Thursday, 21 April 2011

Birkat Ha'Kohanim at the Kotel~17 Nissan 5771

This morning, during the Shacharit prayer at the Kotel (Western Wall), Kohanim from all over the world join together for Birkat Ha'Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) or Nesi'at Kapayim, (the lifting of the hands), because of the Priests' uplifted hands, through which the divine blessings flow. 

Each year on major holidays, there seems to be more and more people gathering to witness and participate in the special blessing. It is always an amazing experience.

On normal days In Jerusalem, the Birkat Ha'Kohanim rite is performed in synagogues every morning. On days when the Musaf service is recited, the Birkat Kohanim is performed both during Shacharit and Musaf.

 When the Kohanim recite the blessing, their hands are outstretched and their fingers are held so that there are three air spaces between the fingers of their two hands. I always wondered why. I found this response:

R' Pinchas Zelig Hakohen Schwartz z"l (a pre-WWII Hungarian rabbi) explained: The Midrash says that Bnei Yisrael complained to Hashem, "We do not want the blessing of the Kohanim--We want Your blessing."

Hashem responded: "When they bless you, I am looking over their shoulders." In the words of Shir Hashirim (2:9), "He is standing behind our wall, observing through the windows, peering through the lattices." (Ateret Paz).

Birkat Ha'Kohanim at the Kotel~17 Nissan 5771

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