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What does the congregation do during the Priestly Blessing?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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• It is customary for the congregation to stand for the duration of the Birchat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing), out of respect for the Divine Presence which is present at this occasion.

• The Kohanim stand at the front of the synagogue and turn around to face the congregation. Only those standing facing the Kohanim (directly or from the side) are included in the blessing. In synagogues where seats directly abut the eastern wall of the sanctuary (this is especially common with the rabbi’s or president’s place), their occupants should move back several paces for the Birchat Kohanim, so that they do not stand behind the Kohanim. [The Chazzan should move back before starting the repetition of the Amidah.]

Young children join their fathers beneath the tallit, which makes for a memorable childhood experience
• The congregation should face the Kohanim as they are being blessed – it isn’t respectful to turn one’s back (or side) to a blessing – but should not gaze at them. The men customarily cover their heads and faces with their Tallit. Young children join their fathers beneath the tallit, which makes for a memorable childhood experience.

• The congregation listens attentively and responds “Amen” to the Kohanim’s preliminary blessing, and at the conclusion of each of the three verses of the Birchat Kohanim.

• According to Chabad custom, the members of the congregation move their heads “in sync” with the words of the Birchat Kohanim. When the Kohanim say the first word, “yivarechecha,” face forward; next word, “Hashem,” turn head to the right; next word, “viyishmerecha,” face forward; next word, “ya'eir,” turn head to left, etc. (Forward, right, forward, left, forward, right, forward, left, etc.)

• While the Kohanim sing the melody before the last three words of the Birchat Kohanim, the congregation recites a prayer requesting the “healing” of all their negative dreams.

• After the Birchat Kohanim, with faces still covered by the tallit, the congregation silently recites the short Adir bamarom prayer.

• As the Kohanim file back to their places, it is customary for the congregation to appreciatively acknowledge their blessing with the traditional salutation: “Yasher koach!”


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Jewish Identity » Kohains and Levites » Priestly Blessing
Mitzvot » Prayer » Priestly Blessing
Holidays » General Information » Priestly Blessing

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.
Amidah
Highlight of every prayer, recited silently while standing. Weekday Amidah consists of nineteen blessings, Sabbath and holiday Amidah contains seven blessings.
Hashem
"The Name." Out of respect, we do not explicitly mention G-d's name, unless in the course of prayer. Instead, "Hashem" is substituted.
Tallit
A prayer shawl. A large four-cornered woolen garment with fringes attached to its corners in a specific manner. This garment is worn by males during the morning prayers, fulfilling the Biblical obligation of attaching fringes to four-cornered garments.
Chazzan
A cantor, or any individual who leads the congregation in prayer.
Birchat Kohanim
The Priestly Blessing. Today, the blessing is administered by the Kohanim (Priests) in the course of the prayer services.