Photo Credit: Jewish Press

We’ve all heard of Kabbalah, the mystical teachings of Judaism. But kabbalah’ is also the Hebrew word for ‘resolution’. Often one takes a resolution upon himself or herself in order to increase his merits and thereby hopefully Hashem will answer his prayers for something he longs for. For instance, a person who is in need of parnassah, income, might take on a kabbalah to give an increased amount to tzedakah, or they might even take on a kabbalah in another area such as not to speak lashon hara, slanderous talk and in that merit they ask Hashem to improve their financial situation. Often people who are sick or who know someone else who is sick, take on a kabbalah as a merit for receiving a refuah sheleimah, a complete healing. An older single girl might take on a kabbalah to dress more modestly and in that merit she prays that Hashem will answer her prayers and send her her beshert.

So for whatever a person wants, he might take on a specific kabbalah and pray that in that merit his prayers will be fulfilled. It’s important to know that when a person takes on a kabbalah, it’s best to do this in his thoughts, rather than out loud, and he should think or say it in a way that doesn’t imply absolute commitment because that would be tantamount to making a vow which we shouldn’t do. Instead, the person should think or say that he’s going to try to do such and such. And whenever he considers taking on a kabbalah, he should also think and say – bli neder – without a neder (vow) because it’s possible, if not likely that there will be situations where he won’t be able to do what he intends to do.

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And so it was that in this true story that took place in Eretz Yisrael, a man named Daniel Cohen*, for some reason took upon himself a kabbalah not to say a blessing over food or drink unless there was someone there to answer ‘amein’ because he learned that a berachah without an ‘amein’ isn’t complete. Though we are always supposed to make a berachah out loud so that someone can answer ‘amein’, if one has taken on a kabbalah to do so, then it’s even more of an obligation to do one’s best to fulfill it.

One hot summer night Daniel woke up at about 4 o’clock in the morning and was terribly thirsty. Everyone else was sleeping and he knew he couldn’t wake them up to say ‘amein’. But on the other hand he was feeling very weak and knew that he had to have a drink of water as soon as possible. But he had made a kabbalah. What should he do? As he was feeling weaker and weaker, he asked Hashem to help him somehow and suddenly Daniel had an idea. He went to the kitchen, poured himself a glass of water and then picked up the telephone and called 144 – telephone information in Eretz Yisrael. A voice answered! “Shalom. Ayala* speaking. How can I help you?” “Shalom Ayala,” said Mr. Cohen. “I need a favor.” “Are you okay?” she asked, a bit startled by his words.

“Yes, I’m okay, but I’m very, very thirsty and I . . . . ” Ayala probably thought he was a bit off and suggested the obvious – that he drink a glass of water. “I know,” Daniel said. “but I took on a kabbalah that I won’t make a blessing unless there’s someone to answer ‘amein’ and everyone here is sleeping.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about, sir,” Ayala responded. “It’s okay,” said Daniel, “just listen to me make a berachah and when I finish, when I say ‘shehakol nihiya bidvaro‘ you answer ‘amein’. Okay?” “But why? I don’t understand what . . . ” “I’ll explain it to you later, but if I don’t drink soon I’m going to faint, so please, when I finish the berachah, just answer ‘amein’. Okay?”

It was clear from his voice that he wasn’t feeling well and except for his unusual request, he sounded normal, so Ayala agreed. And with that Daniel took the glass of water and said “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam shehakol nihiya bidvaro.” “Amein” answered Ayala, and Daniel gratefully and quickly drank the water. “Thank you so much”, he said. “Hold on, I’m going to drink another glass.” “Do I have to say ‘amein’ again?” Ayala asked. “No, it’s okay, once is enough.” And he drank a second glass of water. “Listen, he said to Ayala. “Thank you very much, you can’t imagine what a big thing you did for me. And now I have to make another blessing and when I finish, when I say “Baruch Chai HaOlamim” then you say ‘amein’ again. Okay?” “Okay,” she said “but after that I want you to explain what this is all about because I have no idea.” “Okay, fine, but first the berachah and ‘amein’.” And he made the berachah made after drinking water and Ayala answered: “Amein!”

And then she said: “Listen, I did what you asked, but I have no idea what this is all about. Why blessings? What do they mean?

Why ‘amein’? What does that mean? I have no idea, I never learned about any of these things.”

“So I’ll tell you”, said Daniel. “Hashem created the whole world and He created everything in it. If we use part of the world, like if we eat or drink something without blessing Hashem and thanking Him, then it’s as if we stole what we ate or drank – because it’s not ours. Hashem created our food and drink for us, but it’s still His. So before we eat or drink we bless Him for giving us what we’re about to eat or drink. With water, for instance, and many other foods we bless G-d, our L-rd, the King of the World Who created everything, and when we finish, we bless Him Who is our Creator and Who created all the things He created to sustain us. It’s expressing awareness, and appreciation and gratitude for all the goodness that we’re given.”

“Very interesting,” she said. “I never heard anything like that before. Thank you for explaining it to me.” “Thank you for answering ‘amein’,” said Daniel gratefully and then wished her all the best, kol tuv, and Ayala responded in kind kol tuv, and they hung up.

Time went by. A year, two years, and one day Daniel received a wedding invitation in the mail. He opened it and read it but didn’t recognize the names of the bride or groom, or their families. He asked his wife and she didn’t recognize them either.

There was a phone number for RSVP’s on the invitation so he called to find out who it was who invited him. He heard a young lady answer “Shalom.” “Shalom,” he said. “I just received a wedding invitation but my wife and I don’t know who it’s from. Who’s getting married? Who invited us?” “I know who’s getting married,” she answered, “because I’m the kallah. Maybe you were invited by the side of the chattan. What’s your name?” “Daniel Cohen.”

There was a silence and then when the girl spoke it was with a voice filled with emotion. “I guess you don’t remember me,” she said. “You called me once a couple of years ago in the middle of the night when you were very thirsty and you wanted someone to answer amein to your berachah.” It didn’t take more than a couple of seconds for Daniel to remember that most unusual incident. He looked again at the invitation. By the way it was written, expressing on top gratitude to Hashem for bringing this couple together, it was clear that it was going to be a religious wedding.

After a moment, he said: “You told me that you don’t know anything about Judaism but I see you’re having a religious wedding.”

“Yes,” she said, “I didn’t know anything, but what you explained to me was so special, so meaningful and so different from the kind of life that I was living that I decided to look into Judaism and find out what it’s about. And I did. I bought books, and then I went to lectures and classes and everything I was learning was so wonderful, so true that I enrolled in a seminary for girls like me who wanted to learn more about Judaism. I loved everything I was learning and experiencing and I decided to change my life – to be religious. I’m a baalat teshuva now, and I’m marrying a boy who’s a baal teshuva, too. And with Hashem’s help we’re going to build a home of Torah and holiness, and happiness that comes from living a life of truth and meaning.” Daniel listened, stunned by what he was hearing, and she continued: “That night after you hung up, I felt that my life was going to change, and it all started with you, so I wrote down your phone number, because it came up automatically when you called, and I found out your name and address just in case I would ever want it. And now I wanted it, because I wanted you to know what happened after you called me at four in the morning to say ‘amein’.”

 

* not their real names

Naomi Brudner’s double musical album for children and their families, You Are Wonderful! is now available in stores or digitally by contacting her.

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Naomi Brudner, M.A., lives in Yerushalayim where she writes, counsels and practices Guided Imagery for health, including for stroke patients.