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When do the Kohanim administer the Priestly Blessing?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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• In Jerusalem, the Birchat Kohanim rite is performed every morning. On days when the Musaf service is recited, the Birchat Kohanim is performed both during Shacharit and Musaf. In all other Israeli cities besides Jerusalem, some (mostly Sephardim) perform Birchat Kohanim every day while others (mostly Ashkenazim) perform it only on Shabbat.
A blessing must be conferred with a joyful heart, hence the prevailing custom in the Diaspora to relegate the Birchat Kohanim to the major holidays. Furthermore, the blessing is only done during Musaf, when the crowd is happily anticipating their impending “dismissal” from synagogue, when they will be free to go home and celebrate the holiday meal with family and friends. Apparently, true joy cannot be experienced by all until the rabbi’s sermon is dispensed with… Interestingly, the Birchat Kohanim is also performed on Yom Kippur; when we are joyful because of the atonement granted by G-d on this holy day.1

A blessing must be conferred with a joyful heart, hence the prevailing custom in the Diaspora to relegate the Birchat Kohanim to the major holidays
• There are conflicting customs whether Birchat Kohanim is administered on a holiday which takes place on Shabbat. Chabad custom is to proceed with the blessing as usual.

• Birchat Kohanim is a throwback to the priestly Temple service. A Kohen who had imbibed even a small quantity of an intoxicating beverage was barred from performing any Temple service until the drink’s effects had worn off. The same rule applies to Birchat Kohanim nowadays, and consequently the blessing is not administered during the afternoon Minchah service, for fear that some Kohanim may have enjoyed an aperitif together with their lunches. On public fast days the Kohanim recite the blessing during Minchah as well.

Footnotes

  • 1. The Rebbe points out that the Land of Israel is the “heart” of the globe; the conduit through which the entire world receives its Divine flow of energy. Similarly, the daily blessings issued by the Kohanim in Jerusalem spread extend throughout the entire world, showering G-d’s blessings on Diaspora Jews as well.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

History » The Holy Temples » Holy Temple Mitzvot
Mitzvot » Prayer » Laws and Customs
Jewish Identity » Kohains and Levites » Priestly Blessing
Mitzvot » Prayer » Priestly Blessing
Holidays » General Information » Priestly Blessing

Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Kohanim
Plural form of Kohain. Priests of G-d. This title belongs to the male descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses. The primary function of the Kohain was to serve in the Holy Temple. Today the Kohain is still revered and it is his function to recite the Priestly Blessings on certain occasions.
Chabad
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
Ashkenazim
(pl.) Jews of Northern or Eastern European ancestry. (singular: Ashkenazi)
Sephardim
(Pl.: Sephardim) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries.
Shacharit
Morning prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Musaf
The additional prayer service added (after the morning prayers) on Sabbath, Biblically mandated holidays and the first day of the Jewish month.
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
Minchah
Afternoon prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.
Birchat Kohanim
The Priestly Blessing. Today, the blessing is administered by the Kohanim (Priests) in the course of the prayer services.