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A step-by-step guide to the Priestly Blessing.

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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


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• The Chazzan beginning the 'retzay' blessing is the cue for the Kohanim to rise and make their way to the front of the sanctuary (all hands should be washed before this point). The Kohanim then stand facing the Holy Ark. In the interim moments, after reciting the “Rabanan Modim” with the congregation, the Kohen silently recites a short prayer (found in the prayer book) beseeching G-d that the forthcoming blessing be “a perfect blessing; that it should have no impediment or iniquity…”

• Ideally, the Kohen should conclude this blessing as the chazzan finishes the Modim blessing-allowing the congregation to respond “Amen” to both prayers simultaneously.

• The Kohen then covers his head and upper body with his Tallit and awaits the start of the Birkat Kohanim.

• The chazzan silently recites the prayer which precedes the Birkat Kohanim (“Our G-d and G-d of our fathers, bless us with the threefold [Priestly] Blessing…”), until he reaches the word “Kohanim”—which he calls out aloud; officially summoning the Kohanim to discharge their priestly duty. The congregation responds by saying, “am kedoshecha ka’amur.”

The Kohen silently recites a short prayer (found in the prayer book) beseeching G-d that the forthcoming blessing be "a perfect blessing; that it should have no impediment or iniquity"
• At this point, the Kohanim begin incanting a brachah (blessing), thanking G-d for “sanctifying them with Aaron’s sanctity and commanding them to bless His nation Israel with love.”

[If there’s only one Kohen present, the chazzan does not say “Kohanim” – the plural form of Kohen – aloud, rather the Kohen begins the brachah on his own.]

• While reciting the brachah, the Kohanim – who are facing the Ark – rotate themselves clockwise to face the congregation by the time they conclude the brachah.

• Immediately after the brachah, the Kohanim lift their hands beneath their Tallitot—shoulder-high, palms outstretched and facing downwards. The right hand should be slightly more elevated than the left one.

The fingers are positioned in a manner which leaves five “windows” through which G-d’s blessings flow to the congregation. The general idea is to separate each hand into three “sections”—leaving spaces on each hand between the thumb and index finger, and between the middle and ring finger. The fifth space is completed by the way the two thumbs are configured together. There are different traditions regarding this configuration—Kohanim, consult with your father or rabbi to determine your family/community tradition in this matter.


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Jewish Identity » Kohains and Levites » 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.
Sephardim
(Pl.: Sephardim) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries.
Amidah
Highlight of every prayer, recited silently while standing. Weekday Amidah consists of nineteen blessings, Sabbath and holiday Amidah contains seven blessings.
Musaf
The additional prayer service added (after the morning prayers) on Sabbath, Biblically mandated holidays and the first day of the Jewish month.
Aaron
Brother of Moses. First High Priest of Israel and progenitor of all Kohanim (priests) until this very day. Died in the year 1272 b.c.e.
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.
Kaddish
A prayer sanctifying G-d's name which is sprinkled throughout the daily prayers and is recited by the leader of the services. This prayer is also recited by mourners during the first year of mourning, and on the anniversary of the death.
Tallitot
Plural form of "Tallit." Prayer shawls. Large four-cornered woolen garment with fringes attached to their corners in a specific manner. These garments are worn by males during the morning prayers, fulfilling the Biblical obligation of attaching fringes to four-cornered garments.
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.