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

Yerachmiel Tilles


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…,"4 but 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.

Again silence.

Then he walked on in his direction and I walked in mine, stunned at this revelation of the Al-mighty’s 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 of Chabad.
4 "Blessed are You…who created within [man] orifices and cavities…that if but one of them were to be blocked or…to be opened, it would be impossible to [live]…. Blessed are You…"

Yerachmiel 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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"Festivals of the Full Moon"
(Under the Full Moon" vol 2 - holiday stories)
is now available for purchase from ASCENT
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Book 1 of Yerachmiel Tilles's 3-volume set, "Saturday Night, Full Moon",
is also available for
purchase on our KabbalaOnline-shop site.

Important notice: Due to a change in publishers, both books will no longer be available online or in stores
until November --


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