1

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.

א

ששה דברים מונעין נשיאת כפים: הלשון והמומין והעבירה והשנים והיין וטומאת הידים הלשון כיצד העלגים שאין מוציאין את האותיות כתיקונן כגון שקורין לאלפי"ן עייני"ן ולעייני"ן אלפי"ן או לשבולת סבולת וכיוצא בהן אין נושאין את כפיהן וכך כבדי פה וכבדי לשון שאין דבריהם נכרים לכל אין נושאין את כפיהן:


There are six factors that prevent [a priest] from reciting the priestly blessings: [an inability] to pronounce [the blessings properly] - as explained in this halachah

physical deformities - as explained in Halachah 2

transgressions - as explained in Halachah 3

[lack of] maturity - as explained in Halachah 4

intoxication - as explained in Halachah 4

and the ritual impurity of [the priest's] hands - as explained in Halachah 5

[An inability] to pronounce [the blessings properly]: - Note the discussion of this difficulty with regard to the choice of a chazan, Chapter 8, Halachah 12.

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 - if the first word of the second priestly blessing, יאר is read with an ע instead of an א, the phrase את פניו אליך יאר ה' becomes a curse rather than a blessing.

or who pronounce shibbolet as sibbolet - i.e., reading a shin as a sin. See Judges 12:6.

and the like - e.g., who read a chet like a hay

should not recite the priestly blessings. - The later authorities explain that, if, as in many communities of the present day, the overwhelming majority of the people do not know how to differentiate between an ע and an א, a priest should not be disqualified because of this factor, since the meaning of the blessing is not changed (Magen Avraham 128:46). The Turei Zahav (128:90) states that even if a speech fault is common, but not overwhelmingly common - e.g., the substitution of a sin for a shin - a priest should not be disqualified, because such an error will not arouse the attention of the listeners. Nevertheless, this position is not accepted by all authorities.

Similarly, a stutterer or one who speaks unclearly, whose words cannot be understood by everyone - included in the category are people with other speech defects - e.g., a person who lisps

should not recite the priestly blessing.

2

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.

ב

המומין כיצד כהן שיש מומין בפניו או בידיו או ברגליו כגון שהיו אצבעותיו עקומות או עקושות או שהיו ידיו בוהקניות לא ישא את כפיו לפי שהעם מסתכלין בו מי שהיה רירו יורד על זקנו בשעה שהוא מדבר וכן הסומא באחת מעיניו לא ישא את כפיו ואם היה דש בעירו והכל היו רגילים בזה הסומא באחת מעיניו או בזה שרירו זב מותר לפי שאין מסתכלין בו וכן מי שהיו ידיו צבועות אסטיס ופואה לא ישא את כפיו ואם רוב אנשי העיר מלאכתן בכך מותר לפי שאין מסתכלין בו:

Physical deformities: - Leviticus 21:16-23 mentions many physical deformities that prevent a priest from serving in the Temple. However, most of these deformities do not disqualify him from reciting the priestly blessings. As explained in this halachah, the only deformities which disqualify a priest from reciting the priestly blessings are those which will attract the people's attention and prevent them from listening attentively to the blessings.

The Turei Zahav 128:27 questions this concept, noting that since an association was made between the recitation of the priestly blessings and service in the Temple, on the surface, priests with physical blemishes should also be prevented from reciting the blessings. The Turei Zahav explains that this association disqualifies a person only when the disqualifying factor - e.g., idol worship or intoxication - is a result of man's own activities. If the disqualifying factor is a congenital condition - e.g., physical deformity - the priest may bless the people.

What is implied? A priest should not recite the priestly blessings if he has blemishes on his face, hands, or feet - for all of these can be seen be the people while the priests recite the blessings. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:30-31) states that in places where the priests cover their faces and hands with their tallitot and wear socks while reciting the blessings, even these blemishes do not disqualify a priest from reciting the blessings.

for example, his fingers are bent over, crooked, or covered with white spots - for they will attract the people's attention - and distract their concentration on the blessings.

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 - for the same reasons as mentioned above. In places where the priests cover their faces, a priest with such a difficulty may also bless the people.

However, if such a person was well known in his city and everyone was familiar - Generally, this refers to a person who lives within a city for at least thirty days (Shulchan Aruch, loc. cit. 128:30).

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 - i.e., for the same reasons

a person whose hands are colored purple or scarlet should not recite the priestly blessings. If the majority of the city's population is involved in such a profession - or if the people of the city are familiar with him (Shulchan Aruch, loc. cit., 128:32).

he is permitted, for this does not attract the people's attention.

3

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].

ג

העבירה כיצד כהן שהרג את הנפש אף על פי שעשה תשובה לא ישא את כפיו שנאמר ידיכם דמים מלאו וכתיב ובפרשכם כפיכם וגו' וכהן שעבד כוכבים בין באונס בין בשגגה אע"פשעשה תשובה אינו נושא את כפיו לעולם שנאמר אך לא יעלו כהני הבמות וגו' וברכה כעבודה היא שנאמר לשרתו ולברך בשמו וכן כהן שהמיר לעכו"ם אע"פ שחזר בו אינו נושא את כפיו לעולם ושאר העבירות אין מונעין:

Transgressions: What is implied? A priest who killed someone - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:35) adds "even inadvertently." Many manuscript copies of the Mishneh Torah also include that phrase.

should never recite the priestly blessings, even if he repents - The Ramah (Orach Chayim 128:35) allows a priest who repents after committing such a sin to bless the people, so that "the door will not be closed to those who repent."

as [implied by Isaiah 1:15, which] states: "Your hands are full of blood" - the killing of a colleague

and states: - The order of these phrases in the Bible is the opposite of the order in which they are quoted by the Rambam.

"When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you." - Once a person has taken a life, God will not let him serve as a medium to convey blessing on the people.

A priest who served false gods, even if he was compelled to do so - See Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 5:2-4, which states that a person should sacrifice his life rather than submit to pressure to worship false gods. Nevertheless, if he fails to make this sacrifice, he is not punished by an earthly court for his sin.

or did so inadvertently - or without knowing that the worship of this god was forbidden

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]." - This verse describes the efforts of King Josaiah to cleanse Judah from the pagan practices introduced by his father and grandfather.

[The recitation of the priestly] blessings is equated to service [in the Temple] - Note the Rambam's comments, Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 9:13:

Any priest who served false gods, whether willingly or inadvertently - even though he sincerely repents - should never serve in the Temple.... If he transgressed and offered a sacrifice, his sacrifice is not a "pleasing fragrance."

as [Deuteronomy 10:8] states: "to serve Him and to bless in His name." - Many of the later authorities maintain that this association is only a point of Rabbinic Law, and the mention of Biblical verses is only an asmachta (allusion). However, there is no indication of such a concept in the Rambam's words.

Similarly, a priest who converted - without actually serving the false gods

to the worship of false gods - The Magen Avraham 128:54 states that even someone who converts to Islam - which does not involve idol worship - is not allowed to recite the priestly blessings.

even though he repents - In this instance, as well, the Ramah (loc. cit.:37) allows a priest to bless the people if he repents.

may never recite the priestly blessing. Other transgressions - The Mishnah Berurah 128:26 notes that a person who desecrates the sanctity of the Sabbath is considered as one who adopted paganism, and, therefore, should not be allowed to recite the priestly blessing.

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chayim I, 33) states that present circumstances differ from those during the Mishnah Berurah's era, and, at present, priests who violate the Sabbath laws are not judged as severely and may bless the people. Nevertheless, he agrees that if restricting such individuals from reciting the priestly blessings may motivate them to increase their Sabbath observance, they may be prevented from blessing the people.

do not prevent [a priest from blessing the people]. - See Halachot 6 and 7.

4

[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].

ד

השנים כיצד כהן נער לא ישא את כפיו עד שיתמלא זקנו והיין כיצד מי ששתה רביעית יין בבת אחת אינו נושא את כפיו עד שיסיר את יינו מעליו לפי שהוקשה ברכה לעבודה שתה רביעית יין בשתי פעמים או שנתן לתוכו מעט מים מותר ואם שתה יותר מרביעית אף על פי שהיה מזוג אע"פששתאו בכמה פעמים לא ישא את כפיו עד שיסיר את יינו מעליו וכמה היא רביעית אצבעים על אצבעים ברום אצבעים וחצי אצבע וחומש אצבע כגודל וזה האצבע שמושחין בו בכל התורה כולה הוא הגודל והוא הנקרא בהן יד:


[Lack of] maturity: What is implied? A young priest should not recite the priestly blessings until he grows a full beard. - As mentioned in the commentary on Chapter 8, Halachah 11, the expression "grows a full beard" is a primarily measure of age, whether the person actually grows a beard or not.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:34), based on Tosafot, Chulin 24b, states:

A minor who has not manifested signs of physical maturity should not recite the priestly blessing alone. However, he may recite the blessing together with his brethren, the priests, to learn and become educated.
If he has manifested signs of physical maturity, he may recite the priestly blessing even while alone. However, he should do so only as a temporary measure, and not as a fixed practice, until he grows a full beard.

Intoxication: - The Hebrew יין literally means wine. The Magen Avraham 128:55 notes that the Rambam speaks only about wine and does not mention other alcoholic beverages. Accordingly, he explains that a person who becomes drunk from other alcoholic beverages may recite the priestly blessing, unless he is so drunk that he has no control of himself.

It is significant that in Chapter 4, Halachah 17, when speaking about the prohibition against an intoxicated person praying, the Rambam states: "A person who is drunk should not pray.... When is a person considered drunk? When he cannot speak before a king." See also Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 1:1-2, where the Rambam describes the prohibition against serving in the Temple while intoxicated and mentions, albeit with differences between them, both a person who drank wine and one who became intoxicated from other alcoholic beverages.

The Magen Avraham's decision is not accepted by all authorities. (See Mishnah Berurah 128:141.)

What is implied? A [priest] who drank a revi'it of wine - This is the minimum measure of wine that is considered to be able to influence a person's behavior.

at one time should not recite the priestly blessings until the effects of the wine wear off. - Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 1:5 states that if a person drank only a revi'it of wine, it is assumed that the wine's effects have worn off if he sleeps a little or walks a mil.

[This restriction was imposed] because an association was established between [reciting the priestly] blessing and service [in the Temple] - as mentioned in the previous halachah.

Should [a priest] drink - only

a revi'it of wine on two different occasions - i.e., interrupting slightly between drinking the entire revi'it

or mix a small amount of water in it, he is permitted [to recite the priestly blessings] - and serve in the Temple (Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 1:1).

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. - In this instance, Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 1:5 states that sleeping or walking a mil is not sufficient to remove the effects of the wine, and one must wait until no signs of intoxication remain.

Because of the prohibition against reciting the priestly blessing while intoxicated, it is customary on Simchat Torah in Ashkenazic communities to recite the priestly blessing in the morning service and not during Musaf.

How much is a revi'it? - Interestingly, although the Rambam also mentions a revi'it in Chapter 2, Halachah 17, he chooses to define its volume here.

[The volume of an area] two fingerbreadths by two fingerbreadths and two and seven tenths of a fingerbreadth high. - In modern measure, a revi'it is 86.4 milliliters according to Shiurei Torah, and 149.3 milliliters according to the Chazon Ish.

Whenever the term "finger" is mentioned as a measure throughout the entire Torah, it refers to a thumbbreadth. - See Hilchot Sefer Torah 9:9. In modern measure, a thumbbreadth is 2 centimeters according to Shiurei Torah, and 2.4 centimeters according to the Chazon Ish.

The thumb is called bohen yad [in the Torah]. - See Leviticus 8:23, 14:14.

5

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.

ה

טומאת הידים כיצד כהן שלא נטל את ידיו לא ישא את כפיו אלא נוטל את ידיו עד הפרק כדרך שמקדשין לעבודה ואחר כך מברך שנאמר שאו ידיכם קדש וברכו את יי' והחלל אינו נושא את כפיו לפי שאינו בכיהונו:

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. - In his Kessef Mishneh, Rav Yosef Karo notes that in contrast to Chapter 4, Halachah 2, which mentions "the purification of the hands," here, the Rambam refers to "ritual impurity." He maintains that this choice of language was intended to imply that if a priest washed his hands in the morning, he need not wash them a second time unless they have become ritually impure. He also quotes a responsum of Rav Avraham, the Rambam's son, who explicitly states that a priest may rely on his morning washing.

Nevertheless, in his Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:6), Rav Yosef Karo quotes the opinion of Rashi and Tosafot (Sotah 39a), who require the priests to have their hands washed a second time as an additional measure of holiness.

Rather, he should wash his hands - The Zohar (Vol. III, 146b) states that the Levites should wash the priests' hands. Since the Levites are themselves holy (Numbers 8:18), it is proper that they be the ones who convey this added holiness upon the priests. The Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit.) also mentions this practice.

to the wrist - Note our commentary Chapter 4, Halachah 2.

as is done when sanctifying the hands for the service in the Temple - See Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash, Chapter 5.

as [Psalms 134:2] states: "Raise up your hands [in] holiness and bless God." - The Targum to this verse also stresses its connection to the recitation of the priestly blessing.

A challal - a person born from relations between a priest and a divorcee or any other woman who he may not marry (see Leviticus 21:7), and, according to Rabbinic Law, a person born from a marriage between a priest and a woman who has undergone chalitzah.

does not recite the priestly blessing, for he is not a priest. - See Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 19:14, where the Rambam says: "A challal is just like any other non-priest." The Pri Chadash writes that if a challal ascends to bless the people, he should be forced to descend.

6

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.

ו

כהן שלא היה לו דבר מכל אלו הדברים המונעין נשיאת כפים אף ע"פ שאינו חכם ואינו מדקדק במצות או שהיו הבריות מרננים אחריו או שלא היה משאו ומתנו בצדק הרי זה נושא את כפיו ואין מונעין אותו לפי שזו מצות עשה על כל כהן וכהן שראוי לנשיאת כפים ואין אומרים לאדם רשע הוסף רשע והמנע מן המצות:

A priest who does not have any of the factors which hinder the recitation of the priestly blessings mentioned above - in the previous five halachot.

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 - i.e., he is suspected of sinning.

or his business dealings are not ethical. - Based on Bechorot 45a, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:40,41) adds that a priest who violates the specific mitzvot associated with the priesthood (the forbidden sexual relations mentioned in Leviticus 21:7 and the prohibitions against contracting impurity stemming from a corpse) may not recite the priestly blessings.

He should not be prevented from [reciting the priestly blessings] - even though he has not repented for his transgressions

because [reciting these blessings] is a positive mitzvah incumbent on each priest who is fit to recite them. - From the Rambam's statements, it appears that the disqualifying factors mentioned above remove the mitzvah entirely from a priest.

We do not tell a wicked person: Increase your wickedness [by] failing to perform mitzvot. - In other places, as well, we see the Rambam urging people to encourage the nonobservant to perform mitzvot. Note the conclusion of Iggeret HaShmad:

It is not fitting to push away or despise those who violate the Sabbath. Rather one should draw them close and encourage them to perform mitzvot.... Even if a person willingly sins, when he comes to the synagogue to pray, he should be accepted and not treated with disrespect.
The Rabbis have based [this approach on the interpretation of] Solomon's words (Proverbs 6:30) "Do not scorn the thief when he steals" - i.e., do not scorn the sinners of Israel when they come discreetly to steal mitzvot.

7

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.

ז

ואל תתמה ותאמר ומה תועיל ברכת הדיוט זה שאין קבול הברכה תלוי בכהנים אלא בהקדוש ברוך הוא שנאמר ושמו את שמי על בני ישראל ואני אברכם הכהנים עושים מצותן שנצטוו בה והקב"ה ברחמיו מברך את ישראל כחפצו:

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 - The Jerusalem Talmud, Gittin 5:9 relates:

Do not say: "So and so is an adulterer... how can he bless me?"
God replies: "Is it he that is blessing you? I'm the one who is blessing you."

as [Numbers 6:27] states: "And they shall set My name upon the children of Israel, and I shall bless them." - In his commentary on the Torah, the Rashbam emphasizes that the text of priestly blessing itself express this point, stating, "May God bless you..., May God shine..., May God turn..."

The priests perform the mitzvah with which they were commanded - reciting the blessings

and God, in His mercies, will bless Israel as He desires.

8

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.

ח

עם שהם אחורי הכהנים אינם בכלל הברכה והעומדים מצדיהן הרי הם בכלל הברכה ואם היתה מחיצה בין הכהנים ובין המתברכים אפילו היא חומה של ברזל הואיל ופניהם מול פני הכהנים הרי הם בכלל הברכה:

The people standing behind the priests - Thus, if the heichal projects from the wall and people have places on either side, they must move from their places to be included in the priestly blessing.

are not included in the blessing. - By standing behind the priests, they show that the blessing is not important to them. Hence, they are not included (Rashi, Sotah 38b). Also, as mentioned in Chapter 14, Halachah 11, the priestly blessing must be recited while the priests are standing face to face with those being blessed (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:37).

Those standing at their sides - even those who are standing parallel to the place of the priests

are included in the blessing. [Even] if there is a partition - even an iron wall - Sotah (loc. cit.) states: "Even an iron divider cannot separate between Israel and their Father in heaven."

between the priests and the people who are being blessed, since they are facing the priests, - The Be'ur Halachah explains that the people who are standing to the sides of the priests, but before them, should face the heichal. In principle, those who are standing parallel to the priests should turn to the side and face the priests. However, since it is not proper that people standing next to each other in the synagogue should face different directions, they need not shift the positions of their feet. It is sufficient for them to tilt their heads slightly towards the priests.

they are included in the blessing. - As the Rambam mentions in the following halachah, even people who do not attend the synagogue can be included in the priestly blessing.

9

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.

ט

נשיאת כפים בעשרה וכהנים מן המנין בית הכנסת שכולן כהנים כולם נושאים את כפיהם ולמי הם מברכים לאחיהם שבצפון ולאחיהם שבדרום ומי עונה אחריהם אמן הנשים והטף ואם נשארו שם עשרה כהנים יותר על אלו שעלו לדוכן העשרה עונין אמן והשאר מברכין:


The priestly blessing is recited [only] when ten people [are present]. - The priestly blessing is included among "the holy matters" that require a minyan. See Chapter 8, Halachot 4-6.

The priests can be included in that number. - i.e., even if there will not be ten people to respond "Amen," the priestly blessing can be recited.

If [the congregation in a particular] synagogue are all priests, they should all - Even though there will no one to read the words of the blessings to them, as mentioned in Chapter 14, Halachah 3. The question of whether the chazan should also recite the priestly blessing is discussed in the following halachah.

recite the priestly blessing. - Unless there are a minyan of priests to respond "Amen," it is preferable that they all recite the blessings and none respond.

Who should they bless? Their brethren in the north and the south - i.e., those outside the synagogue. Even though they were unable to attend the synagogue, since they were prevented by forces beyond their control, they are included within the blessing.

The Rambam's statements are taken from Sotah 38b and the Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 5:4. However, the Rambam's choice of phraseology is more restrictive, mentioning only "the people in the north and the south," while these sources state, "their brethren in the fields."

According to his grandson, Rav Yitzchak HaNagid, this restriction was intentional. Since in the Rambam's time the Jews lived mostly to the east or west of Jerusalem, in most synagogues the heichal would be pointed in that direction, and thus, depending on the location of the synagogue, the people standing in one of these directions would be standing behind the priests. Therefore, they would not be included in the blessing.

Other authorities (e.g., the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 128:25) quote the text in the Babylonian Talmud without making any restrictions.

Who will respond "Amen" to their [blessings]? The women and the children. - The Mishnah Berurah 128:99 states that even if there are no women or children present to answer "Amen," the blessing may be recited.

If more than ten priests remain besides those who ascend to the duchan, these ten [priests] respond "Amen" - i.e., if there are twelve priests, two recite the blessings and ten respond "Amen," so that there will be a minyan responding "Amen."

and the remainder of the priests recite the blessings. - The Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:33 states that in such an instance, the chazan should not call out "Kohanim," since, according to many opinions, if the priests are not called to recite the blessings, they are not obligated to do so. Thus, the priests who did not recite the blessings will not be considered negligent in their fulfillment of the mitzvah.

10

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.

י

ציבור שלא היה בהן כהן אלא שליח ציבור לבדו לא ישא את כפיו ואם היתה הבטחתו שהוא נושא את כפיו וחוזר לתפלתו רשאי ואם אין להם כהן כלל כשיגיע שליח ציבור לשים שלום אומר אלהינו ואלהי אבותינו ברכנו בברכה המשולשת בתורה הכתובהע"ימשה עבדך האמורה מפי אהרן ובניו כהנים עם קדושך כאמור יברכך יי' וישמרך יאר יי' פניו אליך ויחנך ישא יי' פניו אליך וישם לך שלום ושמו את שמי על בני ישראל ואני אברכם ואין העם עונין אמן ומתחיל ואומר שים שלום:

When there is no priest in the community other than the leader of the congregation - The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 128:20, states that if other priests are present, a priest serving as the chazan should never recite the priestly blessing. The Pri Chadash takes issue with this decision, and allows him to recite the priestly blessings if he is confident that he will not err.

he should not recite the priestly blessings. - lest he become confused after completing the priestly blessing and be unable to complete the Shemoneh Esreh (Berachot 34b).

If he is sure that he can recite the priestly blessings and return to his prayers [without becoming confused] - Note Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:32 and the Mishnah Berurah 128:76, which state that at present, since the chazan prays from a siddur, he need not worry about being confused and may recite the priestly blessing.

he may [recite the priestly blessing]. - The Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit.) states that in such a case, the chazan should move from his place slightly during the blessing R'tzey (see the following halachah) and after concluding the blessing Modim, ascend to the duchan and recite the priestly blessing.

If there are no priests present at all - or according to Ashkenazic custom, in all services when the priestly blessing would be recited other than the Musaf service of the festivals.

when the leader of the congregation reaches [the blessing] Sim shalom - See the Commentary on Chapter 14, Halachah 4, for an explanation of the connection between the blessing Sim shalom and the priestly blessings.

he recites [the following prayer]: - to commemorate the recitation of these blessings.

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 - Our translation is based on the Mishnah Berurah 127:8, which explains that the intent is that the priests themselves are a "consecrated people."

as it is said: - Numbers 6:24-27

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 Hagahot Maimoniot explain that the recitation of this verse parallels the prayer recited by the priests after completing the blessings (Chapter 14, Halachah 12). It is Ashkenazic custom not to recite this final verse (Magen Avraham 127:2).

The people do not respond "Amen" to these blessings - for it is proper to recite "Amen" only after the blessings recited by the priests themselves. The Shulchan Aruch 127:2 suggests reciting ken yehi ratzon - "So may it be Your will." Nevertheless, there are some communities which recite "Amen," based on the Tanya Rabbati 334 and a letter from Rav Hai Gaon.

He [resumes his recitation of the Shemoneh Esreh], beginning the recitation of [the blessing] Sim shalom.

11

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].

יא

כהן שנשא את כפיו בבית הכנסת והלך לבית הכנסת אחר ומצא ציבור שמתפללין ולא הגיעו לברכת כהנים נושא ידיו להן ומברכן ואפילו כמה פעמים ביום כהן שלא עקר רגליו ממקומו לעלות לדוכן בשעה שאמר שליח ציבור רצה שוב אינו עולה באותה תפלה אבל אם עקר רגליו לעלות אף על פי שלא הגיע לדוכן אלא אחר עבודה הרי זה עולה ומברך:

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. - The Magen Avraham emphasizes that reciting the priestly blessings a second time is not considered to be a transgression of the prohibition of adding to the Torah's commandments. That prohibition is violated when one adds to the blessings themselves (see Chapter 14, Halachah 12), but not when one fulfills the mitzvah a number of times.

[He may - but he is not obligated to (Mishnah Berurah 128:106).

recite the priestly blessings] several times during the day. - Each time he blesses the people, he should recite the blessing beforehand (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:41, Mishnah Berurah loc. cit.).

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 - See Chapter 14, Halachah 3.

should not ascend [to the duchan] during that prayer service. - This applies even if he was prevented from leaving his place by forces beyond his control (Radbaz, Magen Avraham).

However, if he moved [from his place] even though he did not reach the duchan until after the [conclusion of the blessing R'tzey] - Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:13 and the Mishnah Berurah 128:27 state that even if he reaches the duchan after the chazan completes R'tzey, as long as he reaches there before the priests begin reciting the blessing, he may join them.

he may ascend [the duchan] and bless [the people].

12

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."

יב

כל כהן שאינו עולה לדוכן אע"פ שבטל מצות עשה אחת הרי זה כעובר על שלש עשה שנאמר כה תברכו את בני ישראל אמור להם ושמו את שמי וכל כהן שאינו מברך אינו מתברך וכל כהן המברך מתברך שנא' ואברכה מברכיך:

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...” - The Rambam's statements are based on Sotah 38b. There, the Talmud states that one “violates three positive commandments.” The Rambam amends that statement, explaining that although there is only one commandment for the priests to bless the people, the Torah mentioned the commandment in three different ways to emphasize the importance of its fulfillment. Thus, the failure to bless the people is considered as nullifying the observance of three commands.

In Sefer HaMitzvot (Shoresh 9), the Rambam cites this teaching as a classic example of a fundamental principle regarding the reckoning of the 613 mitzvot. Though the Talmud often states that many mitzvot are involved in the performance or transgression of a particular commandment, this does not mean that the mitzvah should be counted as more than one mitzvah when calculating the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. Rather, the Talmud means to say that the performance of this mitzvah is considered as important as if many mitzvot were involved.

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 12:13 states: “And I will bless those who bless you.” - Chulin 49a quotes a difference of opinion between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yishmael. Rabbi Akiva's statements are quoted by the Rambam, while Rabbi Yishmael explains that the blessing for the priests is derived from Numbers 6:27: “And you will set My name upon the children of Israel and I will bless them.” “The priests bless the Jews and God blesses the priests,... together with the Jews” (Rashi).

By quoting the verse from Genesis, “and I will bless those who bless you,” Rabbi Akiva emphasizes that the blessings bestowed upon the priests - as well as the blessing conveyed by the priests - stem from God's infinite goodness (Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 10).

Blessed be the Merciful One who grants assistance.