If I hear somebody substantially mispronounce a bracha, should I say amen anyway (recognizing the intent) or remain silent? I'm not talking about nuances like pronouncing 'ayin or distinguishing tzere from segol; I mean errors like reading a reish as a dalet (like a vision-challenged person might do) or transposing letters (like a dyslexic might do). I can not necessarily tell whether the resulting words are nonsense or different words, and, if the latter, what they mean.

If I should not respond, does that change if my non-response will be obvious (e.g. I'm the only other person there and I clearly heard)?

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    If it's unintentional on the part of the person making the Berachah, I think you should respond unless it is absolute gibberish. And even then it would depend on the context. I'm sure someone can bring a source, though, so I'll stay out of the answer section unless and until I see one myself.
    – Seth J
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 14:07

1 Answer 1


The Shulchan Aruch writes (OC 215:2) that one should not respond amen to a bracha recited by an adult Jew if שינה ממטבע הברכות he changed the way the bracha was coined. The Mishna Berura there notes that this is due to the fact that if he changed it too much that he would not fulfill his obligation, it is then a bracha levatala to which one is forbidden to recite amen (per OC 215:4).

How much of a change is considered שינוי מטבע? The Rambam (Brachot 1:5) defines the minimum as a mention of "God's name, His Kingship, and the notion of the bracha." For instance, the Shulchan Aruch rules (OC 167:10) that if instead of HaMotzi, one said "Blesses is God the King who gave me this bread" he has post facto fulfilled his obligation, even though he changed the text of the bracha (and I mean content-wise, not because of the translation). So as long as they pronounce enough words correctly that they still have imparted the proper "notion," they have fulfilled their obligation and you may recite amen. (I recognize that this is a little vague, but there is no way the texts can cover every possibility. One has to be aware of the meanings and potential differences in similar sounding words, just like the one correcting a ba'al keriyah.)

As for how clearly you need to say a word for it to be considered the word you wanted, see my answer here where I discuss the matter and conclude that you have to actually say the correct phonemes, and the only wiggle room is with "minor" differences like shva na' and separating similar consonants (like in the phrase "black coat").

Finally, if you are alone and your silence would be noticeable, I can personally recommend using the old "amem" trick to avoid any bad feelings.

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    However, there are many Ba'alei Teshuvah whose Hebrew pronunciation is quite imperfect, to say the least. Russian immigrants, for example, say "g" instead of "h", as there is no "h" in the Russian language. Many people overemphasize or underemphasize certain vowels. I know of one person who has a terrible stutter. I'm sure he make Berachoth and that his family and friends say "Amen" when they hear him do so. People who are deaf often do not speak clearly to those who can hear. There are many reasons someone might "mispronounce" words of their Berachoth. Are you saying one should not say Amen?
    – Seth J
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 21:10
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    @SethJ If they have a different dialect (accepted in a whole community) then that may be fine as a version of leshon hakodesh, and for the stutterer we can argue about toch kedei dibbur connecting the syllables, but in general if they aren't saying the words then they aren't saying the words. You wouldn't eat from the shechita of someone who has a strong tremor in their hand such that they can't hold a knife steady, no matter how good their intentions are.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 21:23
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    @SethJ Again, they can mess up some words as long as the overall gist of the words they do say is the minimum "notion" of the bracha, but for someone who's Hebrew is really so poor that they can't even manage that, it's probably better for them to just say it in English (or whatever language they understand).
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 21:49
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    @SethJ I don't at all wish to impugn the intentions of the mispronouncers, nor the credit they receive in heaven (not that I have any idea how to evaluate that). All I'm saying is there is a formalized halachik construct called a 'bracha'. It needs Shem. It needs Malchut. It needs to be verbalized; you can't just think a bracha. Someone who changes the words has not said the bracha. And it is forbidden to respond amen to a bracha levatala.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 6:01
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    OK, I was just checking. On your last point, about responding Amen to non-Berachoth, we also respond Amen to children's "Berachoth" for purposes of encouraging them and teaching them about reciting them.
    – Seth J
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 13:00

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