In this parsha (27:12-26) we read
about the blessings and curses to be pronounced when our nation enters the
The word “Amen” might be one of the most popular words today, and indeed it is of Biblical origin. It appears only in two passages of the Torah<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>, the first time regarding the command of Sotah – a woman suspected of adultery<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>, and in this parsha, where the word Amen is mentioned after each of the twelve<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> curses. The Jewish people would be standing on two mountains, and the Levites standing below would be reading twelve blessings and curses. On each blessing and curse, our nation had to answer “Amen”. It is thus clear that the word “Amen” signifies acceptance and agreement. We pronounce this word, often without thinking<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> dozens<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> of times every day. Let us now study this word’s deeper meaning<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
The word “Amen” comes from the word “Emunah” – faith. The Talmud (Shabbos 119b) additionally tells us that “Amen” is the first letters of “Kel<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Melech Neeman” – G-d is Trustworthy King. “Amen” can thus be related to both trust and hope. Indeed some commentators<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> conclude that different concentrations are required when answering “Amen”, depending on whether this is a blessing of thankfulness or also an appeal for something. However the GR”A<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> writes that when answering “Amen” on any blessing, we should always have the same concentration: “Let the Name of Hashem indeed be blessed<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>”!
According to Kabbalistic
writings, the word “Amen” signifies the unification of the two main Divine
Names, both having four letters<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>:
“Yud”-“Hei” with “Vav”-“Hei” and “Alef”-“Dalet”-“Nun”-“Yud”. The first one is
not to be pronounced outside of the
As it often happens, the greater is a mitzvah, the more it is ignored. Every day people miss the opportunity to answer “Amen” correctly, answering instead an orphaned “Amen” in wrong places, swallowing letters of “Amen” and not thinking at all about the brocha on which they answer<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Our sages teach us that when we answer Amen correctly the gates of Gan Eden will open before us<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. The child gets his share in the world to come once he starts answering Amen<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. May we deserve to answer Amen correctly and merit the long awaited redemption!
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The Torah openly mentions only the text of the curses but the Talmud (Sotah 37b) teaches that each curse was preceded by a blessing.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This is one of very few Biblical words that even non-Jews are accustomed to and pronounce in the original.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This word is used twice in the passage of Bemidbar 5:22 and twelve times in this week’s parsha (Devarim 27:15-16), see below. The word “Amen” appears more than ten times in the rest of Nach (prophets and writings) signifying agreement and wish that the statement made previously should come true.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> To verify her innocence she brings a particular flour offering and drinks water mixed with a small quantity of earth and ink from an erased passage dealing with this command. Before drinking a Kohen tells her that if she is innocent the water will have no negative effects, but if she is guilty she will die. On this the woman has to answer “Amen, Amen” (The reason she answers Amen twice is because the same punishment would happen even if she was innocent this time, with the man she was suspected to have relations, but had committed adultery before with a different man, see further Talmud, Sotah 18a,b).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> One of
the statements is a general one: “Blessed is the one who upholds all the words
of the Torah” and “Cursed is the one that does not”. Often, when enumerating
the curses, the general one is not counted and this is why we often find the
commentators use the expression “eleven curses”. As for the reason why these
eleven particular commandments were chosen for blessings and curses, most
commentators explain that they have to do with transgression generally
committed privately (see Rashbam, Rabeinu Bachye, Daas Zkeinim Mibaaley Tosafos
and Chizkuni on Devarim 27:15; Ibn Ezra 27:14; Kli Yakar 27:12. See also Rashi
on Devarim 29:28 based on Talmud, Sanhedrin 43b that before coming to the
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Unfortunately we are so accustomed to answering Amen that we usually don’t’ concentrate on it at all. Rabeinu Chaim from Volozhin used to say that he sees no excuse in pronouncing Amen without concentration (Etz Chaim printed in the back of Nefesh Hachaim, #74).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> It’s preferable to answer Amen at least 90 times daily (see Tikuney Zohar, 18th Tikun pg. 29).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Whole books in various languages were written about answering “Amen”, but we will be concise as usual.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The Name of Hashem used here is not to be pronounced except during prayer, this is why we add the letter “K” before it.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In his commentary to Brochos (Imrey Noam 60b), see also Chaye Adam 6:1.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The general concept of a blessing “brocha” is a very deep Kabalistic notion and the word blessing does not adequately describe it. The idea of a brocha has to do with bringing the Divine flow into the world (see Nefesh Hachaim 2:2), and indeed the word Amen is like a stamp that seals this blessing (see Zohar 3:171a; 3:285b; see also Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 167:2).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This is one of the reasons the Talmud (Brochos 53b) mentions an opinion that answering Amen is even better than making the brocha (see also Zohar 3:229a). After all, the one making a brocha only pronounces the Name A-DONOY, while the one answering Amen implies both Names. According to Kabala (Arizal, Shaar Hakavonos, Chazras Haamida, 5; see also Kaf Hachaim 6:13) the concentration when answering Amen should be on an eight letter word, where the letters from each of the two Names are taken one at a time. In case of Kadish, the respective letters from A-DONOY are taken before the letters of the Main Name, and in case of all other brochos and prayers, the letters from the Main Name are first. This difference signifies that in the Tikun (rectification) of Kadish we are trying to bring recognition to the Name of Hashem from down below.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This is also why the Name A-DONOY corresponds to the Sfira of Malchus – Kingship. This is also hinted by our sages (Talmud, Bava Kama 113b) by the words “DINA of Maluchus is True DIN” – a judgment of Kingship is True Judgment. The letters of the word “DINA” are the same as “A-DONOY” (see Zohar 2:118a).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This is also the reason we start the morning prayers, instituted by Avraham, with the song “Adon Olam” (Sidur Shaar Rachamim from Rav Pinchas ben Yehudah, a student of the GR”A).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> They don’t know what they are saying “Amen” on since they are busy with something else (see Shulchan Aruch 124:8 for details on how to answer Amen correctly).