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Learn all about the Priestly Blessing: Who blesses and when, the preparations, the procedure of the actual blessing, the congregation’s role, and the Kabbalah behind it all.

The Priestly Blessing

The Priestly Blessing

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“Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: This is how you shall bless the children of Israel . . .” (Numbers 6:23)

The Hebrew term for the Priestly Blessing is Birkat Kohanim, also known as Nesi’at Kapayim, the “lifting of the hands,” because of the priests’ uplifted hands, through which the divine blessings flow.

Join us as we delve into this biblical commandment. The links below will give you the basic what, why, when, where and how of this ancient ceremony.
On which dates and during which prayers is the blessing administered?
A blessing must be conferred with a joyful heart, hence the prevailing custom in the Diaspora to relegate the Birkat Kohanim to the major holidays.
How the priests prepare themselves for the blessing
Washing the kohanim’s hands, the removal of shoes, and the pre-blessing prayer.
A step-by-step guide leading the priest through the blessing
The fingers are positioned in a manner which leaves five “windows” through which G‑d’s blessings flow to the congregation . . .
What does the congregation do during the blessing?
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.
What does the priest think during the blessing? Does a child priest join the blessing? And more . . .
A crucial prerequisite to Birkat Kohanim is mutual love and respect between the kohanim and the congregation . . .
Remembering the priestly blessing in our everyday communal prayers
What if no kohen is present? And what about those prayers when the Priestly Blessing is not administered?
Several takes on the inner dimension of the blessings of the priests
The soul of the kohen stems from the divine attribute of “abundant kindness.” In the mystical works this attribute is compared to a powerful river whose waters cannot be stemmed.
One of the traditional melodies for the priestly blessing
This wonderful, inspiring tune for Birkat Kohanim originates with the famed “kapelye” (musical group) of the second Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Dovber.