‘Amen’ – Not A Simple Word


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“When I call out the Name of Hashem, attribute greatness to our G-d” (Devarim 32:3).

Rashi explains this pasuk as follows: “When I mention Hashem’s name, I will bring greatness to Hashem and bless His Name.”


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The Medrash says in the future Hashem will sit in Gan Eden and expound on the Torah that will be given through Moshiach. The tzaddikim at the time will sit in front of Him surrounded by the Heavenly Court. The sun and the constellations will stand to Hashem’s right and the moon and the stars to His left.

When Hashem concludes, Zerubavel will rise to his feet and say, “Yisgadel v’yiskadesh shemei Rabbah,” and his voice will be heard from one end of the world to the other. The whole world will answer Amen, including the wicked people in Gehennom. The world will shake and its cries will be heard before Hashem, and He will ask, “Whose voices do I hear?” The angels will respond, “Master of the Universe, these are the evil people of the world who remained in Gehennom, and they say Amen.”

Hashem’s mercy will then be revealed and their sentence will be mitigated. Hashem will say, “The yetzer hara caused them to do this. Why should they have any more judgment?” At that moment, He will give the keys of Gehennom into the hands of the malachim Michoel and Gavriel and declare, “Take these to open the gates of Gehennom and raise up the people.”

The Talmud and other sources discuss the magnitude of responding “Amen.” Reish Lakish (Shabbos 119b) says, “The gates of Gan Eden are opened for one who answers ‘Amen’ with all his might, as it says [Yeshaya 26:2], ‘Open the gates, and a righteous nation who keeps the faith (shomer emunim) shall come.’ Do not read: ‘who keeps the faith,’ but ‘who say Amen (she’omrim amen).’”

The Maharsha writes that Gan Eden has many gates, one within the other, and a person who responds “Amen” with all his might – which requires exceedingly little effort – has the power to open all the gates surrounding Gan Eden. This promise is amazing, as no similar is made even to the most righteous who toil in the service of Hashem.

Halacha prohibits a baal tefillah from answering “Amen” after the beracha of the Kohanim so that he doesn’t become confused with his own tefillos. However, a baal tefillah who is certain that he will not become confused may answer “Amen” because there is nothing greater before Hashem than answering “Amen.”

The Alter of Kelm (cited by R’ Eliyahu Lopian) said it was worthwhile for Hashem to create this world and have it last 6,000 years so that one Jew could recite “Baruch Hu U’Varuch Shemo – blessed is He and blessed is His Name” once in his lifetime. Every “Amen” is worth 1,000 times more, and every “Yehei Shemei Rabbah” is worth 1,000 times more than that. R’ Yechezkel Levenstein added that it’s worthwhile for a person to enter this world and experience the trials and tribulations of life just to answer “Amen” once in his lifetime.

When one hears another person recite a beracha, he is obligated to respond “Amen.” “Amen” is actually an acronym of “Ani moser nefesh – I selflessly dedicate myself [to saying Amen].”

The following story is related in Amen: Just One Word:

Among the refugees fleeing occupation during World War I was a 15-year-old boy who made his way through Poland and eventually reached Vienna in 1917. Like most Jews seeking comfort and solace in a strange country, the boy found his way to the well-known Schiffshul, a historic landmark that was destroyed during the Holocaust. It was the morning of Shabbos Mevarchim, and after Kerias HaTorah the gabbai ascended the bimah to announce the molad. He said it would take place Tuesday night at 1:00 a.m.

The congregants waited to hear how many minutes and seconds after 1:00, but the gabbai remained silent. He then said: “This month is highly unusual in that the molad is exactly on the hour. This only occurs once in 87 years; the next time this will occur will be Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 2004. He then blessed everyone to live and be well at that time.

Most of the people assembled laughed at the thought that they would be alive all those many years later, but the young boy who had sought refuge in the shul took the gabbai’s words very seriously and answered with a heartfelt “Amen” and complete faith that he would survive and, with Hashem’s help, experience the unique molad in 2004.

And so he did. The young boy survived the tumultuous years of both World War I and World War II. He lived to the age of 102 and was the only known individual from that shul that Shabbos to survive to that next molad.


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