But when Christians appropriated amen for themselves in the Second Temple period, it soon became primarily thought of as a Christian term.
Langer attributes the appropriation to the Christian population size, but the reason might also be a biblical one, since amen is mentioned 30 times in the Old Testament and a whopping 126 times in the New Testament.
Revelation 3:14 exalted Jesus as the "The Amen, the faithful and true Witness." Amen was further Christianized at the turn of the 20th century when popular Christian music spread the term to an even broader audience.
Amen may have strayed with abandon, but in the synagogues it still stands with a whip in hand, ready to enforce its many rules.
Ansh cautions about the tricky tightrope of inciting a group to say amen. She says prayer-leaders should recite prayers loudly and clearly so that people will hear them and answer amen, lest their congregants fall victim to a "lonely" amen, an amen uttered without hearing the prayer.
If someone wishes you well, even with a folksy "Best of luck" or a detached "Get well soon," you should answer amen, says Ansh, "since this is like a short prayer." Indeed, if I were to tell my readers that I hope they come away from this article feeling more knowledgeable about this ancient term, there can be only one suitable response: Amen!
Bahye of Saragossa, the thirteenth-century Bible commentator and Kabbalist (12) expresses this idea of amen as the sociality of blessing with reference to the two witnesses that make any legal proceeding effective: "The one who blesses testifies that the Blessed Holy One is the source of blessing.
Bahye, responding amen is the way that a society can officially endorse an act of worship, give it status and heft.
With whom can we share an amen? Among the most significant modern sources on the social dimension of blessing is Rabbi Moshe Feinstein's ruling that blessings said by Conservative or Reform rabbis are no blessings at all, that they fulfill no obligations, neither of those who say them nor those who hear them, and that those who hear them should not respond amen.
In these approaches to the laws of saying amen, I believe we will discover the grounds for a different construction of Halakhic meaning, one more suited to harmonious, respectful Jewish communal pluralism.
I hope my analysis of the laws of saying amen illustrates this approach, and the ways I believe Conservative Halakha can be a resource in making meaning of Jewish life.
And there is no need to respond amen to his blessing.