How to Make Yourself Righteous and Pious by Reciting Amen

Catching Every Amen Possible

Rabbi Wildman cites Sefer Beis Aharon (Rav Aharon Perlow of Karlin, 18th century) that one should be careful to hear every bracha that others need to recite so that one can answer amen to them. The Ari writes that he would hear the morning benedictions even from 100 people so that he could respond amen to them all. The Ari, of course, was a spiritual giant so you wouldn’t think he would need to supplement his own merits simply by concurring with the brachos recited by lesser people. The Ari, however, apparently felt otherwise. Rather, he didn’t hesitate to hear the blessing that God gives the rooster the ability to distinguish between day day and night even 100 times in order to respond amen.

Beis Aharon continues that we should make every effort to respond amen to every bracha possible. This includes the morning benedictions, Shemoneh Esrei, Kaddish, the “yehi ratzons” (“May it be God’s will”) that follow the Torah reading on weekdays and the “harachamans” (“May the Merciful One”) in bentching. [Siman 41]

Magen Avraham (OC 189) writes that it’s a mitzvah to respond amen whenever one hears a Jew being blessed. We should therefore make sure to respond to every mi shebeirach (“May the One Who blessed”) that is recited after a person is called to the Torah. For this reason, one should also be careful to answer amen when he hears the “harachamans” recited in bentching.

The Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, 18th-19th century) writes that when one says “oseh shalom bimromav” (“May the One Who makes peace in His lofty realms”), one should say “v’imru amen” (“and let us say amen”) even when one is all alone. In such a case, “v’imru amen” is directed towards one’s “guardian angels.” [Siman 42]

Saying Amen to Be More Righteous

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 6:4) discusses a custom that after one person has recited the morning brachos in shul, one of the people who responded amen recites them again. They repeat this until all present have recited the brachos and all the others have responded amen. The Magen Avraham there suggests that this is done so that each of them can respond amen 90 times as per the Zohar Chadash.

Machatzis HaShekel explains that there’s a kabbalistic idea that a person should try to become a tzaddik (a righteous person). The numerical values of the letters in the word tzaddik are 90 (tzadi), 4 (dalet), 10 (yud) and 100 (kuf). Pursuant to this, one should respond amen 90 times a day, recite the verse “kadosh, kadosh, kadosh” (“Holy, holy, holy”) in its various places in prayer four times a day, answer Kaddish ten times a day and recite 100 brachos a day.

Rabbi Wildman cites Asara Maamados (presumably the work by the Rema miPano, 16th-17th century) that when a person says a bracha, he should try to have at least two other people standing by to answer amen. This is because the Shach on Shulchan Aruch CM 382 writes that the ides of a bracha being more valuable than ten pieces of gold refers specifically to when a bracha is recited in front of other people, who can answer it with amen, not to reciting a bracha when one is all alone. (Consider, if you will, how many people recite brachos silently even when others are present. How many riches we deprive ourselves!) [Siman 43] [This paragraph is difficult to understand since the Rema miPano died in 1620 and the Shach was born in 1621. Either the author meant a different work or he misremembered the citation.]

Saying Amen to Be More Pious

Next, Rabbi cites a sefer called Darash Moshe (clearly not the familiar work by Rav Moshe Feinstein, so presumably the work by Rabbi Moshe Albilda, 16th-17th century). This book comments on Psalms 31:24, “Love Hashem, all of you who are His pious ones; Hashem protects the faithful.” (We have already discussed how the word for the faithful – emunim – is understood to mean “those who say amen.” The Talmud on this verse (Baba Kama 30a) comments that if one wants to be pious, let him observe the laws of brachos.

This raises a difficult question: is the ramification of not following the laws of brachos simply not being considered pious? Surely one who is lax in this area is considered evil since Talmud Brachos (35b) tells us that one who doesn’t recite brachos steals from both God and the community. Rashi explains that he steals from God by withholding the bracha that is due to Him and he steals from the community because his sin is detrimental to their communal prosperity.

The Talmud in Brachos continues that one who derives benefit from the world without reciting brachos is partners with the “destroyer.” It explains that this refers to Yeravam, the first king of the ten Tribes that seceded, who corrupted his people. Rashi explains that one who is careless about reciting brachos sets a bad example for others, who emulate him. They, too, benefit from the world without reciting brachos, so he led others into bad behavior just as Yeravam did.

So why does the gemara in Baba Kama say to recite brachos in order to be pious when the alternative is to be evil?

Darash Moshe answers this quandary by citing the Zohar on parshas Vayeitzei: the praise of God is elevated through the participation of three people – one who recites a bracha and two who answer amen to it. This is similar to the idea expressed in Asara Maamados. The source for having at least two respondents is Deuteronomy 32:3, “When I call out Hashem’s Name, attribute greatness to our God.” The verb havu, telling others to respond, is in the plural. From this we see that the optimum course of action is to have two others answer a bracha.

This is what the verse in Psalms is suggesting when it says “Love Hashem, all of you who are His pious ones; Hashem protects the faithful.” If you were to ask what following the laws of brachos has to do with being pious, the answer lies in the words “Hashem protects the faithful.” Remember that emunim (“the faithful”) also means “those who say amen.” Being pious means ensuring that there are two others to answer amen to one’s brachos. Not only does God protect such a person, he also earns the fullest reward possible for the brachos he recites. [Siman 44]

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