by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Malcolm is 85 years old. He is from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He thought that he had put on tefillin one other time in his life, but he wasn’t sure. I gave him a chair and sat him right in front of the Kotel. I told him to thank G-d for all the good that He has given him.
Some ten minutes later he came back to me and said, “I have never felt like that before in my life. I am a happy person, but I never experienced joy like that, ever. It was so real.”
When the chazzan (prayer leader) repeats the main prayers that we say silently, we say “amen” to all the blessings that he says. But when he comes to the prayer, “We thank you…” (modim anachnu) we do not merely say “amen.” We say an entire blessing, even longer than his. Why is this?
The original purpose of having a chazzan repeat these prayers was so that if anyone in the congregation did not know how to pray, they could hear the chazzan's repetition and fulfill their obligation that way. The practice of having a chazzan stretches back to Talmudic times. It was an age where not everyone had the text of the prayers in front of them and not everyone was expert enough to know all of the words by heart. Because of this, a person was placed before the congregation who would recite the prayers out loud, and the people would fulfill their obligations of prayer by listening to him and saying “Amen.”
So we see that we can appoint someone to praise G-d for us, and to pray for us, and this works fine. But when it comes to saying, “thank You” it is not enough to have an agent say the words for us. When it comes to saying ‘thank you’, to really experience the benefit of saying it, we have to say it ourselves.