Bridging the recitation of the morning Shema and the Amidah, a series of 7-19 blessings that constitute the core of each formal service, is the blessing of Geulah – redemption. So powerful is the link between these quintessential prayers that the first word of the Geulah Blessing, “Emet“; “it is true” is appended to the last line of the Shema, “Adonai Eloheichem; The Lord is your God” resulting in the phrase, “The Lord is your God, in truth.” This new combination serves as a powerful affirmation of the truth of the Shema and by extension, the Torah from which the Shema is drawn. Similarly, at the other end of this sturdy bridge, tradition has forbidden any interruption between the concluding formula of the Geulah Blessing, “Baruch Atah Adonai,Ga’al Yisrael; Blessed are You Adonai, the redeemer of Israel” and the opening blessing of the Amidah. This injunction is so strong that traditionally the prayer leader chants the concluding formula of Geulah in an undertone so as not to evoke a response of “Amen” from the congregation which may be perceived as an interruption.
Since part of our cultural DNA draws us to the narrative of the Exodus from Egypt as the primary example of God’s saving power, it is natural for tradition to mandate the mention of this watershed moment in Jewish history in the context of any discussion of redemption. Our attention is drawn sharply to the redemptive power of the Almighty in this context by quoting from the Song of the Sea – an ode sung by the children of Israel as they miraculously crossed the Sea of Reads unscathed, while their Egyptian pursuers perished. “Mi Chamocha Ba Elim Adonai …. Who is like unto you amongst gods, Adonai?…” Similarly, the Geulah prayer also refers to God’s sparing of the first born of Israel while the first born of Egypt was slain.
Interestingly, there are several elements of this prayer of redemption that are thematically connected to either the Shema at one end or the Amidah at the other end. Such connections serve to fortify the bridge between these two vital components of our service. Rabbi Reuven Hammer the outstanding commentator on our Siddur, notes some of these elements. Referring to God in the Geula Blessing as, Malkeinu, our King, for example, brings to mind the first paragraph of the Shema which is know as Kabbalat Ol Malchut Shamim; acceptance of the Sovereignty of God. Similarly, by using the passage, “Ein Elohim Zulatecha; there is no god other than Our God,” a quotation form King David in the biblical book of 2nd Samuel, the author of our prayer suggests an overriding theme of the Shema; the Oneness of God.
On the other hand, the notion of giving us credit because of the Merit of our ancestors, the opening theme of the Amidah, is reflected by the prayer for redemption by reffering to God as “Goaleinu V’goel Avoteinu; our redeemer and redeemer of our ancestors.” This notion is also very strongly expressed in the opening phrase of the concluding section of this prayer, “Ezrat avoteinu Ata Hu L’Olam;You are the eternal help of our ancestors – the the shield and savior to their children in every generation.”
Geula, the prayer for redemption invites each of us to re-live the exhilarating experience of our ancestors as they crossed the Red Sea. Rabbi Hammer cites a beautiful Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 22:3) which summarizes the power of the Geula Prayer – the Prayer for Redemption which serves to transport the worshipper from the Faith Affirming Biblical passages of the Shema to the personal “face time with God” that is afforded by the Amidah.
“Because of their faith [i.e. the children of Israel] they were privileged to recite the Song[of the Sea] and the presence of God rested on them. Therefore one should join the prayer for redemption to the Amidah, just as they recited the Song immediately after the splitting of he Sea and their attainment of faith. And just as they thus purified their heats before reciting the Song, so must we purify our hearts before reciting the Amidah.”
In jewish Liturgy there is a principle that the M’ein or essence of the prayer must be reiterated at the conclusion of the prayer. This is accomplished in Geulah by the passage, Tzur Yisreal; Rock of Israel. The Almighty God who’s private chamber we are about to enter is clearly identified to us: “Goaleinu, Adonai Tz’vaot Shemo…, Our Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts is His Name, the Holy One of Israel.” We travel across this bridge, replete with a better understanding of the nature of this God for whom we yearn who “humbles the proud and raises the lowly, frees the captive and redeems the meek.” Imbued with the love and devotion we have drawn from the biblical passages of the Shema, fortified by the recollection of our eternal connection to God through our Ancestors and confident in God’s power of redemption, we are prepared to to pour out our hearts to our Creator through the words of the Amidah. Praised are You Adonai, Redeemer of the people Israel.
Here is a link to a wonderful setting of Tzur Yisrael by the pioneering Jewish Rock Group, Safam.[audio http://dl.dropbox.com/u/141011/Share%20a%20Prayer/04%20Tsur%20Yisrael.mp3]
I hope you enjoy this brief look at our prayers. If you have a suggestion or question or request, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
Hazzan Michael Krausman