Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Gone Missing: The Daily Bircas Kohanim in Chutz La’Aretz

Rabbi Shimshon Nadel

Living in Eretz Yisrael, I am privileged to bless the Jewish People every single day — and on some days, more than once. But outside of the Land of Israel, aside from some Sephardic communities, Bircas Kohanim is performed only during the Yamim Tovim at Musaf. The obvious question is: Why isn’t Bircas Kohanim performed in the Diaspora daily? The following are some of the responses that have been offered over the centuries to that question.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

huge crowdRav Ephraim Zalman Margolios explains that the issue is the status of Kohanim today. Kohanim today are not meyuchasim — i.e., they do not possess a clearly traceable lineage back to the Kohanim who served in the Beis HaMikdash. Since their kehunah is based only on chazakah, he explains that the daily practice of Bircas Kohanim was stopped out of concern for brachah l’vatalah and the prohibition for a non-Kohein to perform Bircas Kohanim.[i] Nevertheless, he writes, we allow Kohanim to duchen on Yom Tov so that the “Torah of the Kohanim not be forgotten.”[ii] This will ensure that they don’t violate any of the currently applicable mitzvos of the kehunah, such as avoiding tumas meis. Rav Margolios adds that the present minhag, which was observed by the great Rishonim, is of ancient and impeccable pedigree and thus should be respected.[iii]

 

Tefillah

According to the Chasam Sofer, Bircas Kohanim is not performed daily due to the quality of our tefillah. He writes: “The whole week we are occupied with thoughts of livelihood and sustenance, and most of our tefillos are without kavanah and full of distraction. Tefillah without kavanah is like an unwanted korban.”[iv]

Tefillah today is in place of the avodah. Just as Bircas Kohanim required a proper avodah in the Beis HaMikdash, today it requires a proper tefillah. The Chasam Sofer therefore continues, “We bless on Yom Tov, when all are free to concentrate on their tefillah.”[v]

Similarly, Rav Moshe Shternbuch explains that as part of tefillah b’tzibur, Bircas Kohanim requires a minyan to pay close attention and answer Amen.[vi] Today, many people are distracted and do not pay close attention to the Chazaras HaShatz. For this reason, Bircas Kohanim is performed only during the Yamim Tovim, when “there are large numbers of people who are not distracted and we are sure that ten will listen.”[vii]

 

Simchah

The Rema offers the most famous justification for the current practice. He writes: “The custom in all of our lands is not to lift the hands [i.e., perform the ritual of Bircas Kohanim] except on Yom Tov, since we are immersed in the simchah of Yom Tov, and ‘one of glad heart should bless’ — as opposed to most days, even Shabbos during the year, when we are occupied with thoughts of livelihood.”[viii]

While many have accepted the Rema’s explanation,[ix] the following questions still require clarification: Do we find any other area of halachah in which a mitzvah is not performed due to preoccupation with parnassah? Were the previous generations, in which Bircas Kohanim was performed daily, less preoccupied with their livelihood? Are the Sephardim, or bnei Eretz Yisrael, who maintain the daily practice of Bircas Kohanim, less burdened by material concerns?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"