Some religions teach that the way to come close to G-d is through an intermediary. Some of these intermediaries are alive, while others have passed on, yet their followers still consider them a conduit to G-d. During the first blessing which precedes the Shema we declare our opposition to these erroneous belief systems in a very subtle way. Halachic authorities note a number of points in the prayer services where if two consecutive words are uttered in a hasty, slurred manner, a different word with an incorrect meaning could be formed. In order to prevent this, there are a number of points in the service where one should be careful to pause briefly between the words. In some siddurim, these places are marked with a slash or dash.
When we come to the word “mamlichim” (“declare the kingship of …”) in the first blessing before the Shema, we do more than pause momentarily. Even though this word is in the middle of a sentence, we stop completely after it and wait for the prayer leader to say this word out loud. Only then do we continue with the following word – “es.”
To understand this practice, it should be noted that if these two words are read quickly they sound like mamlichim mes “declare the kingship of a dead person.” In order to show that such a belief is a complete anathema to the Jewish religion, the prayer leader and the congregation make a special point of stopping between these two words (Chasam Sofer, Shulchan Aruch 59).
A few lines later, when we arrive at Kedusha, we again pause and wait for the shaliach tzibbur. The reason for these pauses differs from the earlier one. Since Kedusha consists of biblical verses, we do not want to merely repeat them by rote after the shaliach tzibbur. We stop to make sure we will read them from the siddur (Magen Avraham).
Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org