Joining Redemption & Prayer - Part 1
The blessing that follows the Shema prayer, called “Geulah”, Redemption, must be joined to the Shemoneh Esrei prayer. One is not even allowed to interrupt to answer amen to the congregation leader’s recital of “Ga’al Yisrael” at the conclusion of the blessing. Rema: There is an opinion that it is permissible to answer “amen” to the congregation leader’s blessing of “Ga’al Yisrael”. (Shulchan Aruch 111:1)
The Mishnah Berurah writes (67:35) that in order to fulfill both opinions one should conclude his own blessing together with the congregation leader so as not to obligate himself to answer amen. Another custom is discussed by later Rabbis, explaining that the congregation leader concludes the final words of the blessing of Ga’al Yisrael quietly, since in this way the congregation does not become obligated to answer. Rav Chaim Kanievsky agrees with this custom, while Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner disagree, maintaining that the congregation leader should conclude in a loud voice. Two reasons given for this are that this “quiet” solution is not mentioned by the earlier commentators on the Shulchan Aruch, and it also seems disrespectful to the blessing not to conclude in a loud voice (Dirshu 111:12).
From the words of the Mishnah Berurah (111:5) it seems that all agree, including the Rema, that it is forbidden to answer to Kaddish and Kedusha between Geulah and the Shemoneh Esrei. Ideally one should not even wait the time it takes to say “Shalom Aleichem Rabbi” between Geulah and the Shemoneh Esrei (Mishnah Berurah). The Ben Ish Chai explains that according to Kabbalah one should not delay even a little, explaining that it is for this reason that the Rabbis did not institute saying Kaddish before the Shemoneh Esrei, as they did between the other parts of Shacharit. The Piskei Teshuvot explains that it is ideal to connect the two blessings in one breath, namely to say Ga’al Yisrael and “Ado-noi Sfatai…” in one breath (Mekor Chaim).
In light of how much importance is placed on connecting redemption to prayer, the question arises: Is it alright to take some time to gather one’s thoughts in order to pray properly before beginning the Shemoneh Esrei? Considering that having proper intention for the first blessing is crucial, one would assume that it is alright, and if it is absolutely necessary one may in fact take time to gather his thoughts. However, when possible, one should gather his thoughts beforehand, towards the ending of the blessing of Geulah, or if one already said Ga’al Ysrael he can say the phrase of “Adon-noi Sfatai…” slowly, while gathering his thoughts, since in this way he fulfills the mitzvah in the best way without compromising proper intention for the first blessing.