The leader is repeating the Amidah, at the Fifth Berakhah, which contains “Modim Anahnu Lakh.” Just before “Modim,” the leader says, “Barukh Atah [Hashem], hamahazir shekhinato leTzion.”
Do we say “amen” after that berakhah? Or do we all say together “Modim Anahnu Lakh.”
Technically we should do both. We say “amen” after a berakhah when someone else is saying the berakhah, if it begins with “Barukh Atah [Hashem],” almost always. (We don’t say it when we are teaching kids the blessings, and other such times. See also our previous column on “Tzur Yisrael” before the Amidah.) When we ourselves are saying a berakhah, we do not say “amen.” By virtue of our saying the berakhah, we are already stating our belief it should be so, so saying “so be it” – “amen” – would be superfluous.
Similarly when a berakhah occurs before a Kaddish, many folks wait until after the first few words of the Kaddish to say “amen.” But we should say “amen” both times.
There are many rules set forth by various rabbis about not saying “amen” before the berakhah ends and also not waiting too long after. There is another rule that posits that one’s voice should not be louder than the person’s saying the berakhah. There are even discussions about whether to say it upon hearing a berakhah over the radio, far removed from the person saying the blessing.
“Amen” is a stative verb in Hebrew (which does not have tenses, only moods of verbs). A literal translation might be “I am in the state of being faithful,” although you might also translate it as “I’m down with it” or “I’m calling it cool” or “I’m in agreement.” Other examples of stative verbs: “I am sleeping” is “ani yashen”; “I am happy” is “ani sameah”; “I am hungry” is “ani ra’ev.” Those are verbs, not adjectives!
In the theatre, a rather famous “amen” is at the end of “Sabbath Prayer” in Fiddler on the Roof, which has to be sung in Ashkenazic Hebrew, “aaaaah-MAIN” to rhyme with “pain” in the line before.
Christians and Muslims have forms of “amen,” as well. Some Christians say Ā-men, some say AH-men. Muslims say “amin.” Sometimes “amen” means “so be it” as in the future it should be so, and sometimes it means “so it be,” that such subject already is true now.