Weekly Chasidic Story #987 (s5777-04
/ 24 Tishrei 5777)
On a Narrow Winding Safed Street
Rebbe Shmelke of Nickelsburg explained his custom by saying that when one
recites a blessing it creates an angel, but the angel isn't complete unless
someone answers Amen to the blessing.
Connection:Weekly Reading of Bereshis -- [On the sixth day,]
G-d created man complete with all his complexities.
On a Narrow Winding Safed Street
Every Wednesday I receive a booklet in my in-box from an important
Rav-mashpiah (rabbi and spiritual advisor) in Jerusalem. I read it from beginning
to end on Fridays. In the 14-18 pages there are always a few gems worth repeating.
But one Friday I was just too busy. In fact, it was only the following week
when the new one arrived on the last Wednesday of 5776 that I realized I had
yet to read the previous edition. I immediately did so. The section that particularly
struck me was about the importance of saying Amen properly, and how important
doing so is for the blessing and the blesser as well as the responder. He then
told two remarkable stories to exemplify his message.
Here they are, translated, edited and shortened by yours truly from Yeshiva
English to standard English.
1) Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin1 was meticulous in
reciting a blessing only when someone else was present to answer "Amen."2
Once, while studying into the wee hours of the night, he felt he needed to
drink a cup of water, but there was no one to answer Amen to his blessing.
Just then, one of the top students of his yeshiva came to the Study
Hall to ask him to explain a difficult commentary of Tosfos on the
Talmudic tractate they were studying. Rabbi Chaim explained the Tosfos
and then he said the blessing on the water. The student answered Amen and
Rabbi Chaim thanked him, whereupon the student left
The next day, Rabbi Chaim said to the young man, "Thank you once again
for answering Amen. I was so thirsty last night; I wouldn't have been able
to continue learning without your help."
The student said he didn't understand what the Rebbe was referring to. He
had slept the entire night.
Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner then understood that it was Eliyahu HaNavi (Elijah
the Prophet) who had appeared to him, with the appearance of the student,
to help him with his resolution to only say a blessing when someone was present
to answer Amen.
2) Before making a blessing, Rebbe Shmelke of Nickelsburg3
also always made sure that someone would be near him to answer Amen. He explained
that when one recites a blessing it creates an angel, but the angel isn't
complete unless someone answers Amen to the blessing.
Once, when Rebbe Shmelke was traveling, he descended from the carriage in
order to relieve himself. After that he needed to make the required blessing
afterward, "asher yatzar
there was no Jew in sight to answer Amen. Suddenly, he saw two people. Their
appearance was inspiring. He said the blessing and they promptly answered
Amen strongly. Then they disappeared.
Rebbe Shmelke guessed that these two 'men' were actually the angels Raphael
and Gabriel. They came down from heaven, to help him complete the blessing
properly. Shortly after, he fell asleep in the carriage, and it was revealed
to him that he had assumed correctly. The two "men" were the angels
Raphael and Gabriel, and his interpretation was also correct.
The effect on me lasted long enough to inspire some Amens with far greater focus
than usual during Mincha. However, reading the booklet when I did had also caused
me to be late for Mincha at my usual shul, and I had to attend another
one instead, located in a different direction. In the middle of my walk back
from that shul to my office in Ascent, on one of those narrow winding
Tsfat streets, a man coming from the opposite direction suddenly stopped me
by putting his hand on my forearm. He had a full size knitted yarmulka
on his head, but no beard.
He looked up at me and I stared back at him. Neither of us uttered a sound.
Then, while still holding my arm, he slowly and carefully enunciated the forty-four
word asher yatzar blessing!
I listened just as carefully and responded a hearty Amen.
Then he walked on in his direction and I walked in mine, stunned at this revelation
of the Al-mightys directorship of His creation that seemed aimed directly
at me, and with a resolution for the New Year starting in three days to continue
to be more careful about saying Amen.
Connection: Weekly Reading of Bereshis -- [On the sixth day,] G-d created the
human body complete with all its complexities.
1 Chief disciple of the Vilna Gaon; patriarch
of the Soloveitchik dynasty.
2 The Midrash says, "There is nothing greater for Hakadosh Baruch Hu
than the Amens that [the people of] Yisrael answer." The Gemara
says, "One who answers Amen is [doing a] greater [deed] than the one who
says the blessing." The Zohar says, "Whoever doesn't answer Amen with
kavanah (focused attention), about him it is written, 'Those who disgrace
Me, will lose their honor' (I Shmuel 2:30)." And in contrast, someone who
is careful with Amen will receive honor. As it says, "I honor those who
honor Me" (Ibid)."
3 A fellow disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch together with Rabbi Shneur Zalman
4 "Blessed are You
who created within [man] orifices and cavities
if but one of them were to be blocked or
to be opened, it would be impossible
. Blessed are You
Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor
of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories
to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells
them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.
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