Like many children, some of my grandchildren tended to rush through the berachot they recited each day. Somehow, the first few words were inclined to run together. The last few words often got swallowed up, especially those that were part of berachot made before eating something they really liked.
My daughter, Mindy, tried different tactics to get her children to slow down and recite each word with kavanah. Her success rate was very poor.
One day, Mindy confided this problem to an old friend. “I think I have just the right solution for you,” her friend said with a smile. She told my daughter of a segulah she had once heard. She confessed that she did not know its source, but it worked for her family in unexpected ways.
Mindy bought three large pieces of oak tag. She brought them home and then proceeded to make a chart, consisting of 1,000 squares. She left a blank space on the top of the first page.
Her children’s curiosity was aroused. They gathered around their mother, waiting for an explanation. She sat them down and told them of her plan. Every day, when the children were home from school, they would work on filling up the squares with check marks.
These would be earned every time someone slowly made a berachah out loud, really paying attention to the words that were being recited.
The other children would concentrate on the words they were hearing and answer “amen” – really understanding, and thus agreeing with, the words of the berachah. Every time this would be done, the amount of amenim said would be counted, and a small check mark would be placed in as many of the squares as the number of amenim just said.
On Shabbat the children would keep a tally in their heads, which would be marked down after Havdalah. They would do this daily, until every square on the chart was marked off.
Mindy then asked the children whether there was anyone in the family for whom they regularly prayed. A few said, “Shani.”
My younger daughter, Shani, their aunt, was still single. They prayed for her to get married. Mindy took a marker and wrote in Shani’s full Hebrew name at the head of the first page.
“Alright, children, these 1,000 amenim will be dedicated to your Aunt Shani becoming a kallah.”
I cannot say if that is what finally helped Shani, but she got engaged very shortly after the chart was done. Now the children were really motivated. A new chart was quickly drawn. This time, it was our son Rafi’s turn to be put on the top of the first page. He, too, was hoping and praying to meet his bashert.
The children had just finished their second set of 1,000 amenim when I called Mindy’s house with the good news. “Oh, Ima, we knew it had to be soon. We just completed our chart last week, and the kids were so sure it would happen for him like it did for his sister, Shani.”
I am not claiming that the intensity of the children’s berachot and amenim was what brought about these two “coincidences.” nor do I believe that this will work every time someone follows this segulah.
But I will state unequivocally that we were triply blessed because my grandchildren were now infused with an appreciation of the importance of saying berachot with concentration – and not taking any of them for granted. They are also very careful to listen to others making berachot, and answering “amen” with all their heart.
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