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By Rabbi Dr. Azriel Rosenfeld | Series: | Level:

When the leader reaches the third-from-last blessing of SHEMONEH ESREH, all the (other) KOHANIM who are present go up to the platform (DUCHAN) and stand facing the Ark; see 128:8-10. When he finishes the next-to-last- blessing, he calls on them (if there are two or more), they turn to the right (see 128:17) to face the congregation (128:10), and they recite the blessing “…Who sanctified us…” (128:11). They raise their hands to shoulder height and spread their fingers apart; see 128:12,14. They repeat the priestly blessing (Num.6:24-26) in Hebrew (128:14), word by word after the leader (see 128:18), loudly (see 128:14) and using a single tune (see 128:21,45); they must not add anything to the blessing (128:27), and they must recite it standing (128:14). The congregation answer “Amen” after each verse (128:13), but the leader does not (128:19). When the leader begins the last blessing, the KOHANIM turn around, and when he finishes it, they come down; see 128:15-16. On what to do if the leader is a KOHEN see 128:20,22; on what to do if only KOHANIM are present see 128:25. A KOHEN must be treated with respect; see 128:45.

A non-KOHEN must not recite the priestly blessing (128:1), but a KOHEN must do so (128:2) the first time he is called (see 128:3); he may do it more than once if he wishes (128:28). If he does not wish to do it, he should go out of the synagogue before he is called; see 128:4. Before a KOHEN goes up to the platform, a Levite pours water over his hands up to the wrists; if he has already washed his hands, he need not recite the blessing on washing (128:6-7). He must not go up to the platform wearing leather shoes (128:5). He may recite the priestly blessing even if he has not yet recited the morning prayers (128:29). The congregation should concentrate on receiving the blessing (see 128:26) and should look downward while it is being recited (128:23). Neither they nor the KOHANIM should look at the KOHANIM’s hands during the blessing (128:23). The blessing is not effective for those in the congregation who are behind the KOHANIM, but is effective for people who were unable to be present; see 128:24.

The priestly blessing should not be recited by a KOHEN whose appearance is unusual if the congregation can see this and are not accustomed to it (see 128:30-32); or by a KOHEN who cannot pronounce it correctly (128:33); or by a minor KOHEN unless adult KOHANIM are also reciting it (see 128:34); or by a KOHEN who has committed manslaughter and has not repented (see 128:35-36); or by a KOHEN who is an unrepentant apostate (128:37) or is intoxicated (see 128:38) or is in mourning (see 128:43). A KOHEN may recite it if he has committed other sins (128:39) or if he is unmarried (see 128:44), but not if he has married a woman whom KOHANIM are forbidden to marry (unless he divorces her and swears never to marry such a woman again; see 128:40), or if he is the offspring of such a marriage (128:42), or if he becomes impure by contact with a dead person who is not a close relative (unless he undertakes never to do this again; 128:41), or if he has a daughter who is an apostate or is promiscuous (128:41).

Originally, the priestly blessing was recited every day at the morning service, and also at MUSAF and NEILAH services, but not at afternoon services (see 129:1-2); but nowadays it is customary in most countries to recite it only on holidays, and only in the MUSAF service (see 128:44). After the repetition of SHEMONEH ESREH, the congregation sit down, bow their heads, cover their faces, and recite a supplication (TACHANUN; see 131:1-2). TACHANUN is not recited at night (see 131:3), or in the house of a mourner (131:4), or at religious celebrations or on festive days (see 131:4-7). A prominent man should not recite it in public, and no one should fall on his face to pray; see 131:8. On Mondays and Thursdays additional supplications are recited while standing (134:1). The leader then recites half-KADDISH, and Psalms 145 (ASHREI) and 20 (LA-MENATZEACH) are recited (but the latter is omitted on certain festive days; see 131:1). This is followed by U-VA LE-TZION, which is recited by individuals even though it contains the verses of KEDUSHAH; see 132:1. After this, ALENU is recited while standing, followed by the mourner’s KADDISH and by the Psalm of the day; some also repeat the passages about the incense (see 132:2). Some repeat BARECHU after the final KADDISH, but this is not done on Sabbaths or holidays (133:1;286:5).

Shulchan Aruch, Copyright (c) 2000 Project Genesis, Inc.