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Thought for the Day: Amein and Amein

For those of you who feel you've heard enough about brachos already (you're wrong, by they way; there is always more to learn about brachos), let's talk about "amein".  You might have thought that you can't go wrong with amein, but you can.  The problem is that amein is a real hebrew word that means something.  It means, "I affirm what you are saying."  You are essentially adding yourself as a co-maker on his bracha.  The up side of that is that you get nearly the same credit as the m'vareich (the one actually making the bracha) himself.  The downside is that also you get nearly the same blame as the m'vareich himself when there is a problem with the bracha.

First the good side.  Chazal tell us that the numerical values of the letters in the word "Tzadik" -- 90 (tzadi), 4 (dales), 10 (yud), 100 (kuf) -- stands for: 90 ameins, 4 k'dushos (two in chazaras ha'shatz shacharis and mincha, one more before sh'ma, fourth during u'va l'tzion), 100 brachos, and 10 kaddish's (you know who you are).  So answering amein is a great start to becoming a tzadik!  Also, the word amein itself -- aleph, mem, nun -- can also be thought of as the contraction of "K-eil Melech Ne'eman" -- G-d, the faithful King.  Good stuff.

Problems that can occurs: orphan ameins and swallowed ameins.  Pretty obvious what a swallowed amein; you really need to pronounce all the letters.  An orphan amein is one that is said too long after the bracha.  Saying, "I affirm!" out of the blue is not too meaningful and even shows a lack of respect for the whole idea of praising and thanking our Creator.  You don't want to be in that group.

Another is saying amein to the bracha of a non-Jew or apikorus (Reform Rabbi).  If you know the non-Jew is saying a bracha to HaShem and not their deity, then you are ok.

One more issue is saying amein to children who have not yet reached the age of reason (5 or 6 to over 90, depending on the child).  Because of chinuch you need to acknowledge their bracha, but because they don't really understand what they are saying you should swallow the amein a bit.  Say either "mein" or "amei".

Slightly off topic but something I found so revealing about how our g'dolim view the world, that I really wanted to publicize it.  In Halichos Shlomo, Chapter 22, note 70, it brings that the rav was asked about educating Jews who are severely mentally handicapped (what we used to call retarded).  The question was whether the should be taught to say brachos, since the didn't really know what they are saying and they never will.  He answered that you must teach them to say brachos because anything they can do is a comfort to their parents.  On the other hand, best to swallow the amein since their bracha is really not a bracha.

Amazing sensitivity to both one's fellow Jew and also to the demands of halacha.  Turning bein adam l'chaveiro into bein adam l'Makom.


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