Speaking of Kings
Wherever the term malchayo (kings) is found in the Book of Daniel it is a reference to a human king except for one place. When the Babylonian king Nevuchadenetzer asked Daniel to reveal to him the mysterious dream he had forgotten and to interpret its message, this Jewish captive whom the world-conquering king had renamed Beltshatzar thus began his reply:
“You king, king of kings, to whom the Lord of Heaven has granted a mighty, powerful and glorious kingdom” (Daniel 2:37).
The term “king of kings” here, says the gemara, must be understood as a reference to G-d and therefore must be treated in its written form with the respect due to a Divine name. Rashi explains that it cannot refer to the Babylonian king, for Daniel would never have addressed an earthly king, despite the fact that he had conquered the entire known world, as king of kings, a title reserved for G-d only. It must therefore be understood that he said to this earthly king that the Divine King of Kings Who is the Lord of Heaven granted him a mighty kingdom.
A simple reading of this gemara leads one to assume that the term under discussion is malchayo (kings). The problem with this assumption is that the term malchayo appears in only one other place in the entire Book of Daniel (2:44). It is hardly appropriate to speak of “wherever the term malchayo is found” if it is found in only one other place. This observation led Rabbi Yosef Caro, in his Kesef Mishneh commentary on the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah (Hilchot Yesoedi HaTorah 6:9), to conclude that our gemara is referring to the word melech (king) preceding malchayo. This term is sacred because it refers to the Divine “King” of all earthly “kings”.
Another fascinating observation is made by this same author on this subject. How, he asks, can the gemara declare that the only time “king” is found as a reference to G-d is the one stated above, when we find the Babylonian king himself using this term in praising G-d after being restored to his power (ibid. 4:34)? His resolution is that our gemara refers only to the use of the term “king” by Daniel himself. In all cases he was referring to his earthly master except for the one time when he referred to the King of Kings.
The Many Meanings of Amen
When a Jew says Amen it can constitute an oath, says Rabbi Yossi, the son of Rabbi Chanina. We have already encountered this in the mishna (Shavuot 31a) which states that by witnesses saying Amen to an oath administered to them by someone who wishes them to testify in his behalf, they are considered as if they took that oath. Rabbi Yossi cites as a source for this concept the Amen which the suspected adulteress says in accepting the oath which the kohen administers to prove her innocence (Bamidbar 5:22).
But Amen, he adds, can also serve as an expression of commitment, as we find in the Amen which the entire Jewish nation proclaimed when they heard the blessings and curses on Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival (Devarim 27:26).
And finally, Amen can serve as an expression of hope that a prayer should be answered, as the Prophet Yirmiyahu used it in regard to a prophecy regarding a quick end to Babylonian exile (Yirmiyahu 28:6).
In regard to this last dimension of Amen, Rashi writes that it is proper to say Amen whenever we hear a prayer or supplication as an expression of our own hope that it will be G-d’s will that what has been mentioned in that prayer will become a reality.
Amen, say our Sages (Mesechta Shabbat 129b), is an acronym for the three words we say before the Shema which declare that “The Lord is a faithful King”. When we say Amen after a blessing which is a praise of G-d we are thus declaring that this praise is true and we believe in it (Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim 124:6). But when we say Amen upon hearing one of the blessings in our Shmone Esrai in which we appeal to G-d, our Amen takes on a broader meaning. It is not only an affirmation of our belief in G-d as the source of blessing, but also, as the Rashi above indicates, a prayer on our part that the prayer we heard be answered (ibid., Mishneh Berurah 28).