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There are various strict rules regulating the manner and timing of saying "Amen" following a blesing. In fact, the Gemara (Berachot 47a) lists some pretty severe punishments for people who violate some of these rules.

Frequently, one hears people responding "Amen" to all kinds of informal blessings or expressions of wishes, such as

  • "... and may God Redeem us speedily, in our days."

  • "Thank you for your kind wishes on my marriage. Soon, God-willing, by you."

  • "I hope you have a speedy recovery."

Questions:

  1. Is it actually proper to say "Amen" in these situations?

  2. If so, do the aforementioned rules apply? For example, if I wait half a minute after someone wishes me a speedy recovery to say "Amen," do I (God forbid) get in trouble, per the Gemara?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Let's divide this into 2 catagories: a) Yesoma b) chatufa/ketufa

Yesoma: The problem of an amen yesoma is for a person who requires the bracha for himself, but doesn't hear the bracha and merely answers amen. he hasn't fulfilled his requirement for that bracha. Others are strict to not answer amen at any time you did not hear the bracha [Shulchan Aruch O.C. 124:8] (there are varying opinions about the circumstances of Alexandria)

In our case, the only issue is where you didn't hear the blessing.

Chatufa/ketufa: The problem here seems to be that you have an obligation to say amen to a bracha [Shulchan Aruch O.C. 216:2] and your amen is being said improperly [ibid. 124:8].

So the question becomes- is it an obligation to say amen to brachos not established by Chazal, or is it just proper? If the former, chatufa/ketufa apply. If the latter, you shouldn't be worse off than not saying amen at all.

Magen Avraham [O.C. 216:3] brings a Midrash that a person has an obligation to answer amen to anyone who prays or blesses Israel even without Hashem's name. He cites this as the reasoning to answer amen after the harachamans in bentching.

This seemed very strange since the obligation to answer amen comes from the pasuk of ki shem Hashem ekra, havu godel lelokeinu [Mishna Berurah 216:8 quoting Yuma 37], and here you are not mentioning Hashem's name. The Aruch haShulchan's language is [O.C. 216:1] "when they make a mi shebeirach for someone, it is proper to answer amen, and with this he fulfills the mitzva of v'ahavta l'reiacha kamocha, and there for we answer amen after harachaman(M"A sk"3)".

The upshot is, there may be a big difference between messing up an obligation to aggrandize G-d vs missing an opportunity to do the mitzva of v'ahavta l'reiacha kamocha.

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Avodah Zarah daf Samach Hei has Rava answering Amen after Bar Sheishach's comment of "The eye that wishes to see bad in you should pop out".

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1  
Other examples include "May you settle such dowries on your daughters" - "Amen!" (Kesubos 66b), and the well-known one about the two angels that accompany us home on Friday night (Shabbos 119b). There are even earlier examples in Tanach: Benayahu ben Yehoyada replying Amen to David's wishes for his son Shlomo (I Kings 1:36), and Yirmiyahu doing the same to the (cheerful but false) prophecy of Chananiah ben Azur (Jer. 28:6). –  Alex Nov 11 '10 at 1:21
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OK, I think there's enough precedent here to answer my first question. But my second question is the one I'm more interested in. Any sources on that? –  Isaac Moses Nov 14 '10 at 5:21
    
@alex, why stop there? Remember Har Gerizim/Har 'Eyval? –  Seth J Jan 9 '12 at 0:26
    
@SethJ, there it was a direct command from Hashem that they do so, so you can't necessarily generalize from that to other cases. –  Alex Jan 9 '12 at 1:40

The Mishna B'rura (O.C. 215:9) quotes a midrash in the name of Acharonim to say that one must say "amen" after "wishes" such as you mention - even those that do not include the name of God. From the context I would presume that this "amen" is subject to all the same rules as a regular "amen".

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