Column #114. Contents of this weekly column are (mostly) based on the sefer: EIM LAMIKRA HASHALEIM, by R' Nissan Sharoni, Ashdod, a guide to correct pronunciation of Hebrew, specifically in davening and Torah reading.
This review was prompted by a reader's question. He asks about the AMEN (or rather, the lack of one) for GA'AL YISRA'EL right before the Amida of Shacharit, and the AMEN for the bracha right before the Sh'ma at both Shacharit and Maariv.
It is well-established that saying AMEN to GA'AL YISRA'EL at Shacharit would constitute an interruption between GEULA (referring to the bracha after the Sh'ma, which is the one that leads into the Amida) and T'FILA (meaning the AMIDA). Our Sages wanted us to follow the GEULA bracha with the T'FILA (AMIDA) smoothly - i.e. without interruption.
However, when one hears a bracha from a fellow Jew, he is supposed to say AMEN. Therefore, there are two possible ways to avoid "not saying AMEN" and to also avoid interrupting between GEULA and T'FILA. Either the TZIBUR (congregation) says their bracha together with the Shali'ach Tzibur (Chazan) - this works because one does not usually say AMEN to his own bracha, so by saying your bracha together with the Chazan, you wouldn't answer AMEN to his bracha anyway, since you are also saying the bracha at the same time. This will allow for the continuity of GEULA and T'FILA.
The practical problem with this seems to be that not everyone will be saying his/her own bracha together with the Chazan, in which case, hearing the Chazan's bracha end sort of requires an AMEN which should not be said. Awkward, to say the least. Therefore, the other procedure is for the Chazan to lower his voice for the ending of his bracha, so that the congregation does not hear it and therefore has no issue of saying AMEN. This is less desirable than the first solution, but it depends more on the knowledge and awareness of the congregation - something that is not always to be counted on.
Do not think, though, that the Chazan does not actually say the words GA'AL YISRA'EL. He most certainly does. (If not, then he should be taught that he should say the whole bracha, but that many say it very softly for the reason we've been discussing.)
To repeat, the preferred procedure is for everyone to say the bracha together, aloud, including the Chazan. This is why may shuls sing TZUR YISRA'EL...
The pre-Sh'ma bracha is a different issue. Mostly, because there are two main opinions on the topic. Some say that the brachot that end HABOCHEIR B'AMO YISRA'EL B'AHAVA (in the morning) and OHEIV AMO YISRA'EL (in Maariv) are sort of like a BOREI PRI HA'EITZ for an apple. Meaning, that just as one does not interrupt between a bracha for food and the first bite, even to say AMEN to someone else's bracha, so too with the Sh'ma. In this case, each davener should say the ending of the pre-Sh'ma bracha together with the SHA"TZ, to avoid saying AMEN. To do this well, the Chazan should say the ending bracha aloud, slowly, word by word with slight pauses for people to pace themselves with him. Some Chazanim rush the ending of the bracha and catch some of the people off-guard. Furthermore, saying the bracha together, slowly, then pausing and then saying the first part of the Sh'ma together can be very helpful, KAVANA- and mood-wise.
On the other hand, the other opinion is that there is nothing wrong with saying AMEN to the pre- Sh'ma bracha. In fact, it should be noted, that the KEIL MELECH NE'EMAN that is said when davening alone has the initials that spell AMEN.
Personally, the saying the bracha together "works for me",
especially if others do the same, and the Chazan "cooperates", and the AMEN-sayers
are not too loud with their AMENs. A lot to ask for.
The Torah commands us to remember the Exodus:
The primary way this command is fulfilled is by reciting the last pasuk of the Sh'ma.
ANI HASHEM ELOKEICHEM ASHER HOTZEITI ETCHEM M'ERETZ MITZRAYIM
L'HIYOT LACHEM L'E'LOKIM ANI HASHEM ELO'KEICHEM:
There is a dispute as to whether mitzvot require KAVANA to be fulfilled. But even according to the opinion that one "gets a mitzva" even without KAVANA, it certainly isn't ideal.
That's the point. Try to remember to have KAVANA to remember Y'tzi'at Mitzrayim every time you say this pasuk. (And when you say Kiddush on Friday night.)
Of course, for the whole SH'MA, one should have KAVANA to fulfill the mitzva to recite SH'MA twice daily. And KAVANA to accept upon oneself the Yoke of Heaven. And the command to love G-d. But that's not what this column was meant to convey - it was meant to alert you to the extra function of the last pasuk of Sh'ma.