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Various Laws Pertaining to the Kohen

Various Laws Pertaining to the Kohen

What does the priest think during the blessing? Does a child priest join the blessing? And more . . .

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  • A crucial prerequisite to Birkat Kohanim is mutual love and respect between the Kohanim and the congregation. In fact, the text of the blessing recited by the Kohanim before the Birkat Kohanim thanks G‑d for "sanctifying us with the sanctity of Aaron and commanding us to bless His people Israel with love!" If a Kohen despises any member of the congregation, or vice versa, it is considered a hazard for that Kohen to participate in the Birkat Kohanim.
  • Preferably, a Kohen shouldn't be the chazzan for a prayer service wherein the Birkat Kohanim will be performed. In instance of great need, a rabbi will instruct the Kohen chazzan whether – and if yes, how – to perform the Birkat Kohanim.
  • A pre-Bar Mitzvah Kohen child can participate in the blessing along with the adult Kohanim. It is customary for children to join their father beneath his tallit.
  • There are differing customs regarding a Kohen who is in mourning taking part in the Birkat Kohanim, with chassidic custom permitting participation. Even those whose community tradition discourages a Kohen mourner from participating in the blessing should consult with a rabbi before abstaining, as certain conditions may mandate participation nonetheless.
  • The Kohen who for whatever reason does not join in the Birkat Kohanim must exit the synagogue sanctuary before the chazzan begins the Retzay blessing of the Repetition of the Amidah.
Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
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