Friday, March 12, 2010

Go'al Yisra'el Quandary

A special 4-part series (combined) from Cantor Sherwood Goffin:

MUSICAL NOTE by Cantor Sherwood Goffin

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?

[Two] The Mechaber of the Shulchan Aruch (Sfardic minhag) says, based on the Zohar, that one should NOT answer Amen to the blessing of Go’al Yisroel. At that point, the Rama (Ashkenazic minhag) states that Amen is part of the tefilla and MUST be recited. It is therefore apparent that in their day (early 16th century) the Chazzan always said the bracha out loud. Rabbi Ari Zivitofsky, who thoroughly researched this topic, could not find ANY early authorities who suggest that it is to be said silently, or in a whisper.

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?

[Three] Many contemporary poskim, such as Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and Rav Wosner have written in favor of saying it out loud, saying that even if the bracha is said inaudibly, one must answer amen. Rav Wosner opposes ending it silently because "it is a slight against the honor of the bracha." Some famous recent halachic giants all insisted on saying the bracha out loud. These include Rav Joseph Soloveitchik, the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Weinberg and Rabbi Dushinsky of Jerusalem. Other authorities have defended the practice of saying it silently - a practice "standard in the Lithuanian Yeshiva world."

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.

[Four] [At least half a dozen recent Ashkenazic authorities thus] insisted that the bracha of Go'al Yisroel be said out loud. It is also true that some Lithuanian authorities have defended the practice of saying it silently - a practice "standard in the Lithuanian Yeshiva world." It comes down to this: Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach writes (Halichot Shlomo) that the practice in the Gra Shul in Jerusalem was to end the bracha out loud. Since it is the minhag of Lincoln Square Synagogue generally to follow the customs of the Gra (The Vilna Gaon), it therefore appears to be very clear that this should be our LSS custom.

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!


(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.


micha said...

WADR to the Seridei Eish, I would think it's more straightforward than that.

Birkhas Ge'ulah, by being about the past, testifies that Hashem is capable. Emunah.

The Amidah, being requests, is an expression of Bitachon. It would make no sense to make requrests unless it was grounded in the belief that the One you're requesting from can actually fulfill that request.

Rather than being poetic about future requiring grounding in the past, it's simple logic -- requests require assuming ability.


Joe in Australia said...

The first two comments are spam. I don't know what the content of the first one is, but they're designed to fool search engines into thinking that the authors are legitimate.

MDJ said...

I have started amida a bit early for many years after hearing this suggestion in the name of the younger R. Henkin. It's never been clear to me how much one needs to say. Is "Hashem" of "Hashem sefasi tiftach" enough? Any idea? I also gather that there is an inyan of starting amida with the tzibur, and someone once chided me on actually starting the bracha for this reason.

Litvak said...

"Since it is the minhag of Lincoln Square Synagogue generally to follow the customs of the Gra (The Vilna Gaon)"


Can someone elaborate on this? Which minhogei HaGR"A do they follow? Can someone provide examples?

micha said...

An uninformed guess... Any minhag haGra discussed by R' Soloveitchik when R' Riskin was in the room.


thanbo said...

That is a bit puzzling.

They don't duchen every day. During duchening, they use the old Ashkenazic bracha she'otcha beyirah naavod, instead of hamachazir shechinato letziyon, the latter being a Gra custom.

Is not saying Baruch hashem leolam at night a Gra custom?

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Is not saying Baruch hashem leolam at night a Gra custom?

It is.

At some point in high school, i picked up from some of the Syrians a habit of, when ḥazaning, saying not just "’al yisra’el" out loud, but following it up with the first word of ה' שפתי תפתח out loud as well.