Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Ki Savo) Amen!
While the Jews were still in the desert just before they went into the Land of Israel, Moshe instructed them that immediately upon entering Israel they were to assemble at the mountains of Grizim and Eival in the Shechem region and take an oath to uphold the Torah. Although Moshe was not allowed to enter the land of Israel, he delineated twelve laws for the Levites to spell out, and during the ceremony the tribes were to affirm each statement. They were told to affirm each statement by calling out, Amain – true.
The word Amain is universally understood and used by all people, however, its origin is in the Torah. Let us journey through our traditional sources, the Talmud, Medrash and Halacha to see the uniqueness of the word Amain.
We respond Amain when we hear someone reciting a blessing; it means, “I truly believe that all the aforementioned is true.”
We also respond Amain when someone offers us a personal blessing or a ‘Mi Shebairach.’ In this situation Amain means, “May this good wish be fulfilled.”
The Talmud speaks of the great value of saying Amain properly: A person who answers Amain with complete devotion causes the gates of the Garden of Eden to be opened for him! A simple word travels so far and it affects the Heavenly realms. The Talmud instructs us to teach our children to respond Amain at a very early age because through this response they merit a portion in the World to Come.
On a deeper level: The Talmud tells us that one who responds Amain to a blessing is even greater than the one who recited the blessing. This is difficult to understand. After all, the one who recites the blessing expresses G-d’s name and proclaims that He is King. How does the response of a single word Amain, make him greater?
An answer offered is by focusing on the Gematria – numerical value of the word Amain, which is 91. Ninety-one is a significant number because it is the combined numerical value of the way G-d’s name is spelled and pronounced. We pronounce G-d name as Ado-noy (65) but in fact it is spelled, Yud-Hey-Vuv-Hey (26). The combined numerical value of the two names is 91.
Thus, when one responds Amain (91) he is essentially combining the two names of G-d, while the one who makes the blessing is only pronouncing one of His names.
The Talmud teaches us that the word Amain is actually an acronym for the beginning letters of the words, E-l Melech Ne’eman – G-d, our trustworthy King.
The Ben Ish Chai – the great Rabbi and Kabalist of Baghdad, shows us the uniqueness of each of the letters of the word Amain. As we mentioned, the value of G-d’s written Name is 26. Each of the letters of the word Amain as constructed in the Torah Scroll equal 26! The letter Alef is constructed with a slanted Vuv (6) with two Yuds (20), one on each side. The letter Mem is constructed with a Chaf (20) with the letter Vuv (6) attached to it. The letter Nun has two Yud’s, one on top and one on the bottom (20) and a Vuv (6) connects the two.
Thus, in addition to the Gematria of the word Amain (91) alluding to the two names of G-d, the form of each letter hints to the holy name of G-d (26). This is certainly esoteric and deep, however, it gives us a peek into some of the depth and hidden meaning that lies within the seemingly simple response of Amain.
A story comes to mind concerning a person who every year bid on and purchased a prestigious Aliyah – honor to the Torah on Yom Kippur. One year, another person in Shul began outbidding him. At a certain point, the person turned to Rabbi Yisroel Yaacov Fisher and in frustration told him, “I financially cannot commit to any more money. However, I feel that receiving this honor gives me the Mazal that I will live through the year.”
Rabbi Fisher advised him not to commit himself to more than he could afford, and gave him a blessing that Hashem grant him life through the year.
Lo and behold, a few months later the man passed away! During the Shiva period, Rabbi Fisher came to pay a visit. Turning to the sons who were present with their father in Shul on Yom Kippur he said, “I am sure you are wondering what came of my blessing. Yes, I gave your father a blessing and if you recall I even repeated it. However, each time your father did not respond Amain to the blessing; the blessing was unfortunately not solidified and remained inactive!”
Yes, Amain is a small word, but what it can accomplish is immeasurable!
Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks