbur. Indeed the Mechaber relates as to the situation where one cannot do both {obviously where he is in the midst of the Keriat Shema and its blessings]. Citing Rema, we made note of the difference between Sabbath prayer [where there would be leniency] and Weekday prayer [no leniency] due to certain scriptural adjacencies. Nevertheless Taz reading into Rema is that even insofar Sabbath prayers we opt for stringency.     

*   *   *   *

Answer: No discussion of the need to join Geulah to Tefillah would be complete without going to the source, the Talmud (Berachot 9b) where we find the following.  “R. Ela’ah said to Ulla: ‘When you go up there [to Eretz Israel] give my greeting to my brother R. Bruna in the presence of the entire college, for he is a great man who rejoices in performing mitzvot [in their proper manner]. Once he [succeeded] in joining Geulah to Tefillah and a smile did not depart his lips the entire day.

The Gemara asks: ‘How is it possible to join the two, seeing that R. Yochanan has said: At the beginning of the tefillah one has to say (Psalms 51:17), “Hashem Sefatai tiftach ufi yagid tehilatecha – O L-rd open my lips, that my mouth declare your praise.” Then at the end he has to say (Psalms 19:15), “Yih’yu l’ratzon imrei fi, v’hegyon libi l’fanecha 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.” [Thus we see that there is a clear interruption between Geulah and Tefillah.] R. Elazar replied: This [reciting these extra verses] must refer to Maariv – the evening prayer.

The Gemara questions: “but has not R. Yochanan said: Who is destined for the world to come? One who joins Geulah of the evening prayer with the Tefillah of the evening prayer? Rather said R. Elazar: This must refer to the Mincha – afternoon prayer [where there is no Keriat Shema and its accompanying blessings culminating in Ga’al Yisrael. Rather one prefaces his TefillahAmidah – with Ashrei. Thus saying this extra verse does not create any hefsek – interruption].

R. Ashi reconciles: ‘You may say that it refers to all the Tefillot [that all Amida prayers are prefaced with this verse (Psalms 51:17). Then what of the interruption?]. It must be that since our sages instituted the recital of these words [at the outset] in the Amida, it is considered one long Tefillah. Now if you do not explain in this manner, how is it possible for one to join Geulah to Tefillah at the Maariv – evening prayer service in light of the additional paragraph of “Hashkiveinu – Let us rest” that we insert between Geulah and Tefillah? Therefore you must say that, since the sages ordained the recitation of “Hashkiveinu,” it is considered one long Geulah. So here too, since the sages instituted reciting this verse at the outset [as an integral part] of the Amida, it is considered as one long Tefillah.

Now the Gemara questions: “In truth this verse (Psalms 19:15), “Yih’yu l’ratzon imrei fi… – May the expressions of my mouth…” is fitting to be a required recitation both before and after the Amida. Thus why did they enact that it be said at the conclusion of the Amida? R. Yehuda b. R. Shimon b. Pazzi responds: Since King David said it only after eighteen chapters [of his Psalms], therefore the sages instituted its recital after the eighteen blessings [of the Amida].

Maharsha (Berachot 9b Chiddushei Agadot) notes that the question here is strengthened by the fact that the above cited verse (Psalms 19:15) precedes the verse (Psalms 20:2) “Ya’ancha Hashem b’yom tzarah yesageb’cha Sheim Elokei Yaakov – May Hashem answer you on the day of distress, may the Name of the G-d of Jacob make you impregnable.” This verse capsulates our reason for our weekday prayers when we cry out to Hashem for our salvation.

Now we may ask the obvious regarding the verse that we recite at the outset (Psalms 51:17) “Hashem Sefatai tiftach ufi yagid tehilatecha – O L-rd open my lips, that my mouth declare your praise,” that verse was recited even later, almost at the conclusion of fifty one chapters, then why recite that verse at the outset of the Amida? The answer to that question is simple, the very words of this verse demand their placement at the outset, as we request of Hashem that he open our mouths in order that we declare His praise. It is the other verse (Psalms 19:15) that is appropriate either at the outset or the conclusion. Now even though in our Gemara we seem to compare the number of chapters of Psalms to the number of benedictions in the Amidah, at least for the sake of where to place these opening and closing verses, it is actually to another composition of King David, (Psalms 29) “Mizmor l”David havu La’Shem bnei eilim – A psalm of David; Render unto Hashem, you sons of the powerful,” which contains eighteen praises to Hashem that the sages (infra Berachot 28b) fixed the number of benedictions in the Amidah.

To be continued

Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press.  He can be contacted at