MUSICAL NOTE by Cantor Sherwood Goffin
THE GO’AL YISRAEL QUANDARY
It is common to hear a Shliach Tsibbur ending the bracha of Go’al Yisrael in a whisper. Yet, as your Chazzan, I do not do so. What is the rule and why are there different ways to recite this? The practice of whispering is a relatively recent innovation. Prior to modern times, every chazzan would always recite the entire Bracha of Go’al Yisrael out loud. In fact, there is NO valid custom of not audibly finishing a bracha. Where did this custom originate and why?
In the next few
Notes paragraphs we will examine this phenomenon.
To begin with: In the Talmud (Brachot 42a) and reinforced in the Shulchan Aruch, there is a concept of “Semichat Geulah L’Tefillah.” That is, to link “redemption/Geulah” to tefillah/Amida – and to not interrupt the connection of the blessing of Go’al Yisrael to the Amida. The Talmud seems to treat this as simply a “nice thing” to do.
Rashi and Rabbeinu Yonah give varied philosophical reasons. I prefer the explanation of Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (1884-1966) of Montreux, the “Seridei Aish,” who explains that Go’al Yisrael relates to the past, and that the Amidah is a prayer for the future Redemption. He further states that “a future that is not rooted in the past is unsustainable.” Linking the two, however, seems to present a quandary, since we are required to answer Amen to every blessing that we hear, and saying Amen would constitute a problematic interruption. What are we to do?
To further complicate matters, the Aruch Hashulchan (1829-1908) says, that while it is PERMISSABLE to answer Amen there, “the common practice is NOT to.” In Hungary and the Ukraine in the early 1800s, leading rabbis first began to write that the bracha should be said silently. In our times, the great American Lower East Side posek, Rabbi Yosef Henkin (d.1973), strongly condemned “this new custom” of reciting it silently.
Rabbi S. Neuberger, Menahel of Yeshivat Ner Israel, told me that Rav Henkin wrote in the journal “Pardes” that, if the chazzan neglects to say the beginning and end of EVERY bracha in the Birchot Kriat Shma, “he has failed to fulfill Tefillat Hatsibbur (The obligation of communal prayer).” The quandary remains: There those who still recite it softly, and others – such as your Chazzan - who recite it out loud. Which is correct?
Rabbi Ari Zivitofsky, writing in Jewish Action says, "All of these opinions indicate that throughout most of Jewish History, the chazzan recited the entire bracha of Go'al Yisroel aloud. Apparently, at some point in recent years, the practice of ... concluding Go'al Yisroel in a whisper came about. This practice appeals to many because it allows one to satisfy most halachic opinions." [Next], dear readers, I will give you the final opinion concerning this issue.
The only thing that we have to deal with is the opinion of the Rama - whose opinion we follow - that one should say "Amein" after hearing the bracha. Since that still seems to be controversial, let me make the following suggestion, if I may: The chazzan should say the last paragraph somewhat slower than the rest of the davening, so that the congregants can 1) catch up to him and say the bracha of Go'al Yisroel with him, or 2) start the Amida a bit ahead of his finishing the bracha. In both cases it would obviate saying "Amein," and thereby accommodate all opinions. However, if one is elsewhere in the prayers, and hears the bracha, if he is able to, he should answer "Amein," softly. This should please all viewpoints, and give LSS one custom to follow. Try it - and see how it works for you!
DAVEN WELL, DON'T TALK, BUT SING ALONG!
(c) Sherwood Goffin and Lincoln Square Synagogue, 2010
Part Three was dedicated "in loving memory of [Cantor Goffin's] student, Jonathan Spanbock."
Some paragraph transitions adjusted with square brackets.