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Role of the Congregation

Role of the Congregation

What does the congregation do during the blessing?

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It is customary for the congregation to stand for the duration of the Birkat Kohanim, out of respect for the Divine Presence which graces the occasion.

Only those standing in front of the Kohanim are included in the blessing. In synagogues where seats directly abut the eastern wall of the sanctuary (this is especially common with the rabbi's or chazzan's place), their occupants should move back several paces for the Birkat Kohanim, so that they do not stand behind the Kohanim. (The chazzan should move back before starting the Repetition of the Amidah.)

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. The men customarily cover their heads and faces with their tallit. Young children join their fathers beneath the tallit, which makes for a memorable childhood experience.

The congregation listens attentively and responds "Amen" to the Kohanim's preliminary blessing, and at the conclusion of each of the three verses of the Birkat Kohanim. The congregation should wait until the Kohanim have completely ennunciated the final word of the verse before responding with Amen.

According to Chabad custom, the members of the congregation move their heads "in synch" with the words of the Birkat Kohanim. When the Kohanim say the first word, "yivarechecha," they face forward; next word, "Hashem," they turn their head to the right; next word, "viyishmerecha," forward; next word, "ya'er," head to left, etc. (Forward, right, forward, left, forward, right, forward, left, etc.)

Congregation's Prayer

While the Kohanim sing the melody before the final three words of the Birkat Kohanim, the congregation recites a prayer requesting the "healing" of all their negative dreams.

After the Birkat Kohanim, with faces still covered by the tallit, the congregation silently recites the short Adir bamarom prayer.

As the Kohanim file back to their places, it is customary for the congregation to appreciatively acknowledge their blessing with the traditional salutation: "Yasher koach!"

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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Margaret Louisiana January 20, 2015

what healing of all bad dreams represent Reply

wondering dreamer ny August 9, 2012

dreams what is the relevance of the passage about dreams to the birchat kohanim?
thanks Reply

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