The name of the benediction which follows the reading of the Shema'. It refers to God's redemption of Israel from Egyptian bondage, and closes with the words "who hath redeemed ["ga'al"] Israel." The forms for the evening and for the morning service differ, that for the latter being much longer than that for the former. Both compositions, however, refer to the departure from Egypt and to the crossing of the Red Sea, when "Moses and the children of Israel struck up a song to thee in great gladness, and all of them said [quoting from the Song on the Sea] 'Who is like thee among the gods, O Lord? Who is like thee, revered in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?'" Both the evening and the morning service then introduce the last verse of the song; "The Lord will reign forever and ever," and after a verse from the Prophets concerning Israel's redemption, come the closing words: "Blessed. . . . He has redeemed Israel." The past tense—in other words, the exclusive reference to the redemption from Egypt—is noted in Pes. 117b.
The forms for the Sephardic and for the German liturgy differ but slightly; the latter, in the morning, introduces near the end a supplication, "Rock of Israel, arise in the help of Israel, and ransom according to Thy word Judah and Israel," which the Sephardim reject as being foreign to the substance of the benediction. Parts of the "Ge'ullah" for the morning service are full of such assonances, unknown in Mishnaic times. An insistence is also found on the unchangeable character of the Law, which sounds like a protest against Christianity. Zunz, in his "Gottesdienstliche Vorträge," and other scholars have attempted on such inner evidence to find the original and shortest form and to trace the accretions. The opening words "Emet we-emunah" (Truth and faith) for the evening, and "Emet weyaẓẓib" (It is true and established) for the morning, are given in the Mishnah.
The Talmud (Ber. 14b) suggests the following short form of the "Ge'ullah" as sufficient: "We thank thee, O Lord, our God, for that thou hast brought us forth from the land of Egypt and ransomed us from the house of bondage, and hast done for us wonders and mighty deeds upon the sea; and there we sang to thee." This is supposed to be preceded by the words "Truth and faith is all this" (as it seems to be intended for the evening only), and is followed by "Who is like thee," etc., from the Song on the Sea to the end, as in the present form of the benediction—probably including the prophetic verses, Jer. xxxi. 10, in the evening, and Isa. xlvii. 4, in the morning, now recited before the closing "Blessed," etc.
The smiting of the first-born as well as the dividing of the Red Sea seems to have been mentioned in the "Ge'ullah" in early times (Ex. R. xxii.).
The Talmud often (e.g., Ber. 4b) insists on "joining the 'Ge'ullah' to the prayer" without interruption: this is in practise carried out fully in the morning service only.
The word "Ge'ullah" has also in the later service-books of the German ritual been applied to such poetic pieces as may be inserted on festivals or especial Sabbaths in the morning service near the end of this benediction.
The use of poetic insertions on festival evenings is comparatively old, and is also confined to the German ritual. Some of those now in use are found in the Maḥzor Vitry (1208). Whenever such poetry is inserted at the end of the "Ge'ullah," the close of the benediction has the form "Blessed . . . King, Rock of Israel, and its Redeemer."