(G) Priestly Blessing: Siman 128-134

Siman: 128 Seifim 45

1. Birkas kohanim is not done with less than a minyan and the kohanim count as part of the minyan. (A non-kohen should not “lift his hands” even with other kohanim.) (The second chapter of Kesubos indicates that a non-kohen who “lifts his hands” violates a positive command but Tosafos relates that R”I did not know what prohibition is violated and it is possible that if he goes with kohanim it is permitted but the matter requires further research.)

2. Any kohen who does not have one of the circumstances that disqualifies him from birkas kohanim who does not ascend the platform, although he has merely violated a positive command, nevertheless, it is as if he violated three positive commands if he was in the Bais HaKnesses when the kohanim were called or if he was told to ascend or wash his hands.

3. If one ascended the platform once that day he does not violate the command to bless the nation if he does not ascend again even if he is instructed to ascend.

4. When kohanim do not want to ascend the platform they are only required to be outside of the Bais HaKnesses when the chazzan calls the kohanim. However, in order that one should not be suspected of being disqualified the custom is that they do not reenter the Bais HaKnesses until after birkas kohanim.

5. Kohanim may not ascend the platform wearing shoes but in knee boots it is permitted. Some are stringent if the knee boots are made of leather (and the custom in some places is to be lenient.)

6. Even though the kohanim washed their hands in the morning they must wash them again until the joint, meaning the place where the hand and the arm meet. A levi should pour water on the kohen’s hands and before doing so the levi should wash his own hands. It is not customary for levi’im to wash their hands before washing the hands of the kohanim and they rely on the washing they did in the morning.

7. If a kohen washes his hands in the morning and recited נטילת ידים he does not repeat the beracha when he washes for birkas kohanim.

8. When the shaliach tzibbur begins רצה the kohanim who are in the Bais HaKnesses must “uproot” from their place to ascend the platform. Even if they do not reach the platform until after the shaliach tzibbur completes רצה it is acceptable. However, if he did not “uproot” his feet during רצה he does not ascend.

9. When the kohanim “uproot” (Rashi, Tosafos and Ran write that it should not be recited until they are standing before the aron and Bais Yosef maintains the same position) their feet to ascend the platform they recite יהי רצון מלפניך וכו’ ועד עולם . They should extend the recitation of this prayer until the tzibbur finishes answering אמן to the beracha of hoda’ah.

10. They stand on the platform facing the heichal with their backs to the tzibbur and their fingers bent inside of their hands until the shaliach tzibbur completes modim. At that point if there are at least two kohanim the shaliach tzibbur should call “kohanim.” The shaliach tzibbur does not say ‘ א-לוקינו וא-לוקי וכו but some maintain that he says the paragraph quietly until he reaches the word כהנים which is said out loud and then he recites the words עם קדושך כאמור silently (and this is the custom in these countries) The kohanim then turn towards the nation. If there is only one kohen he is not called; rather he turns towards the people on his own. 

11. When the kohanim turn towards the nation they recite the beracha אשר קדשנו וכו.

12. They lift their hands as high as their shoulders and the right hand should be slightly higher than the left hand. They spread out their hands and divide their fingers to make five windows, between two fingers and the other two fingers is one window, between the finger and the thumb is another window and between the thumbs is a window. They spread out their hands so that their palms face the ground and the backs of their hands face the sky.

 13. The kohanim begin with the word יברכך Some say that even the word יברכך should be introduced by the shaliach tzibbur (and this is the custom in these countries) and after that the shalaich tzibbur reads for them each word and they answer after him each word until they complete the first pasuk at which time the tzibbur answers אמן . This is the procedure for the second and third pasuk as well.

14. The beracha must be recited in lashon kodesh, while standing, with lifted hands and out loud.

15. After birkas kohanim the shaliach tzibbur begins שים שלום and at that point the kohanim turn towards the aron kodesh and recite רבון העולמים וכו‘ . They should extend the recitation of this tefila to coincide the the shaliach tzibbur’s completion of שים שלום so that the אמן of the tzibbur applies to both. If they can not extend their tefila so long they should also recite ‘ אדיר במרום וכו as recorded in siman 130.

16. The kohanim may not turn back towards the aron kodesh until the shaliach tzibbur begins שים שלום and they are not allowed to bend their fingers until they turn their bodies. They should remain on the platform and may not descend until the shaliach tzibbur finishes שים שלום . There is an opinion that maintains that the kohanim must remain until the tzibbur finishes answering אמן (and this is the custom).

17. When they turn, whether at the beginning or at the end, they should turn towards the right. When they descend the platform they should not touch their shoes that are dirty and if they do they must wash their hands for the tefilos that will be said afterwards.

18. The one who will call the kohanim may not call them until the tzibbur finishes answering אמן to the beracha of modim. The kohanim may not begin the beracha of אשר קדשנו until the one calling the kohanim finishes that call. After the kohanim recite the beracha אשר קדשנו they are not allowed to begin יברכך until the tzibbur finishes answering אמן to their beracha. The kohanim may not begin the next word until the makre finishes the word and the tzibbur may not answer אמן until the kohanim finish the beracha. The kohanim may not begin ‘ רבון העולמים וכו until the tzibbur finishes answering .אמן

19. The shaliach tzibbur may not answer אמן to the beracha of the kohanim.

20. If the shaliach tzibbur is a kohen and there are other kohanim present he should not recite birkas kohanim. (He should not be told to ascend or wash his hands but if they told him he must ascend since he would violate a positive command if he does not ascend) Even if there is no kohen other then the shaliach tzibbur he should not recite birkas kohanim unless he is certain that he will be able to resume his tefila. If he is certain that he will be able to resume davening he should recite birkas kohanim since he is the only kohen present so that they should not lose out on birkas kohanim. How should he conduct himself? He should uproot his feet a bit during avodah and continue until he finishes ולך נאה להודות . At that point he should ascend the platform and recite the beracha. Someone should announce the words for him and then the shaliach tzibbur concludes with שים שלום . If the announcer paid attention from the beginning of the amidah until the end it is preferable for him to finish the amidah.

21. Kohanim may not sing two or three tunes for birkas kohanim since there is a concern that they will become confused, therefore, they should use the same tune from the beginning until the end.

22. An effort should be made that the announcer should be a yisroel and when a kohen is the chazzan a yisroel should stand next to him and announce the words to the kohanim while the chazzan stands silently.

23. While the kohanim are blessing the people they should not look elsewhere or become distracted; rather they should look down as one does for davening. The tzibbur should concentrate on the beracha and should face towards the kohanim although they may not actually gaze at them. The kohanim are also not allowed to look at their hands during the beracha. For this reason the custom is that they pull their talis over their head with their hands outside of the talis. Some places have the custom that the kohanim’s hands are also under the talis so that the tzibbur should not see their hands.

24. The people who stand behind the kohanim are not included in the beracha but those who are in front or to the side are included and even a wall of iron does not interpose. If the people behind the kohanim have no choice, for example, they are engaged in their work and are not able to come, they are included in the beracha.

25. In a Bais HaKnesses populated with only kohanim, if there are only ten people present they all ascend the platform and their beracha is directed towards the people in the fields and it is the women and children who will answer אמן . If there are more than ten people then ten people should not ascend the platform and should respond אמן while the others will recite birkas kohanim. 

26. While the kohanim are reciting the beracha the tzibbur should not recite any pasuk; rather they should be silent and concentrate on the beracha. Nowadays, that the kohanim sing a lot the custom is to recite pesukim as was discussed above in siman 57 regarding borchu but it is still preferable for pesukim to not be recited.

 27. A kohen may not add onto the berachos more than the three pesukim of birkas kohanim and if he adds to the pesukim he violates the prohibition of  בל תוסיף.

 28. If a kohen “lifted his hands” and then goes to another Bais HaKnesses and discovers the tzibbur as they are about to recite birkas kohanim he may “lift his hands” another time.

 29. If a kohen has not yet davened and finds the tzibbur davening he may “lift his hands” and davening is not essential to the recitation of birkas kohanim.

30. Someone who has a blemish on his face or hands, for example, בהקניות עקמות or בהקניות) עקשות means white spots, עקמות means bent and עקשות is bent to the side. According to Ran עקמות refers to hands bent back and עקשות refers to one who cannot separate his fingers), may not “lift his hands” since the people will stare. People who have blemished feet, in a place where the kohanim ascend without shoes, someone who has mucus drip on his beard, one whose eyes tear or one who is blind in one eye may not “lift his hands.” If a person is a familiar figure in his city, in other words people recognize him and are aware of his blemish he may “lift his hands” even if he is blind in both eyes. Someone who has been in a city for thirty days is considered a familiar figure in the city. This allowance is limited to one’s city but if someone travels occasionally to another city and remains there for thirty days he does not qualify as a familiar figure. Even if one does not intend to become a citizen; rather he came to town to teach become a scribe or to serve someone for a year or even half a year he is considered a familiar figure in the city.

 31. If the custom of the place is for the kohanim to pull their talis over their heads, even one who has numerous blemishes on his face and hands may “lift his hands.” This is limited to where his hands will be under his talis but if they are outside his talis the talis does not help for blemishes on his hands.

32. If one’s hands were colored, אסטיס or אסטיס) פואה and פואה are varieties of colors) he may not “lift his hands” since people will stare. If the majority of people in town work in this profession he may “lift his hands” and if one is a familiar figure in town he may “lift his hands.”

33. Someone who cannot articulate letters may not “lift his hands.” For example, he pronounces an ” א” as an ” ע” or an ” ע” as an ” א” or something similar.

34. A child who does not have two hairs may not “lift his hands” by himself at all but if he is together with other kohanim he may recite birkas kohanim for the sake of chinuch. Someone who does have two hairs may “lift his hands” even by himself, however, this may be done only occasionally but not regularly until his beard is full. At that point he may regularly recite birkas kohanim by himself. Someone who reached the age at which he should be capable of having a full beard is considered to have a full beard even if he doesn’t actually have one (see above 53:8).

 35. A kohen who killed someone, even if inadvertently, may not “lift his hands” even if he repented. Some say that if he repented he may “lift his hands” and one should be lenient regarding those who wish to repent in order that the door should not be closed before those who wish to repent and this is the custom.

36. One who circumcised a child who died may still recite birkas kohanim but if people are disparage him that he is a murderer, as long as the matter has not been clarified he may “lift his hands.”

37. A mumar for idolatry may not “lift his hands” and some maintain that if he repented he may “lift his hands (and this is the custom). If he was forced to worship idolatry all opinions would agree that he may “lift his hands.”

38. If one drank a revi’is of wine at once ha may not “lift his hands.” If he drank it in two gulps or if added some water it is permitted. If he drank more than a revi’is even if it was diluted and even if he drank it in two gulps he may not “lift his hands” until the effects of the wine dissipates.

39. If a person does not have something that disqualifies him from reciting birkas kohanim, even if he is not so careful in the fulfillment of mitzvos and people are disparaging him he may “lift his hands” (since other transgressions do not prevent one from reciting birkas kohanim).

40. A kohen who married a divorcee may not “lift his hands” and we do not treat him with sanctity even to be called to the Torah first. Even if he divorced her or if she died he may not “lift his hands” until he takes a vow with the consent of the tzibbur that he will not marry women he is prohibited to marry.

41. If one became tamei to a corpse who is not one of the seven relatives he is disqualified from ascending the platform and denied all the privileges of the kehunah until he repents and agrees that he will no longer become tamei from a corpse. (Some say that a kohen who has a daughter who became an apostate for idolatry or had illicit relations is not accorded the sanctity of the kohanim since she defiled her father with her behavior.)

 42. A חלל does not “lift his hands.”

 43. After the seven days of mourning a kohen may “lift his hands” but during the seven days he should walk out of the Bais Haknesses when the kohanim are called. Some say that for the entire period of mourning, even as much as twelve months for a father or mother, he does not “life his hands” and this is the custom in these countries.

44. A kohen who is not married “lifts his hands.” Some say that he does not “lift his hands” since one without a wife is without simchah and one reciting birkas kohanim must be in a state of simchah. The custom is that he does “lift his hands” even though he is not married, nevertheless, we do not protest someone who does not want to “lift his hands” but he should not be in the Bais HaKnesses when the kohanim are called or when they are told to wash their hands. The custom in these countries is that kohanim do not “lift their hands” other than on Yom Tov since it is then that they experience the simchah of Yom Tov and “a good heart blesses” as opposed to other days, even Shabbos, when they are burdened with thoughts about their sustenance and missing work. Even on Yom Tov they only “lift their hands” in mussaf when they are about to leave the Bais HaKnesses in order to celebrate the joys of Yom Tov. During shacharis and mussaf when the kohanim will not “lift their hands” the shaliach tzibbur says א- לוקינו וא-לוקי אבותינו as mentioned above at the end of siman 127. On Yom Kippur the kohanim “lift their hands” as they do on Yom Tov. In some places they “lift their hands” during ne’ilah and in some places even in shacharis.

45. When reciting the following words the kohanim turn to the south and north: יברכך, וישמרך, אליך, ויחנך, אליך, לך, שלום . The custom is to stretch out the tune while reciting these words because each word is the end of a beracha and רבון is recited at that time as will be discussed in siman 130. The kohanim also stretch out the tune at the end of each pasuk, i.e. וישמרך, ויחנך, שלום . The announcer does not recite ‘ רבון וכו . It is prohibited for one to be served by a kohen even nowadays since it is comparable to deriving personal benefit from sacred property unless the kohen is mochel.

           Siman 129: Seifim 2:

1. Birkas kohanim is recited during shacharis, mussaf and ne’ilah on days when ne’ilah is recited, for example on Yom Kippur. It is not recited during mincha since it is common for people to be drunk and there is a concern that the kohen may be drunk. Chazal decreed that birkas kohanim is not recited during mincha on a fast day to be consistent with other days. On a fast day that does not include the tefila of ne’ilah since mincha is recited close to shekias hachamah it is similar to ne’ilah and would not be confused with mincha during the rest of the year, therefore, birkas kohanim is recited. (Our custom was discusses above in siman 128).

2. If a kohen ascended the platform to recite birkas kohanim on Yom Kippur during mincha he may “lift his hands” and is not told to descend since it is obvious that there is no concern for drunkenness and telling him to descend could raise a suspicion that he is unfit to recite birkas kohanim and that is why they demanded that he descend. Therefore, during mincha on Yom Kippur the shaliach tzibbur recites א-לוקינו וא-לוקי אבותינו even though it is not a time for birkas kohanim since if a kohen would ascend he would not be told to descend – it is considered to some degree a time for birkas kohanim. This is the custom in these countries even though there are those who disagree.

        Siman 130: Seifim 1

1. One who has a dream and does not know what he saw should stand before the kohanim as they ascend the platform and say רבונו של עולם וכו‘ . He should time himself to finish as the kohanim finish the beracha and the tzibbur answers אמן . If he finished ahead of them he should say ‘ אדיר במרום וכו . In a place where the kohanim do not ascend the platform he should say this as the shaliach tzibbur says שים שלום and he should time himself to finish as the shaliach tzibbur finishes the beracha and the tzibbur answers .אמן

 Siman 131: Seifim 8

1. One should not speak between shemone esrei and tachanun. When reciting tachanun the custom is to lean on one’s left arm. Some say that one should lean on one’s right arm and the correct practice is that during shacharis when one has tefillin on his left arm he should lean on his right arm out of respect for the tefillin and towards evening or when he is not wearing tefillin he should on his left arm. After one falls on his face one should lift up his head and supplicate while sitting, each place according to their custom. The common custom is to recite ואנחנו לא נדע , half kaddish, ashrei and למנצח . Even on days when tachanun is not recited למנצח is recited except for Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah, Purim, erev Pesach, erev Yom Kippur and the 15th of Av.

2. “Falling on one’s face” should be performed while sitting rather than while standing. Some maintain that “falling on one’s face” is only recited when there is an aron and sefer Torah but in their absence the supplication is recited without covering one’s face and this is our custom. One “falls on his face” if he is in the courtyard of the Bais HaKnesses that opens to the Bais HaKnesses or if one davens, even in his house, at the same time the tzibbur is davening.

3. “Falling on one’s face” is not recited at night. In the latter part of the night it is permitted for one to “fall on his face” since it is close to daytime.

4. The custom is to not “fall on one’s face” in the house of a mourner, the house with a chosson, in a Bais HaKnesses on the day of a circumcision or if a chosson is present. This applies only if the circumcision or the chosson are in the Bais HaKnesses but if the circumcision will not be held in the Bais HaKnesses tachanun is recited even though it will be performed in another Bais HaKnesses. On the day of a circumcision tachanun is skipped during shacharis when they will circumcise the child but during mincha it should be recited even if they are davening in the presence of the circumcised child. In contrast, a chosson exempts people from reciting tachanun the entire day. One is considered a chosson on the day that he enters the chupah.

5. When a circumcision is on a fast day, selichos and viduy are recited but they do not “fall on their faces” nor do they say והוא רחום during shacharis even in a place where והוא רחום would otherwise be recited.

6. The custom is that tachanun is not recited on the 15th of Av, the 15th of Shevat, Rosh Chodesh, nor during the preceding mincha. Tachanun is not recited on Chanukah and according to some it is not recited during the preceding mincha (and this is our custom). On Purim tachanun is not recited (on Lag B’Omer tachanun is skipped as well as on erev Yom Kippur and on erev Rosh HaShanah it is skipped even during shacharis.

7. The common custom is that tachanun is not recited during the month of Nissan or on Tisha B’Av or between Yom Kippur and Sukkos (nor is tachanun recited from Rosh Chodesh Sivan until after Shavuos.)

8. An important person is not permitted to “fall on his face” when he davens with a tzibbur unless he is certain that his tefila will be answered as was Yehoshua ben Nun. It is prohibited for anyone to “fall on his face” by spreading out his hands and feet even if he is not on a flooring stone. If he turns to the side it is permitted if he is not on a flooring stone. This practice should be followed on Yom Kippur when people “fall on their faces” or they should spread out grass to separate between themselves and the floor and this is the custom.

                 Siman 132: Seifim 2:

1. We translate the kedusha of ובא לציון and one must be careful to concentrate on it when it is read. Regarding the question of whether it is recited by an individual the halacha is the same as kedusha of יוצר , see above siman 59. The kedusha that is in Aramaic is recited by an individual and should not be recited by two people and it should not be recited out loud.

2. It is prohibited for one to leave the Bais HaKnesses before kedusha of ובא לציון . After davening is completed we say עלינו לשבח while standing. One should be careful to concentrate while saying עלינו and after saying the words אל לא יושיע one should pause before reciting the next words ‘ ואנחנו כורעים וכו . Kaddish yasom is recited after עלינו and even if there are no orphans in the Bais HaKnesses it should be recited by someone who does not have a parent. If one’s parents are not particular it may even be recited by one whose parents are alive. One should say פטום הקטרת after davening in the morning and afternoon and beforehand we say אין כא-לוקינו . We say השיר שהלוים היו אומרים וכו’ only in shacharis. Some write that one should make an effort to read פטום הקטרת from a text rather than by heart. Since the reading is a replacement for the burning of the incense we are concerned that he may omit one of the ingredients and one who leaves out one of the ingredients of the קטורת is liable to death. For this reason the custom is that it is not recited during the week when people are rushed to go to work and there is a concern that they may skip something. When one exits the Bais HaKnesses he should say ‘ ה נחני וגו’ and bow as he exits.

                 Siman 133: Seifim 1

1. On Shabbos and Yom Tov we do not say ברכו following the last kaddish. Even in a place that has the custom to recite it during the week for those who may not have been in the Bais HaKnesses when ברכו was said, on Shabbos and Yom it is not said since everyone arrives in the Bais HaKnesses before ברכו.

                Siman 134: Seif 2

1. (The custom is to add supplications on Monday and Thursday and we say) והוא רחום . This should be said out loud and if it was not recited while standing one violates the enactment and is considered one who “breached a fence.” We are accustomed to recite this while standing but it is said quietly. The reason we add supplications on Monday and Thursday is that they are ימי רצון and that is the reason for the custom to fast on these days.

2. One shows the writing of the Torah to those on his right and his left and turns it towards those who are in front and in back because there is a mitzvah for all the men and women to see the writing, bow and to say ‘ וזאת התורה וגו and ‘ תורת ה’ תמימה וגו The custom is to do this after reading from the Torah but when it is taken out the shaliach tzibbur says גדלו and the tzibbur recites רוממו and ‘ אב הרחמים הוא ירחם עם עמוסים וכו . Some say על הכל יתגדל and this is our custom on Yom Tov and Shabbos. One should hold the Torah with his right arm. When the first person is called to the Torah we say ‘ .ברוך שנתן תורה וכ

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