[Avodah] Amen of Krias Shema

D&E-H Bannett dbnet at zahav.net.il
Sun Feb 24 02:54:42 PST 2013

A number of times we've had repeats on list of the answering 
or not answering Amen after ga'al Yisrael and before kri'at 
sh'ma'.  The custom of not answering amen seems to  have 
arisen after the meaning of the pos'kim who recommended it 
had been forgotten.  They no longer knew that there are, or 
were, two types of Amen. One is a reply of consent that 
cannot be a hefsek. The other is  a sign that of conclusion 
of a section of the prayers that is the hefesek itself.

I copy below a summary on the subject that I wrote on Avodah 
in the past. I hope it explains more than it confuses.

From: "D&E-H Bannett"

<dbnet at zahav.net.il

I've been more or less following the thread on the custom of 
the chazzan not saying ga'al Yisrael aloud in shacharit so 
as to avoid anyone saying amen. Mention was also made of 
it's somewhat less popular kid brother, not saying 
"ha-bocher b'amo Yisrael b'ahava" and "ohev 'amo Yisrael" 
out loud. The first custom is to be somekh geula to t'fila 
and the second to be somekh ahava to sh'ma'.

It was interesting that some posters insist that answering 
amen is altogether wrong as it is a hefsek while others 
insist that the b'rakhot should definitely be said aloud and 
amen answered - each with sources to back it up. But what 
was most interesting was that what I awaited to see never 
appeared - how and why these two opinions developed. So, 
here is my opinion.

The usual amen indicates acceptance and agreement with the 
brakha, a "me-too" or "count me in". The idea that this is a 
hefsek is very peculiar. When one person makes kiddush for a 
group answering "barukh hu uvarukh sh'mo" is a hefsek 
because this is a custom with no halakhic basis. If 
answering "amen" were a hefsek, those answering would not be 
yotzei yedei chovat kiddush. Has anyone ever heard that, 
when one person makes a brakha to motzi others, they cannot 
answer Amen?

Let's look at something slightly related. The Gemara in 
Bavli Brakhot 45: states two opinions.

1. It is m'shubach to answer amen to one's own b'rakha.

2. It is m'guneh to answer amen to one's own b'rakha.

The contradiction is easily solved. It is m'shubach in bonei 
Yerushalayim (in birkat ha-mazon). It is m'guneh in other 

The importance of one not saying amen to one's own b'rakha 
is shown in the halakhic instruction that when teaching a 
small child to make a b'rakha by having him repeat word 
after word, one should not say Amen when the child finishes 
as this would teach the child to say Amen himself.

But every Ashkenazic Jew does say a self-Amen in Bonei 
Yerushalayim. Obviously, it is not a "me too" type of reply, 
and not a reply at all.

Let the Ashkenazi glance at the siddur of\a Sefaradi friend. 
There is a self Amen after Yishtabach. There is another at 
the end of shemoneh esrei in ha-m'varekh et 'amo Yisrael 
ba-shalom. There is one at the b'rakha melekh m'hulal 
ba-tishbachot at the end of hallel (but not in the same 
b'rakha in barukh she-amar). Another self-Amen appears in 
Ma'ariv in shomer (et) 'amo Yisrael la'ad at the end of 
hashkivenu. Oh, of course, there is also one in Bonei 

All have the same reason.  Bonei Yerushalayim is the end of 
the "official" birkat ha-mazon. Similarly, Yishtabach is the 
end of p'sukei d'zimra; Hamvarekh et 'amo Yisrael is the end 
of shmoneh esrei; mekekh m'hulal ends Hallel, Hashkivenu 
ends "official" ma'ariv. The self-amen is not a reply of 
agreement  to anything. It is a signal that indicates the 
end of a chativa, a single section or group of prayers.

To return, finally, to the original topic, ga'al Yisrael in 
shacharit and ahava before sh'ma', let's look at some 
rishonim who talk about self-amens.

The Rashba, Rosh, Raviah, Or Zarua, Meiri, and others, 
mention self-amen mostly with respect to geula and ahava. 
Obviously, the others were accepted without question, but 
there was another opinion about these two. The Or Zarua 
mentions the Yerushalmi as his source, but I couldn't find 
it, so it is probably no longer there. The Rosh quotes the 
Rambam as saying a self amen only after a section of prayer 
that includes two b'rakhot.

Old siddurim:

Sa'adia Gaon has a self- amen in ahava but none in geula. 
Siddur Ha-g'onim of Shlomo ben Natan has a self-amen in 
geula but none in ahava.

Sa'adia considers ahava the end of the pre-sh'ma' section. 
It has two b'rakhot which is the minimum required by the 
Rambam for a section. Therefore it has a self amen. The 
post-sh'ma' segment has only one b'rakha, and so does not 
have a self amen. In ma'ariv, there are at least two brakhot 
after the sh'ma so the final b'rakha before shmoneh esrei 
has a self amen.

 R' Shlomo ben Natan considers both the pre- and post- sh'ma 
brakhot together with the sh'ma' as a single section and, 
therefore, it has a self amen at ga'al Yisrael. As Ahava is 
in the middle of a section, it doesn't get a self-amen.

Ashkenazim dropped all except the one mentioned in Gemara 
Brakhot. Sefaradim retained all except those that were 


Self-Amens have nothing to do with answering a b'rakha but 
are signs of an ending. Whether the brakhot of geula and 
ahava deserve a self-amen indicating a section end is 
questionable. As the need for such a signal is not that 
important, poskim decided that one should not say a 
self-amen at these two brakhot as it might impair the 
s'mikhat geula litfila or perhaps also ahava li-shma' or the 
separation or the unity of both pre-and post sh'ma' 
b'rakhot. (See Saadia and Shlomo ben Natan above.) Over the 
generations, the concept of an end-signal Amen was forgotten 
and the "not saying amen" was interpreted as applying to the 
"me too" or count me in" type of amen, that of agreement or 
joining to yotzei yedei chova.

Logically, the koach of semikhat geula lit'fila can cancel 
only an amen atzmi but not an amen chova.

All the above is a historical story. It is not a 
recommendation by me to change an established custom, 
neither that of ending ga'al Yisrael silently nor that of 
ending aloud to enable an Amen reply.

BTW, as a ba'al tefila, I still end ga'al Tisrael silently 
as I was taught in my youth many long years ago. But, if I 
hear a chazan's ending of the brakha, I answer Amen.



More information about the Avodah mailing list