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What is the procedure for the hand-washing preceding the Priestly Blessing?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Mitzvot » Prayer » Priestly Blessing | Subscribe | What is RSS?


• The Kohen is required to ritually wash and sanctify his hands before the Birchat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing). The al netilat yadayim blessing is not recited after this hand-washing. The hands should be washed in the closest possible time-proximity to the Birchat Kohanim (typically after the kedusha is recited in the repetition of the Amidah).

• G-d conferred upon the holy tribe of Levi the privilege of assisting and serving the Kohanim while they are in the “line of duty.” Thus the honor of washing the Kohanim’s hands belongs to the Levites. If no Levite is present, a firstborn son does the honors. [Although the priesthood was removed from the firstborn following the Golden Calf debacle, they still retain an added measure of holiness.] If no Levite or firstborn is in attendance, the Kohen should wash his own hands.

G-d conferred upon the holy tribe of Levi the privilege of assisting and serving the Kohanim while they are in the “line of duty.” Thus the honor of washing the Kohanim’s hands belongs to the Levites
• Before washing the Kohen’s hands, the Levite (or firstborn) should wash his own hands. Chabad custom is for the Levite to wash his hands three times intermittently, as one does after waking in the morning. Conversely, the Kohen’s hands are washed as is done when washing for bread, right hand three times and then left hand three times.

• The Kohen should not speak between the hand-washing and the Birchat Kohanim.

• The Kohen should remove his shoes before washing his hands, or at the very least loosen or untie his shoelaces so that he needn’t touch his shoes afterwards to remove them, since this would obligate him to rewash his hands.


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

A descendant of Levi, son of Jacob. The Levites were the teachers and spiritual leaders in the Land of Israel. They had various responsibilities in the Holy Temple, including choir and orchestral duties.
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, 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.
Highlight of every prayer, recited silently while standing. Weekday Amidah consists of nineteen blessings, Sabbath and holiday Amidah contains seven blessings.
1. Name of Patriarch Jacob's third son. 2. A Levite -- a Jew who is a patrilineal descendant of Levi. Levites had special duties in the Holy Temple, and are still accorded special respect.
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.