Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim - Chapter Fourteen
In the morning, Musaf, and Ne'ilah services, the priests recite the priestly blessing. They do not recite the priestly blessing in the Minchah service, because, by the time of the Minchah service, all the people have eaten. The possibility exists that the priests would have drunken wine, and it is forbidden to recite the priestly blessing while intoxicated.
Even on a fast day, the priestly blessings are not recited during the Minchah service. This decree [was instituted,] lest [people fail to differentiate between] the Minchah service of a fast day and the Minchah service of an ordinary day.
When does the above apply? On fast days when both Minchah and Ne'ilah are recited - i.e., Yom Kippur and communal fasts [declared because of distress]. However, on a fast day on which Ne'ilah is not recited - e.g., Tish'ah B'Av or the seventeenth of Tammuz - since the Minchah service is recited close to sunset, it resembles Ne'ilah and will not be confused with an ordinary Minchah service. Therefore, the priestly blessing is recited during it.
If a priest transgressed and ascended to the platform during the Minchah service of Yom Kippur, since it is known that there is no possibility of drunkenness on that day, he may recite the priestly blessing, and he is not required to descend because of the suspicion [that might be aroused], so that people do not say, "He is of blemished lineage. Therefore, they forced him to descend."
How is the priestly blessing recited outside the Temple? When the leader of the congregation reaches the blessing R'tzey, when he recites the word R'tzey all the priests in the synagogue leave their places, proceed forward, and ascend the duchan.
They stand there, facing the heichal, with their backs to the congregation. They hold their fingers closed, against their palms, until the leader of the congregation completes the blessing Modim. [Then,] they turn their faces to the people, spread out their fingers, lift up their hands shoulder high, and begin reciting, Y'varechecha....
The leader of the congregation reads [the blessing] to them, word for word, and they respond after him [as can be inferred from Numbers 6:23: "This is how you should bless the children of Israel:] 'Say to them...;’” [i.e., the priests do not bless until one] "says to them."
When [the priests] conclude the first verse, all the people answer "Amen." The leader of the congregation reads [the priests] the second verse, word for word, and they respond after him until they complete the second verse. The people respond "Amen." The same applies regarding the third verse.
When the priests conclude the recitation of [these] three verses, the leader of the congregation begins the final blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh, Sim shalom. The priests turn their faces to the ark and close their fingers. They remain standing on the duchan until the leader of the congregation concludes the blessing, [and then] return to their places.
The person who calls the priests is not permitted to call to the priests until the Amen of the community is no longer heard. The priests are not permitted to begin reciting the blessing until the statement of the person who calls the priests is no longer heard.
The congregation should not respond "Amen" until the blessing of the priests is no longer heard. The priests may not begin another blessing until the Amen of the community is no longer heard.
The leader of the congregation is not allowed to recite Amen to the priests' blessings like the rest of the people, lest he become confused and not realize which blessing to recite to them, whether the second blessing or the third blessing.
The priests are not permitted to turn their faces away from the congregation until the leader of the congregation begins [the blessing] Sim shalom. Neither may the priests leave their places until the leader of the congregation concludes [the blessing] Sim shalom, nor may they close their fingers until they turn their faces from the community.
One of the measures ordained by Ezra is that the priests should not ascend to the duchan wearing sandals. Rather, they should stand barefoot.
When the priests bless the people, they should not look at them or divert their attention. Rather, their eyes should be directed towards the earth like one standing in prayer.
A person should not look at the priests' faces while they are blessing the people, lest they divert their attention. Rather, all the people should listen attentively to the blessing; they should [stand] face to face with the priests, without looking at their faces.
If only one priest is blessing the people, he should begin reciting the blessing alone. [Afterwards,] the leader of the congregation reads [the blessings] to him, word for word, as mentioned.
If there are two or more [priests blessing the people], they do not begin reciting the blessing until the leader of the congregation calls them, saying "Kohanim." They answer and respond Y'varechecha, and then he reads [the blessings] to them, word for word, in the manner described above.
How is the priestly blessing recited in the Temple? The priests ascend to the duchan after the priests have completed the service associated with the morning sacrifice offered daily. They lift their hands above their heads with their fingers extended, except the High Priest. He does not lift his hands above the tzitz.
One person reads [the blessings] to them, word for word, in the same manner as outside the Temple, until they complete the three verses. The people do not respond ["Amen"] after each verse. Instead, in the Temple, [the priestly blessings] are read as a single blessing. When [the priests] conclude, all the people respond, "Blessed be God, the Lord, the Lord of Israel to all eternity."
They recite [God's] name - i.e., the name י-ה-ו-ה , as it is written. This is what is referred to as the "explicit name" in all sources. In the country, it is read [using another one of God's names]: אדני, for only in the Temple is this name [of God] recited as it is written.
After Shimon HaTzaddik died, the priests ceased reciting the [priestly] blessing using God's explicit name even in the Temple, lest it be learned by a person lacking proper stature and moral conduct. The Sages of the early generations would teach [this name] once in seven years, only to their students and sons [who had proven] their moral conduct. All this is in reverence for His great and awesome name.
Wherever the priestly blessing is recited, it is recited only in the holy tongue, as [implied by Numbers 6:23]: "This is how you should bless the children of Israel."
We have learned the following [instructions] from the tradition [passed on] from Moses, our teacher, may he rest in peace:
"This is how you should bless" - while standing.
"This is how you should bless" - raising your hands.
"This is how you should bless" - in the holy tongue.
"This is how you should bless" - face to face.
"This is how you should bless" - in a loud voice.
"This is how you should bless" - mentioning [God's] explicit name; the latter [applying only] when one is in the Temple, as explained.
Wherever [they recite the blessing], the priests are not permitted to add other blessings - e.g., "May God, Lord of your fathers, increase your numbers a thousandfold" (Deuteronomy 11:11) - in addition to the three verses [of the priestly blessing]. [These additions may not be made] either silently or out loud, as [Deuteronomy 4:2] states: "Do not add to the matter."
While a priest is ascending to the duchan, he recites [the following prayer] when he leaves his place to ascend:
May it be Your will, God, our Lord and Lord of our fathers, that this blessing which You have commanded us to bless Your people, Israel, be a perfect blessing, that it not be marred by obstacles or iniquity, from now until eternity.
Before he turns to bless the community, [a priest] should recite the blessing:
Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with the holiness of Aharon, and commanded us to bless His people Israel with love.
Afterwards, he turns his face to the community and begins reciting the priestly blessings. When he turns his face from the community after completing [the recitation] of the blessings, he recites [the following]:
We have carried out that which You have decreed upon us. Deal with us as You have promised us: Look down from Your abode, from the heavens, and bless Your people, Israel.
When the priests turn their faces to the community to bless them, and when they turn their faces from the community after blessing [them], they should turn only to the right. Similarly, any turns which a person makes should always be to the right.
In the Temple, the priestly blessing would be recited once a day, after the [offering of] the morning sacrifice. [The priests] come and stand on the steps to the Ulam and recite the blessing, as mentioned above. However, outside the Temple, it is recited after every prayer service, except Minchah, as explained.
In all places, an effort is made that the person who reads the blessing to the priests should be an Israelite, as [implied by Numbers 6:23]: "Say to them." This implies that the one who reads the blessing to them is not one of them.
Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim - Chapter Fifteen
There are six factors that prevent [a priest] from reciting the priestly blessings: [an inability] to pronounce [the blessings properly], physical deformities, transgressions, [lack of] maturity, intoxication, and the ritual impurity of [the priest's] hands.
[An inability] to pronounce [the blessings properly]: What is implied? Those who cannot articulate the letters properly - e.g., those who read an aleph as an ayin and an ayin as an aleph, or who pronounce shibbolet as sibbolet and the like - should not recite the priestly blessings.
Similarly, a stutterer or one who speaks unclearly, whose words cannot be understood by everyone, should not recite the priestly blessing.
Physical deformities: What is implied? A priest should not recite the priestly blessings if he has blemishes on his face, hands, or feet - for example, his fingers are bent over, crooked, or covered with white spots - for they will attract the people's attention.
A person whose spittle always dribbles when he speaks, and also a person who is blind in one eye should not recite the priestly blessings. However, if such a person was well known in his city and everyone was familiar with the person who was blind in one eye or whose spittle dribbled, he may recite the priestly blessing, for he will not attract their attention.
Similarly, a person whose hands were colored purple or scarlet should not recite the priestly blessings. If the majority of the city's population is involved in such a profession, he is permitted, for this does not attract the people's attention.
Transgressions: What is implied? A priest who killed someone should never recite the priestly blessings, even if he repents, as [implied by Isaiah 1:15 which] states: "Your hands are full of blood," and states: "When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you."
A priest who served false gods, even if he was compelled to do so or did so inadvertently - though he has repented - may never recite the priestly blessing, as [can be inferred from II Kings 23:9, which] states: "However, the priests of the high places shall not ascend [to God's altar in Jerusalem]." [The recitation of the priestly] blessings is equated to service [in the Temple], as [Deuteronomy 10:8] states: "to serve Him and to bless in His name."
Similarly, a priest who converted to the worship of false gods - even though he repents - may never recite the priestly blessing. Other transgressions do not prevent [a priest from blessing the people].
[Lack of] maturity: What is implied? A young priest should not recite the priestly blessings until he grows a full beard.
Intoxication: What is implied? A [priest] who drank a revi'it of wine at one time should not recite the priestly blessings until the effects of the wine wear off. [This restriction was imposed] because an association was established between [reciting the priestly] blessing and service [in the Temple].
Should [a priest] drink a revi'it of wine on two different occasions or mix a small amount of water in it, he is permitted [to recite the priestly blessings]. If he drank more than a revi'it, even though it was mixed with water or even though he drank it intermittently, he should not recite the priestly blessings until the effects of the wine wear off.
How much is a revi'it? [The volume of an area] two fingerbreadths by two fingerbreadths and two and seven tenths of a fingerbreadth high. Whenever the term "finger" is mentioned as a measure throughout the entire Torah, it refers to a thumbbreadth. The thumb is called bohen yad [in the Torah].
The ritual impurity of [the priest's] hands: What is implied? A priest who did not wash his hands should not recite the priestly blessing. Rather, he should wash his hands to the wrist, as is done when sanctifying the hands for the service in the Temple, as [Psalms 134:2] states: "Raise up your hands [in] holiness and bless God."
A challal does not recite the priestly blessing, for he is not a priest.
A priest who does not have any of the factors which hinder the recitation of the priestly blessings mentioned above should recite the priestly blessing, even though he is not a wise man or careful in his observance of the mitzvot. [This applies] even though the people spread unwholesome gossip about him, or his business dealings are not ethical.
He should not be prevented from [reciting the priestly blessings] because [reciting these blessings] is a positive mitzvah incumbent on each priest who is fit to recite them. We do not tell a wicked person: Increase your wickedness [by] failing to perform mitzvot.
Do not wonder: "What good will come from the blessing of this simple person?" for the reception of the blessings is not dependent on the priests, but on the Holy One, blessed be He, as [Numbers 6:27] states: "And they shall set My name upon the children of Israel, and I shall bless them." The priests perform the mitzvah with which they were commanded, and God, in His mercies, will bless Israel as He desires.
The people standing behind the priests are not included in the blessing. Those standing at their sides are included in the blessing. [Even] if there is a partition - even an iron wall - between the priests and the people who are being blessed, since they are facing the priests, they are included in the blessing.
The priestly blessing is recited [only] when ten people [are present]. The priests can be included in that number.
If [the congregation in a particular] synagogue are all priests, they should all recite the priestly blessing. Who should they bless? Their brethren in the north and the south. Who will respond "Amen" to their [blessings]? The women and the children. If more than ten priests remain besides those who ascend to the duchan, these ten [priests] respond "Amen" and the remainder of the priests recite the blessings.
When there is no priest in the community other than the leader of the congregation, he should not recite the priestly blessings. If he is sure that he can recite the priestly blessings and return to his prayers [without becoming confused], he may [recite the priestly blessing].
If there are no priests present at all, when the leader of the congregation reaches [the blessing] Sim shalom, he recites [the following prayer]:
Our God and God of our fathers, bless us with the threefold blessing written in the Torah by Moses, Your servant, and recited by Aharon and his sons, the priests, Your consecrated people, as it is said:
May God bless you and keep you.
May God shine His countenance upon you and be gracious to you.
May God turn His countenance to you and grant you peace.
And they shall set My name upon the children of Israel and I will bless them.
The people do not respond "Amen" to these blessings. He [resumes his recitation of the Shemoneh Esreh], beginning the recitation of [the blessing] Sim shalom.
A priest who recited the priestly blessings and went to another synagogue and found the congregation in the midst of prayer, before the [recitation of] the priestly blessings, should bless them. [He may recite the priestly blessings] several times during the day.
A priest who does not move from his place to ascend to the duchan when the leader of the congregation recites [the blessing] R'tzey should not ascend [to the duchan] during that prayer service. However, if he moved [from his place], even though he did not reach the duchan until after the [conclusion of the blessing R'tzey], he may ascend [the duchan] and bless [the people].
Any priest who does not ascend to the duchan - even though he neglects [the performance] of [only] one commandment - is considered as if he violated three positive commandments, as [Numbers 6:23-27] states: "This is how you shall bless the children of Israel," "Say to them," "And you shall set My name..."
Any priest who does not recite the priestly blessing will not be blessed, and any priest who blesses [the people] will be blessed, as [Genesis 12:3] states: "And I will bless those who bless you."
Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah - Chapter One
HILCHOT TEFILLIN UMEZUZAH V'SEFER TORAH
THE LAWS [GOVERNING] TORAH SCROLLS, TEFILLIN, AND MEZUZOT
They contain five positive commands, which are: 1) For tefillin [to be placed] on our heads; 2) To tie [tefillin] on our arms; 3) To affix a mezuzah at the entrances to our gates; 4) For every man to write a Torah scroll for himself; 5) For a king to write a second scroll for himself so that he will have two Torah scrolls.
The explanation of these mitzvot is contained in the following chapters.
Four passages [of the Torah]: Kadesh Li and V'hayah ki y'viacha Ado-nai in the book of Exodus (13:1-10 and 13:11-16) and Shema and V'hayah im shamo'a (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21) should be written separately and covered with leather. They are called tefillin.
They are placed on the head and tied on the arm. According to Torah law, even a mere point of one of the letters from these four passages prevents all of them from being acceptable. All four must be written in the proper manner.
Similarly, if even one letter of the two passages contained in the mezuzah, Shema and V'hayah im shamo'a (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21), is lacking a point, it is not acceptable according to Torah law, which requires that they [each] be written in a perfect manner. Similarly, a Torah scroll which is lacking even one letter is unacceptable.
There are ten requirements for tefillin. All of them are halachot transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is necessary to fulfill them all. Therefore, if one made any changes with regard to them, the tefillin are not fit for use: Two of them involve their composition, and eight involve the coverings [placed around the passages] and the tying of their straps.
These are the two that involve their composition:
a) They must be written in ink;
b) They must be written on parchment.
How is ink prepared? One collects the vapor of oils, of tar, of wax, or the like, [causes it to condense,] and kneads it together with sap from a tree and a drop of honey. It is moistened extensively, crushed until it is formed into flat cakes, dried, and then stored.
When one desires to write with it, one soaks [the cakes of ink] in gallnut juice or the like and writes with it. Thus, if one attempts to rub it out, he would be able to.
This is the ink with which it is most preferable to write scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot. If, however, one wrote any of the three with gallnut juice or vitriol, which remains without being rubbed out, it is acceptable.
If so, what was excluded by the halachah conveyed to Moses on Mount Sinai, which stated that it be written in ink?
It excludes tints of other colors, such as red, green, and the like. If even one letter of a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzot is in another tint or in gold, they are invalid.
There are three types of parchment: g'vil, k'laf, and duchsustos.
What is implied? The hide of a domesticated or wild animal is taken. First, the hair is removed from it. Afterwards, it is salted and then prepared with flour. Then resin and other substances which cause the skin to contract and become harder are applied to it. In this state, it is called g'vil.
After the hair is removed, the hide may be taken and divided in half in the manner known to the parchment processors. Thus, there are two pieces of parchment: a thin one, which is on the side where the hair grew, and a thicker one, on the side of the flesh.
After it has been processed using salt, then flour, and then resin and the like, the portion on the side where the hair grew is called k'laf and the portion on the side of the flesh is called duchsustos.
It is a halachah transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai that a Torah scroll should be written on g'vil on the side on which the hair had grown. When tefillin are written on k'laf, they should be written on the side of the flesh. When a mezuzah is written onduchsustos, it should be written on the side of the hair.
Whenever one writes on k'laf on the side of the hair or on g'vil or duchsustos on the side of the flesh, it is unacceptable.
Although it is a halachah which was transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai, that if one wrote a Torah scroll on k'laf, it is acceptable. G'vil was mentioned only to exclude duchsustos. If a Torah scroll was written on the latter, it is not acceptable.
Similarly, if a mezuzah was written on k'laf or on g'vil, it is acceptable. Duchsustos was mentioned only as a mitzvah.
[Torah] scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot may not be written on hide from a non-kosher animal, fowl, or wild animal. One may write on the hides of [all] kosher animals, wild beasts, and fowl. This applies even when these animals died without being ritually slaughtered or when they were killed by wild beasts.
We may not write on the skin of a kosher fish because of the foul secretions, since the processing of the skin will not cause the foul secretions to cease.
The g'vil for a Torah scroll and the k'laf for tefillin and for a Torah scroll must be processed with this purpose in mind. If they were not processed with this intent, they are not acceptable.
Accordingly, if they were processed by a gentile, they are not acceptable. Even when [a Jew] instructed a gentile to process the parchment with the intent that it be used for a Torah scroll or for tefillin, it is not acceptable. The gentile follows his own intentions and not those of the person who hires him. Therefore, whenever an article must be made with a specific intent in mind, it is unacceptable if made by a gentile.
[The parchment used for] a mezuzah need not be processed with this purpose in mind.
It is a halachah transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai that a Torah scroll or mezuzah should be written only [on parchment] which has been ruled. [The parchment used for] tefillin, however, need not be ruled, because they are covered.
It is permissible to write tefillin and mezuzot without [looking at] an existent text, because everyone is familiar with these passages. It is, however, forbidden to write even one letter of a Torah scroll without [looking at] an existent text.
A Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah written by an apikoros should be burned. If they were written by a gentile, an apostate Jew, a person who betrays [the Jews] to a powerful person, a slave, a woman, or a minor, they are not acceptable and must be entombed, as [implied by Deuteronomy 6:8-9]: "And you shall tie... and you shall write." [Our Sages explain that this includes only] those who are commanded to tie [tefillin on their arms] and those who believe in what they write.
[Sacred articles] which are found in the possession of an apikoros, and it is not known who wrote them, should be entombed. Those which are found in the possession of a gentile are kosher. We should not, however, purchase Torah scrolls, tefillin, or mezuzot from gentiles for more than they are worth, so that they do not become accustomed to stealing them.
A Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah that was written on parchment from a non-kosher animal, beast, or fowl, or on parchment that was not processed [properly, is not acceptable]. [Similarly,] a Torah scroll or tefillin that was written on parchment that was not processed with the intent to use it for these sacred purposes is not acceptable.
When a person writes a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah without having [the proper] intention, should he write one of God's names without the desired intent, they are not acceptable.
Therefore, when a person is writing God's name, he should not reply even if the king of Israel greets him. If he is writing two or three names, he may interrupt between them and reply.
[When a scribe] dips his pen [in ink] to write God's name, he should not begin [writing] one of the letters of God's name. Rather, he should begin with the letter preceding [God's name].
If [a scribe] forgot to write God's name in its entirety, he may insert it in between the lines. It is, however, unacceptable to have a portion of God's name on the line and a portion inserted [between the lines]. With regard to other words, if one forgets, one may write half the word on the line and half above the line.
When does the above apply? With regard to a Torah scroll. In contrast, with regard to tefillin and mezuzot, one should not insert even one letter [between the lines]. Rather, if one forgets even one letter, one should entomb what one has written and write another one.
It is permitted to write God's name on [parchment where letters] have been scraped off or rubbed out on all [of these sacred articles].
Scribes who write Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot may not turn the parchment face down. Rather, they should spread a cloth over them or fold them.
[The following rule applies when] a scribe who wrote a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah states: "I did not write the names of God with the proper intent." Once they have left his hand, his statements are not believed with regard to the disqualification of the scroll. They are, however, accepted to the extent that he must forfeit his entire wage.
Why isn't he believed with regard to the disqualification of the scroll? Because it is possible that he wanted to cause a loss to the purchaser or to the person who hired him, thinking that with this statement all that he would be required to forfeit would be the payment for the names of God.
Accordingly, were he to say that the parchment of this Torah scroll or tefillin was not processed with the proper intent in mind, his statements are accepted with regard to the disqualification of the sacred articles because, [by virtue of these statements,] he forfeits his entire wage. Everyone knows that if the parchments were not processed with the proper intent, he does not deserve any payment.
Tefillin and mezuzot may be written only in Assyrian script. Permission was granted to write Torah scrolls in Greek as well. That Greek language has, however, been forgotten from the world. It has been confused and has sunk into oblivion. Therefore, at present, all three sacred articles may be written using Assyrian script alone.
One must be precise while writing them, making sure that one letter does not become attached to another one, because any letter which is not surrounded by parchment on all four sides is unacceptable.
Any letter that cannot be read by a child who is neither wise nor foolish is not acceptable. Therefore, one must be careful with regard to the form of the letters, so that a yud will not resemble a vav, nor a vav a yud; a kaf should not resemble a beit, nor a beit a kaf; a dalet should not resemble a resh, nor a resh a dalet.
[The same applies in] other similar instances. [The text must be written in a manner] that a reader will be able to read without difficulty.
[The following rules apply to] parchment which has holes: One should not write over a hole. If, however, ink passes over the hole [without seeping through], the presence of the hole is of no consequence, and one may write upon it. Accordingly, if the skin of a fowl has been processed, it is permissible to write upon it.
[The following rules apply] when a parchment becomes perforated after it has been written on: If the perforation is within the inside of a letter - e.g., in the space inside a heh, inside amem, or inside any of the other letters - it is acceptable.
Despite the fact that a leg of a letter becomes perforated to the extent that it becomes separated [into two portions], it is acceptable if:
a) [the length of the leg] is equivalent to that of a small letter; and
b) the letter's [present form] does not resemble another letter.
If [the length of the leg] is not equivalent to that of a small letter, it is not acceptable.
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