Obligation to answer Amen:
A. The greatness and the obligation:
It is an obligation to answer Amen towards the blessing said by a Jew. This applies even if the person who hears the blessing is not obligated in this blessing at all.
Amen to a blessing that does not include Hashem’s name: Whoever blesses another Jew it is a Mitzvah to answer Amen to his blessing. [This applies even though Hashem’s name is not mentioned in the blessing such as a Mi Shebeirach, or Harachaman, or a personal blessing given by a friend and the like. An example of this would be for a mourner to answer Amen towards the comforters parting remarks of consolement. One is however not to answer Amen to a blessing said without Hashem’s name due to doubt, such as Baruch Patrani Meonsho Shel Zeh.]
Whoever answers Amen is greater than even the person who said the blessing. The reason for this is because in the word Amen is hinted two names of Hashem, both Adniy and Havayah. Alternatively, the reason is because answering Amen includes three Mitzvos: Shavua, Kabala and Emuna.
One who hears a blessing and does not answer Amen, his punishment is very great.
Rav Mordechai Jaffe, the author of the Levushim, once visited his teacher Rabbi Abuhav to study from him the laws of the Ibur, of sanctifying the new moon. While there, Rav Abuhav’s son said a blessing over a fruit aloud and everyone in the family answered Amen to his blessing. Unintentionally, being over-engrossed in his studies, Rabbi Jaffe did not answer Amen to the blessing. His teacher Rabbi Abuhav became extremely angry at his student and severely admonished him, going to the extent of placing him in excommunication. Rav Jaffe had to leave his teachers home and pleaded to his teacher to accept him back. Several days passed and his teacher’s wrath still did not settle, and he did not agree to forgive his student despite the constant implorations. He asked his teacher why he is deserving of such severe consequences when seemingly he committed an unintentional minor transgression. His teacher replied to him “In truth I love you very much, even more than his children, although you should know that when you did not answer Amen you became liable for death from Heaven, and I needed to nullify this decree through admonishing you and causing you distance and pain. I forgive you now with a full heart. Let me tell you a story that happened in the 1600’s prior to the period of the Chmielnicki massacres. There was a certain pious Jew who heard his son say a blessing over bread and did not answer Amen, and it was decreed upon him to die. This Jew was later informed on to the government and was killed shortly thereafter.
Is one to specifically recite blessings out loud in order so others can answer Amen?
Some Poskim rule one is to specifically recite blessings aloud in order to have others answer Amen after the blessing. One is to try to have at least two people answer Amen after the blessing. The Chabad custom however is to recite blessings quietly. If one suspects that the people who hear his blessing will not answer Amen, then he is certainly to avoid saying the blessing aloud.
How is one to answer Amen if more than one person is saying a blessing simultaneously?
If two people are saying two different blessings simultaneously, then one is to answer Amen twice, one time on each blessing. It is best to answer Amen Veamen. If however they are saying the same blessing then he is to answer Amen one time. If however they do not conclude the blessing simultaneously, and there is an interval of Kdei Dibbur between the two conclusions of the blessing, then one is to answer Amen for each conclusion of the blessing.
If one is in middle of learning Torah must he answer Amen to a blessing? Pt 215/3
Middle of verse of curses: If one is in the middle of reciting a verse that contains negative aspects, such as retribution and punishment, he is not to answer Amen for someone’s blessing. Initially however, it is best to delay or precede the verse in order so he is able to answer Amen to the blessing.
Concentrating on the Amen of the answers:
Some Poskim rule that one who says a blessing is to concentrate on the Amen said by the people who heard the blessing. Other Poskim however rule that it is not necessary to do so. It is implied from Admur like the latter opinion.
B. Children answering Amen:
One is to teach his young children and educate them to answer Amen. From the moment that a child answers Amen he has a portion in the world to come.
C. Towards whose blessing must one answer Amen?
Amen to blessing of if did not hear the entire blessing: One is obligated to answer Amen even if one did not hear the entire blessing from beginning to end, but rater only its end. Furthermore, one is obligated to answer Amen even if he did not hear any words of the blessing from the person saying it, so long as he is aware of the identity of this blessing, [and is not intending to be Yotzei with it], in order so it not be an Amen Yesoma.
Amen to blessing if person changed the dialect of the blessing: If a person changed the dialect of a blessing one is not to answer Amen to his blessing. [Nevertheless, if the person is a G-d fearing Jew and changed the wording of the blessing unintentionally or due to lack of knowledge, some Poskim rule one may answer Amen to his blessing.]
Amen to blessing of Gentiles that are not idolaters: If a gentile recited a blessing amongst one the blessings instituted by the Sages one is to answer Amen if he heard the entire blessing from his mouth. If however one did not hear the entire blessing from his mouth he may not answer Amen. Kutim have the same status as gentiles in this regard.
Amen to blessing of Idolaters and Heretics: It is forbidden to answer Amen after the blessing after a heretic who is a fervent follower of idolatry. This applies even if one heard the entire blessing from his mouth. [The same applies towards the Apikorsim, such as Jews praying in a conservative or reform temple, that one may not answer Amen to their blessings. However those non-religious Jews that are defined as a Tinok Shenishbu one must answer Amen to their blessing.]
Amen to blessing of children: One is not to answer Amen for a blessing recited by children who are being taught the blessings by their teacher. This is despite the fact that it is permitted to teach the children the proper blessings even not during their appropriate time. If however the children are not saying a blessing in vain, such as they are saying blessings at the appropriate time [such as over food], then one [must] answer Amen to their blessings. [One who does not answer Amen to a blessing is severely punished even if the blessing was said by a child. This applies to both a male and female child.]
Amen to blessings of practicing adults: It is forbidden for adults to recite blessings outside of their appropriate time even if it is done out of learning, to teach them the blessings. [Such a blessing is considered a blessing in vain and is certainly forbidden to answer Amen to such a blessing.]
Is one to answer Amen to the blessing of a Cheresh or Shoteh?
Is one to answer Amen for a blessing of a child who has not yet reached the age of Chinuch?
Some Poskim suggest that one is not to answer Amen for the blessing of a child that has not yet reached the age of Chinuch. Nevertheless, the widespread custom is to answer Amen for the blessing of all children even if they have not yet reached the age of Chinuch.
May one answer Amen to the blessing of a child who is not yet potty trained?
Some Poskim imply it is permitted and obligated to answer Amen to his blessings, [other than the father of the child]. Others however rule it is forbidden to do so. According to all, it is forbidden for the father to educate his child to say blessings while he is soiled with feces [and he should therefore not answer Amen to his blessings in such a case].
May one answer Amen to the blessing of a child who is not fully clean and contains has fecal remnant?
Some Poskim rule it is permitted and one is obligated to answer Amen to his blessings if he has not yet reached the age in which he can be responsible to fully clean himself properly. This is approximately at age six. Others however rule it is forbidden to answer Amen to the blessing of an unclean child.
May one answer Amen to the blessings of one who is praying Shemoneh Esrei aloud?
Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur: During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur one may answer Amen being that they are not doing a transgression. Nevertheless it is best to distance oneself from the person in order not to hear his blessings.
May one answer Amen in a bathroom or bathhouse?
 Admur 215/2; Michaber 215/2; Mishneh Brachos 51b
 The reason: This is learned from the verse “Ki Shem Hashem Ekra, Havu Godel Lelokeinu”. Moshe said to Bnei Yisarel that when he recites a blessing with Hashem’s name the listeners are to answer Amen and give praise to Hashem. [M”B 215/8]
 Admur 189/6; M”A 215/3 in name of Midrash; Chesed Lealafim 215/4; Kaf Hachaim 215/11
 Admur ibid
Is this a Mitzvah or obligation? From the wording of Admur ibid it is implied that it is not an obligation but a Midas Chassidus and so is also implied from Orchos Chaim Kerias Hatorah 3 that says “It is permitted to answer Amen” and so rules Emek Sheila 53/2. However some Poskim rule it is an see an obligation to answer Amen to a prayer or blessing, such as Harachaman. [M”A 215/3 in name of Midrash; Chesed Lealafim 215/4; Kaf Hachaim 215/11]
 See Aruch Hashulchan 215/1; Kaf Hachaim ibid; Piskeiy Teshuvos 215/7 footnote 42
 Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid
 Betzeil Hachochmah 5/90
 Shabbos 119b
 Gemara ibid; Rabbeinu Yona Brachos “Some people’s concentration are aroused through raising their voice.”
 Rashi ibid
 Brachos 53b
 Sefer Chassidim 19
 Elya Raba 124/11; Perisha 124; This means that he is accepting the blessing with a swear and faith. See Chasam Sofer 15
 Chayeh Adam 6/1
 Nehara Hashaleim p. 15, brought in Kaf Hachaim 124/30
 Machatzis Hashekel 6/9 based on Asara Mamaors; Zohar Eikev and Vayeitzei; See Shach C.M. 382/;See Bigdei Yesha 167/33 in name of Kisvei Arizal that if one is alone and unable to have someone answer Amen to his blessing he is to say it with great desire and love of Hashem. This concentration creates an angel who then answers Amen to his blessing
 Zohar ibid; Asara Mamaros ibid; Machatzis Hashekel ibid
 Heard from Rav Yehuda Leib and Eliyahu Landa Shlita
The reason: As Admur 213/4 rules that one who hears a blessing according to some opinions is Yotzei even if he did not have intent to be Yotzei, and hence in order to prevent others from entering into this doubt we therefore recite the blessings silently.
 Ben Ish Chaiy Maasey 14
 M”B 124/25
 M”B 55/4
 Ashel Avraham 215; Orchos Chaim 124/6; Toras Chaim Sofer 66/8 that one who is involved in a Mitzvah is exempt from a Mitzvah; Shevet Halevi 9/43; Tzitz Eliezer 11/4; Salmas Chaim 62; Kinyan Torah 2/36; 4/9; Pischa Zuta 5; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2/73-74; Yabia Omer 9/3; Shearim Hametzuyanim Behalacha 20/3; Piskeiy Teshuvos 51/11 and 55/29 and 215/4
 Shevet Halevi ibid; Poskim ibid; Vetzaruch Iyun from Igros Kodesh ibid that one is obligated to answer in-between the Shel Yad and Shel Rosh even though one is in the midst of a Mitzvah.
 Kaf Hachaim 215/10 in name of Meorei Or and Orchos Chaim 215/3
 The reason: The reason for this is so it does not sound like he is answering Amen to the curses he recited. [ibid]
 Rama 167/2; Or Zarua based on Yerushalmi
 The reason: As the Amen is also part of the blessing [Darkei Moshe 167/4; Admur 167/3; Gra 167] and through answering Amen the blessing of the person receives greater importance, and hence it is initially proper to intend to fulfill one’s obligation with the Amen said by the listeners. [Darkei Moshe ibid; Or Zarua ibid; Yerushalmi; M”B 167/20]
 See Biur Halacha 167/2 “Vehamevarech” that so is implied from Lechem Chamudos and Shiyurei Kneses Hagedola, and that aside for the Or Zarua, no other Posek mentioned such a law. This ruling of the Rama is likewise omitted from Admur in 167
 The reason: As there is no obligation for one who says a blessing to say or hear Amen, and on the contrary one who says Amen to his blessing is considered a fool. [Biur Halacha ibid]
 As Admur 167/3 completely omits this ruling of the Rama. Furthermore, Admur stipulates the entire law of delaying cutting the bread until the Amen has been completed by majority of the congregation to only a case in which the listeners are fulfilling their obligation with this blessing of Hamotzi, and plan to eat bread on its basis. Now, although Admur records the wording of the Darkei Moshe and Or Zarua ibid that Amen is part of the blessing, nevertheless Admur learns that this only applies when the person saying Amen is fulfilling his obligation with the blessing. Perhaps the reason for this is because in truth Admur rules there is no need for the person saying the blessing to concentrate by the Amen, not even in a case that the person saying Amen is fulfilling his obligation. However, nevertheless, he may not cut the bread until the Amen is complete, being that the Amen of one who is being Yotzei a blessing is part of his blessing and the bread is to remain a Shaleim until one completes the blessing.
 Admur 124/10; Rama 124/7 in name of Kol Bo
 Seemingly this includes even children that are below the age of Chinuch. [See Piskeiy teshuvos 215 footnote 9
 Admur 124/11; 215/2; See Biur Halacha 215 “Chayav”; Piskeiy Teshuvos 215/3
Other opinions: Some Poskim rule it is best not to answer Amen to a blessing that one did not hear at all, even if he knows its identity. [Kaf Hachaim ibid]
 Admur 215/2
Other opinions: Some Poskim rule one is not obligated to answer Amen for a blessing that one did not hear at all and it is merely voluntary to do so. [Kaf Hachaim 124/47; Biur Halacha 215 “Chayav” based on Taz and Mamar Mordechai, brought in Piskeiy Teshuvos 215/3] Based on this some Poskim rule it is best not to answer Amen to such a blessing. [Kaf Hachaim ibid] If however one heard some of the words of the blessing then he must answer Amen. [Kaf Hachaim ibid; Michaber 215/2]
 Admur ibid; Michaber ibid
 Kinyan Torah 5/9 based on M”A 53/15
 Admur ibid; Rama 215/2; Rabbeinu Yonah Brachos 51b; Yerushalmi
Other opinions: Some Poskim rule one is never to answer Amen after the blessing of a gentile. [Kesef Mishneh in opinion of Rambam; Bach 215; brought in M”A 215/3; Mateh Yosef, P”M 215 A”A 3 and Kaf Hachaim 215/14 that so is the ruling Michaber who omitted the ruling of the Rama] However, one may answer Amen after a Yishmaeili, being they do not serve idolatry. [Maharikash; Kaf Hachaim 215/15]
 The wording in Admur ibid “Nachri”, however the Rama ibid writes “idol worshiper”. The M”B 215/12 explains that a common idol worshiper does not intend towards idolatry when saying Hashem’s name and hence one is to answer Amen to his blessing. It is possible to learn this way in Admur as well, as Admur only forbids answering Amen to a person who is fervently attached to idolatry, and hence perhaps your normal gentile would be valid.
 If the blessing was not instituted by the Sages: If a gentile states may our G-d help you or save you one should not answer Amen to his blessing. If however he says May your G-d help you or save you then one may answer Amen. [Sefer Chassidim 427; Chesed Lealafim 215/4; Betzeil Hachochmah 3/39]
 Obligation or voluntary: Some Poskim rule one is not obligated to answer Amen for a blessing said by a gentile and it is merely voluntary to do so. [Taz 215/3; P”M 215 M”Z 2; M”B 215/12; Kaf Hachaim 215/14] Admur however omits this opinion and implies that it is obligatory. Vetzaruch Iyun
 Admur ibid; Michaber ibid regarding Apikores; Rambam Brachos 1/13
 The reason: (As the common intents of an idolater’s mention of Hashem’s name is towards his idolatry.) [Admur ibid]
 Igros Moshe 2/50
 Piskeiy Teshuvos 215 footnote 29
 Admur ibid; Michaber 215/2-3; Brachos 53b
 Admur ibid; Michaber 215/3; Rambam Brachos 1/15
 M”B 124/47
 The reason: A child is obligated to say an obligatory blessing [just like an adult] in order to educate them in Mitzvos. Thus, when they say a blessing at the appropriate time in order to exempt them from their obligation, one is to answer Amen to the blessing. The same applies regarding a child who is reading the Haftorah for the congregation and is saying the before and after blessings, that the congregation is to answer Amen to those blessings. [Admur ibid]
 See Maaseh Shehaya brought above from Nehara Hashaleim p. 15, brought in Kaf Hachaim 124/30
 Piskeiy Teshuvos 215 footnote 45; However see Aruch Hashulchan 215/2 that it does not apply towards a female child. See Yabia Omer 2/13
 Admur ibid; M”A 215/8; Elya Raba 215/4; See Igros Kodesh 3/138
 The reason: Although the blessings recited by the children for the purposes of learning are blessings in vain, nevertheless the Sages permitted it to be done. However by an adult, it is forbidden for him to say blessings outside of their appropriate time even if he is doing so for the sake of learning. [Admur ibid]
 P”M 124 A”A 14; M”B 124/47
 M”B 215/8 that so is implied from the Peri Megadim; M”B 124/47
 What is the age of Chinuch? Some say the age of Chinuch is five years old. [Yabia Omer 8/25] Others write it is from the time the child knows how to say the blessing on his own. [Salmas Chaim 134; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 215/8 footnote 44]
 Even Yisrael 8/14; See Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid footnote 46; Or Letziyon 2/14
 See Divrei Chaim 2/9; Misgeres Hashulchan on Lechem Hapanim in Kitzur SHU”A 165/1; Tiferes Adam 3/6; Piskeiy Teshuvos 215 footnote 49
 See Misgeres Haashulchan ibid
 The reason: As a child who is not old enough to be educated to clean himself, only the father is obligated to clean him. Thus, if a person [other than the father] hears his blessing, he must answer Amen towards it. [Misgeres Hashulchan ibid]
 Kitzur SHU”A ibid in Lechem Hapanim
 The reason: As it is forbidden for an adult to say a blessing while he has fecal remnant in his anus opening, and the same would apply to a child who is being educated in Mitzvos. [ibid]
 Divrei Chaim 2/9; Misgeres Hashulchan on Lechem Hapanim in Kitzur SHU”A 165/1; Tiferes Adam 3/6; Piskeiy Teshuvos 215 footnote 49
 The reason: As if the child is not old enough to be educated to clean himself then he is exempt from this aspect of Chinuch. Also the father is exempt from cleaning him to such a point that no fecal remnant remains by his opening, as the child is not old enough to do so himself. Thus, it ends up that although the child is obligated in being educated for blessings he is exempt from this level of cleanliness. [Misgeres Hashulchan ibid in lengthy explanation and defense of ruling of Divrei Chaim ibid]
 Misgeres Hashulchan ibid
 Kitzur SHU”A ibid in Lechem Hapanim
 The reason: As it is forbidden for an adult to say a blessing while he has rectal fecal remnant and the same would appluy for a child. [ibid]
 Chochmas Shlomo 124; Mishmeres Shalom 11/1
 Yabia Omer 8/10 [Obligated answer Amen]; See Yagel Yaakov 42
 The reason: As he has not swerved from the dialect of the Sages.
 Alef Hamagen 582/43; Shevet Halevi 3/15; Halichos Shlomo 8/32 in name of Rav SZ”A
 The reason: As he is praying against the rulings of the Sages. [ibid] Vetzaruch Iyun regarding one who Davens aloud in private, in which case he may do so for concentration. [See Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid; Halichos Shlomo ibid]
 Alef Hamagen ibid; Shraga Hameir 5/105
Obligation or voluntary: Some Poskim rule one is obligated to answer Amen for such a blessing. [Betzeil Hachachma 5/164] From other Poskim however it is implied it is not obligatory. [See Halichos Shlomo ibid; Piskeiy teshuvos 215 footnote 35
 Chochmas Shlomo 124
 The reason: As if one cannot answer Amen if there are feces intervening then certainly he may not answer Amen in the bathroom itself. [ibid]