Answering Amen to Your Own Bracha
The Gemara Brachot 45b resolves a contradiction by saying that one shouldn't answer Amen to one's own bracha except for the bracha of Boneh Yerushalayim. Rashi (45b s.v. Ha) explains that Boneh Yerushalayim is only an example of a Bracha which completed a series of Brachot since it finishes the Deoritta Brachot of Birkat HaMazon. Accordingly, after the brachot of Kriyat Shema one should answer amen since it completes that section of brachot. Tosfot (45b s.v. Ha), however, notes that the common minhag was not like Rashi and people would only answer amen to their brachot by Boneh Yerushalayim.
While the Ashkenazic minhag is simply follows Tosfot's opinion that a person would only answer Amen to his own bracha by Boneh Yerushalayim, the Sephardic minhag seems not to follow neither Rashi or Tosfot. The Tur comments that the minhag he observed was to answer amen after Yishtabach and Hallel but not after Birchat HaTorah for Kriyat HaTorah or Bracha Achrona. According to Rashi, one should have answered Amen to all of the above, while Tosfot would have opted for not answering amen to any of them. In defense of the minhag, the Beit Yosef 51:3 suggests that really the minhag holds that one should only answer amen to a concluding bracha if it concludes a set of consecutive brachot (brachot ha'semuchot lechaverta). He adds that the brachot of Pesukei DeZimrah and Hallel are considered as if they were consecutive since they surround pesukim of praise and are themselves forms of praise.
What is the basis for this halacha? Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe O.C. 5:9:1) explains that when one answers Amen after a regular Bracha it seems as though one is adding onto the institution of Chazal. When one finishes a series of Brachot, however, one may answer Amen after oneself because then Amen is seen as a conclusion of a section and not an additional part of the text of Chazal. He compares this to the Gemara Brachot 34b which forbids one from bowing during Shemona Esrei at points where chazal didn't institute an obligation to bow since it appears as though one is adding onto Chazal's establishment.
- A number of rishonim agree with Rashi's approach including the Rabbenu Chananel, Bahag, Rabbenu Chananel, Rif, Rabbenu Yonah, Rashba (Brachot 45b s.v. Lo Kasha), and Shitah Mikubeset (Brachot 45b s.v. Ha BeShaar).
- The Mordechai (Brachot 162) and Maharik 2:31 (cited by the Bet Yosef 51:3) are in agreement with Tosfot.
- The Rama 215:1 writes that Ashkenazic minhag is in accordance with Tosfot.
- The Beit Yosef explains this understanding within the opinion of the Rambam. He also cites the Mahari Ben Lev who explains a similar explanation within the opinion of the Rosh. The Kaf HaChaim 51:6 writes that the Sephardic minhag follows the Shulchan Aruch to answer Amen after Yishtabach and Hallel.