A person should teach his children to answer “amen”
because as soon as a child answers "amen" he has a portion in
the world to come. According to Rashi, "amen" (ןמא
is an anagram: ןמאנ ךלמ לא) and upon answering "amen," a person accepts upon
himself the yoke of Heaven.
We answer "amen" after a blessing recited by
a child who has reached the age of education. According to the Pri
Magadim, we do not answer "amen" after the blessing of a
child who has not reached the age of education because he is not yet
obligated to recite blessings. Nevertheless, the custom is to answer
"amen" even after the blessing made by a child who has not
reached the age of education so that he will learn to say
"amen." Whenever, in the course of davening, the halachah
requires us to pause and answer "amen," we pause even for the
blessing recited by a child that has been recited with the intention of
making a blessing.
When a person hears two blessings, he should answer
"amen" to each one, reciting "amen" twice. Each time
he says "amen" he should have the content of the blessing to
which he is answering in mind. It is preferable to say “amen ve-amen”.
It is forbidden to answer "amen" where it is
forbidden to think of matters of kedushah, for in reciting
"amen" it is as though we are reciting the blessing that we
hear. But when it is permitted to think of matters of kedushah, as before
washing hands in the morning, it is permitted to answer "amen".
If a person is learning or reciting verses from the
Torah and he hears a blessing recited while he is occupied with verses
that are harsh and painful, such as verses of rebuke, etc., he is not
required to say "amen,” for his "amen" seems to reinforce
them. Nevertheless, if possible, in order not to lose the opportunity of
saying "amen," it is appropriate to try to time his
"amen" so that it is not associated with those verses.
If a person hears a blessing while he is learning, the
poskim argue whether he is obligated to answer "amen". Since he
is involved in doing a mitzvah, he could be considered exempt from the
mitzvah of answering "amen". Nevertheless, a person who stops
learning to chat is certainly obligated to stop learning to answer
There are acharonim who hold that it is
forbidden to answer "amen" to the blessings recited by someone
who is saying the shemoneh esrai. The shmoneh esrai should be said in a
low whisper that is not audible to other people. It is not appropriate,
according to this opinion, to answer "amen", because the
blessing is recited in a way that is forbidden.
We do not answer "amen" to a blessing recited
by a person who is about to eat a forbidden food, even if it is forbidden
only by the Rabbanim. But a person may answer "amen" to a
blessing recited over a food that is permitted but, because he conducts
himself with greater stringency, forbidden to him.
According to the midrash, when we hear a blessing
recited in the course of prayer or by a person who is blessing another, we
should answer "amen" even if the name of G-d is not mentioned.
That is why we answer "amen" after “harachaman” in
the Bircas Hamazon. And it seems that, for the same reason, we
should also answer "amen" to blessings of gratitude which do not
include the name of G-d and blessings recited without mentioning the name
of G-d because the obligation to recite them is uncertain.
We do not answer "amen" to the blessing a
gentile gives to a Jew when it includes the name of G-d, for we assume
that he has a pagan god in mind. But if he does not use the name of G-d,
we answer "amen". We also answer "amen" to a blessing
recited by a Moslem, even if he says it in Arabic, for he has Hashem
Yisborach in mind.