I was a fresh-from-seminary idealistic shiur counselor at a Bais Yaakov sleepaway camp, and the theme for the summer was Brachos. My friends and I, in our respective bunks, were focusing on the power of saying Amen. I had finished that morning’s shiur, and I glanced over to the adjacent porch, where my friend had just wrapped up hers as well. As she turned to leave, though, a sweet young nine year old girl stopped her and asked, “Is it an aveirah not to say Amen if you hear a brachah?”
My friend looked her camper in the eye and said, “Tell me Shana, is it illegal to flush diamonds down the toilet?”
She then elaborated and explained that if we only knew the kedushah inherent in one Amen, the worlds we move with that one-word proclamation of faith and fealty to the One Above, we wouldn’t fathom missing that opportunity for anything. We wouldn’t dream of making a brachah quietly when there are others in the vicinity who can say Amen. It would be just as unthinkable, just as much of a colossal, avoidable loss as flushing precious diamonds down the toilet.
In her seminal book on Amen, Just One Word, Esther Stern quotes the words of the Alter of Kelm, who said,“It would have been worthwhile for Hashem to have created the entire universe so that one Jew would say, ‘Baruch Hu u’baruch Shemo.’” A mishna in Avos tells us that one moment of spiritual pleasure in the World to Come contains more than all of the physical pleasure ever experienced in this world. With this in mind, the Alter states that the reward for one “Baruch Hu u’baruch Shemo” is guaranteed eternal pleasure in the World to Come. He continues: “One Amen is 1,000 times greater than the reward for one ‘Baruch Hu u’baruch Shemo!’”
The Shlah Hakadosh writes, “He who listens to a brachah and answers ‘Amen’ with kavanah, creates in the heavens a tremendous amount of holiness and shefa.” What is shefa? One might compare it to a spiritual pipe that delivers an abundance of blessings each time it is opened. What opens that pipe? Among other things, the Amen!
Amen comes from the root word “emuna”, faith. Not only are we hoping for the tefillah to be answered when we say Amen, but we are also expressing our faith in the truth of those words that were just said. “Amen is the master key that opens up the gates to ALL blessings,” says Rabbi Eli Mansour. This one word can give you every blessing you want in life.
Shoshana Kaufman relates: One of the most powerful stories I heard and told about saying “Amen” involved a nine year old girl whose mother died of cancer. A Rav comforted her during the shiva by answering her question of how to honor her mother by encouraging her to say brachos with people there to answer Amen. She took very seriously this chance to do things for her mother’s zechus, and whole-heartedly began to say her brachos only when there were people nearby to say Amen.
One day she came home from school and no one was home besides her. She wouldn’t eat lunch without anyone around. She went to three different neighbors and no one answered her persistent knocking. She was hungry, she was tired, she was thirsty. She was only nine years old! Finally, exhausted, she fell asleep on the couch until her Tatte came home, woke her up, and made sure she ate some food.
That night she had a very vivid dream about her mother.
“My dear, dear daughter, you have no idea what went on here in Olam Haba because of you! All the malachim were aware of your struggle, all of them knew what was going on with you… would you say a brachah or not?
Your self-sacrifice in my honor shook up the heavens and a girl in you class with a life-threatening disease has been completely healed!”