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Heartwarming and inspiring

stories and parables illustrating

the power of one word — Amen.

Just One Word


2004 Copyright © 2004 by Esther Stern
ISBN 1-58330-748-6

Open this book and discover the strength of just one word, a precious, powerful word. Read about the treasures of Amen - how it can open all the Heavenly gates, enriching you with good fortune and success. You will rejoice with the people in these true stories when they reap the fruit of their efforts in this world.

In this book, there are seventy-two amazing true stories and meshalim, four times the numerical value of chai, life! The mes­sage gleaned from them, when applied appropriately, can bring you untold blessing and bounty, enriching your life both spiritually and physically.

For further information or inquiries regarding Berachos parties, the author can be contacted via e-mail at, or via the publisher, at the address below.


JUST ONE WORD! One short, three-lettered Hebrew word — Amen. It is a word we are all familiar with, yet not everyone is fully aware of its significance.

We recite berachos and answer Amen to other's berachos throughout the day. We teach our young children to do the same. This builds their yiras shamayim and lays the foundation for a Jewish home, a bayis ne'eman b'yisrael.

Our Sages comment on the verse in Devarim (10:12) "Yet now, Yisrael, what does Hashem your God request of you? Only to fear Hashem your God": "Do not read ma (what), but maoh (one hundred)." Hashem requires us to say one hundred blessings a day to ensure we'll grow in yiras shamayim. Reciting so many blessings daily helps a person absorb yiras shamayim, which is an essential component of all mitzvos.

The word ne’eman, faithful, is made up of the word eim, mother, and two nuns. The numerical value of the letter nun is fifty. Two nuns, therefore, would be one hundred. If a mother invests effort teaching her children to recite the required blessings aloud, and to answer Amen when they hear a blessing — amen also being the root of the word _____ — she is guaranteed that her house will be a faithful Jewish home.

R. Alexander Ziskind, author of Yesod v'Shoresh HaAvodah, writes in his will, "I can testify about myself that I was exceedingly careful to educate my family to recite the daily and other blessings, even before they could speak fluently. I personally recited with them the blessings over food and drink and Birkas HaMazon. My efforts to educate them in this world afforded me more joy than all worldly pleasures. I knew that this way I was pleasing our Creator, may His Name be blessed."

R. Simcha Zissel of Kelm used to say, "It would have been worthwhile for God to have brought the entire Universe into existence for six thousand years, just in order that once, one Jew should say Baruch Hu u'baruch Shemo. The reward for saying Boruch Hu u'baruch Shemo is greater than all the pleasures ever experienced in the six thousand years of creation. The reward for uttering Amen just once is one thousand times greater than the reward for saying Boruch Hu u'baruch Shemol And the reward for saying just one Amen Yehei Shemei Rabba is one thousand times greater than the reward for saying one Amen."

We cannot begin to fathom how precious each Amen is to Hashem.

By educating our children to cherish every Amen, thus stimulating them to respond enthusiastically to the numerous berachos they hear throughout the day, we are, at the same time, establishing for them a lifetime goal of constantly striving to per­form more mitzvos. A special atmosphere will permeate our homes if we conduct them in this manner, and this message will be firmly impressed on our children.

If our children learn to appreciate the value of answering Amen, they will then understand how much more they should treasure Torah study, as R. Simcha Zissel says, "One word of Torah is one thousand times greater than saying one Amen Yehai Shema Rabbal"

The root of emunah, faith, is the word Amen. Amen is a declaration of faith in Hashem. Amen is also an acronym of the three words E-l Melech Ne'eman; thus, when we say Amen, we are affirming our belief that Hashem is a "faithful God and King."

The miracles performed at the time of the Exodus from Egypt were in the merit of the Jews' faith in Hashem. The times we are living in seem similarly bleak and frightening. We long for the Final Redemption when we will witness far greater mira­cles than were performed at the time of the Exodus. These miracles will also be performed in the merit of our unfaltering faith in Hashem, even when all hope seems lost.

May we merit ingraining deep faith in ourselves and our children through reciting Amen, and thus, may we be found worthy of the ultimate blessing — witnessing the wondrous miracles of the Redemption with our own eyes, in the very near future.

Amen after fifty years

It happened over ten years ago," recalled R. Moshe Friedman of Rechasim, Israel. "The Rabbanim of my town chose me to accompany a sick person of our community who was traveling to the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Washington Heights, New York, for delicate brain surgery. For various reasons, no family member was able to accompany him, so I went instead." R. Friedman continued:

THE SURGERY was scheduled for Monday morning. Four days prior to that, on Friday afternoon, the young man was admitted to the hospital where he underwent intensive medical testing. At the end of the grueling procedure, he was wheeled back to his ward on the seventeenth floor, accompanied by the doctor who was supervising his treatment. "For the next twenty-four hours," the doctor sternly warned me, "this patient may not so much as move a muscle. If he does, he may suffer internal injuries that could prove to be fatal. Watch him well!"

I had been invited to eat the Shabbos meals with a family that lived close to the hospital. When I heard these dire words of caution, I immediately abandoned the idea and prepared to spend Shabbos in the hospital, keeping watch over this criti­cally-ill young man. "Daniel," I whispered to my friend, "Did you hear the doctor's orders? Do not move a muscle! But don't worry, I'm staying right here with you. If you need something, call me, and I'll bring it. I have two favors to ask of you, though; first of all, don't lift your head off the pillow! And another thing — I'd like to leave the hospital for twenty-five minutes to buy a few things. I need a bottle of grape juice, challahs for lechem mishneh, and some canned gefilte fish. I'll be back as fast as I can; just please Danny, don't move!"

The patient agreed.

I raced out of the hospital and stepped into the first Jewish grocery I saw. I found what I needed right away, and quickly made my way back to the hospital.

The hours passed. The Shabbos Queen made her regal entry even within the somber hospital walls, bringing along her calm­ing peace and serenity. I davened Minchah and sang Lecha Dodi. When night fell, I davened Ma'ariv — trying to invoke a warm and meaningful prayer there, a lonely Jew among hundreds of non-Jews. We sang Shalom Aleichem and Aishes Chayil, thinking about our families who were spending Shabbos without us so many thousands of miles away.

Then I poured the grape juice and began reciting Kiddush. When I was only halfway through, two muscular orderlies wearing white coats entered the room. Without a word, they handed me a doctor's letter stating that the patient had to be taken downstairs for further x-rays.

"What?" I asked incredulously, "He can't be moved! The doctor said one move could be fatal... It just can't be..." One of them began shouting at me in a deep, bass voice, but his accent was so unfamiliar to me, that I couldn't understand what he was saying. Without further ado, he and his partner lifted the help­less patient, placed him on a stretcher and wheeled him out of

the room. Having no choice, I followed them — protesting loudly — but my pleas were totally ignored. One of them pressed the elevator button, and they stood together in stony si­lence as the elevator made its long ascent. While they were wait­ing, my mind raced furiously as I tried to recall what the Halachah permits in this situation: Was I allowed to ride in the elevator with them? What if the patient needed me? How could I leave him at the mercy of these two huge men? Baruch Hashem, my mind cleared just as the elevator's bell sounded and its doors smoothly slid apart. Yes, I was permitted to enter the elevator under these circumstances. The orderlies wheeled the stretcher into the elevator and I quickly followed — where my charge was going, I would go too! The elevator descended seventeen floors. On the ground floor, we transferred to another elevator that took us down two more floors — into the bowels of the hospital, to the x-ray department.

The waiting room was crowded and it was obvious that we were in for a long wait. Luckily, I had grabbed a Chumash Bereshis with meforshim, commentaries, on my hasty exit from the ward. At least I could use my time wisely and review the parashah of the week.

"See, Daniel, how lucky we are," I commented wryly to my friend, "we now have the opportunity to do shnayim mikrah v'echad tar gum, read the text twice and Aramaic translation once, with some Rashi and Sifsei Chachamim to boot." I settled myself near the patient and began reading to him, trying to block out our surroundings. I was hoping to finish reviewing that week's Torah portion but Hashem willed otherwise.

At the sound of squeaking wheels, I turned around to see a stretcher being wheeled down the hall. The attending orderlies parked it alongside my friend's, clipped the patient's medical files onto the bars of the bed, and disappeared.

Glancing across at the patient, I saw an elderly woman with wrinkled features and sparse, graying hair. Her pale face and labored breathing told me she had not come for a routine check-up. Unlike the other patients in the waiting room, she was alone — there was no one accompanying her. I was over­come with pity for this lone woman, who seemed to be suffering greatly. Catching my sympathetic glance, she lifted her wrinkled hand and beckoned to me. I came towards her and saw her lips moving in a whisper. I bent my head down to hear better. All she said was two words: "Gut Shabbos."

I looked at her in surprise. So this woman was Jewish! "Gut Shabbos!" I replied warmly. "May you feel better soon. May the Shabbos bring along a recovery for you."

I turned to my friend. "Daniel!" I said, "Guess what? We have a fellow Jew here. This woman is Jewish, and she even speaks Yiddish." This was our first encounter with a Jewish face and Yiddish words in Presbyterian General, and we were both excited.

"R. Moshe," said Daniel, sharing my enthusiasm, "go to our room and bring down a cup and some grape juice. Make Kiddush for her — I'm sure she hasn't heard Kiddush yet."

"Go up to our room?" I repeated. "Daniel, just think. We're on floor minus two and our room is on the seventeenth floor. There are no stairs reaching the upper floors of this building. How do you expect me to get there?"

But Daniel would not be swayed. "R. Moshe, you could use the fire escape," he insisted, "Please get the grape juice and make Kiddush for her; she's a Jewish woman!"

I had no choice. I knew it wasn't advisable to upset Daniel in his condition — it could affect his already teetering blood pressure. It was obvious that I would have to comply with his wishes.

I left the waiting room and ascended the two flights to the ground floor. I was about to leave the building when I encountered a new problem.

The lobby doors were electronically operated. I stood at the side, waiting for a non-Jew to pass through and activate the doors. When someone finally entered the building, I zoomed past, not wanting to cause the electric doors to stay open for even one extra second. The people in the lobby probably had a good laugh. After all, they had seen this crazy fellow waiting pa­tiently for several minutes at the doors and then suddenly scoot­ing through them as if someone were at his heels.

I scanned the building's exterior, searching for the fire es­cape. At last I found it, tucked away in a remote corner. I looked upwards, trying to make out the seventeenth floor, but all I saw was a cloudy gray sky. I took a deep breath and began my trek.

It was a typical New York winter. The cold penetrated my bones and the biting wind took my breath away. Upwards I marched, up and up, on and on, until, to my immense relief, I saw the figure 17 smiling at me in a friendly, bright fluorescent yellow. "If I had one more step to climb," I thought to myself, "I would surely collapse."

But my trials were not yet over. To my dismay, I realized that there was no handle on the door. The door could only be opened from inside. There was a small bell affixed on the brick wall, helpfully designed to call someone to open the door. But on Shabbos the bell was useless to me.

"Ribbono Shel Olam," I cried out in despair, "I'm cold and ex­hausted from this strenuous climb. What do I do now? Go back down again? What will I tell Daniel?"

My prayers were answered. The door was suddenly pushed open — someone must have mistaken it for a different door. The unsuspecting man was frightened out of his wits when I darted past him, but I calmed him down and then hurried to our room. I fell into the nearest chair, took a couple of deep breaths and rubbed my hands together, trying to warm myself up a little. Then I took the grape juice and a few cups and headed back to the fire escape, back to my waiting friend and the elderly Jewish woman.

The descent was far easier than the way up. When I reached the ground floor, I had only a short wait until the automatic doors opened for a non-Jew. Once in the main building, my halachic difficulties were over. I easily descended the two flights of stairs to the waiting room, and approached the woman. Speaking in Yiddish, I told her, "I've come to make Kiddush for you."

The woman threw me a look of gratitude. She listened closely while I recited Kiddush and then said in as loud a voice as she could muster, "Amen." I would never have expected to hear such a hearty Amen from this sickly, emaciated woman. I gave her a drop of grape juice and then bent down once again to listen to what she was trying to tell me. "Fifty years have gone by since I heard Kiddush last," she said in a feeble voice. Using her last reserves of energy, she told me that she was born in Poland and that she had spent the war years hiding among gentiles. After the war she emigrated to America. She did not elaborate on what happened to her after that. She only repeated, as if in a trance, "It's been fifty years since I last answered Amen."

I was overcome with emotion. What a zechus it was for me that I could make Kiddush for this woman and give her the chance of saying Amen after fifty years. I was even further moved an hour later when I discovered that the woman had passed away...

"Ribbono shel Olam," I thought to myself, "I've traveled seven-thousand miles in order to elicit a hearty Amen from a tinokes shenishbah — her first and last after fifty years...the key she needed to open the gates of Gan Eden."

Indeed, our Sages say, — "One who answers Amen with all his strength, the gates of Gan Eden are opened for him."

(Heard from R. Moshe Friedman, Rechasim)

The verse in Shir HaShirim (4:3) says: — "And your speech is beautiful."

This is the literal meaning of the verse, which is describing the Jewish nation's spiritual beauty through the depiction of physical features. The word "____ can also be translated as wilderness. The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 79) expounds on the verse's meaning using the second translation. "'Your wilderness' refers to the ignorant Jews who do not know how to read or how to learn, just like a wilderness desolate of vegetation. They enter the House of Prayer and answer Amen. The reward of this Amen alone is sufficient to allow them into Gan Eden."

THE GEMARA tells us — "Answering Amen is greater than reciting a bless­ing" (Berachos 53b). At first, this may seem surpris­ing. How can saying one short, simple word be more important than reciting an entire blessing to Hashem?

We can answer this question with the following comparison: An official of the king praises him warmly in front of a large gathering. If no one responds to his words, this is a gross disgrace to the king. It is an indication that no one really agrees with the praise. On the other hand, if the gathering breaks out into hearty applause, this confirms the praise and proves the king is worthy of honor.

This is why we say Amen at the end of a berachah. Amen com­pletes the blessing by validating the praise just mentioned. It is through our declaration of Amen that Hashem is truly honored.

Our Sages tell us that the Amen recited after a blessing can also be compared to the royal seal stamped at the end of a king's letter. Without this stamp, the letter is incomplete and worth­less. If a blessing is not followed by Amen, the blessing is defi­cient. In every day terms, we can compare this to a check of one million dollars — without a signature! It's worthless!

There are three different meanings Amen, as they apply to the various blessings we say.

•  When one answers Amen to blessings that attest to Hashem's goodness and power, e.g. Birchos HaNehenin — the blessings recited before and after eating — he is proclaiming, "It is true, I believe."

•  An Amen uttered in answer to requests means, "May it be ful­filled, if only."

•  For blessings that are both requests and declarations of Hashem's abilities, e.g. Boneh Yerushalayim, one's Amen means, "It is true," and "May it be fulfilled."

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