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
 
What’s in a Name?
Shoshana Friedman “What does Writer X have to say this week?”
Atonement — Fake and Real
Yonoson Rosenblum White confessionals and faux rituals
Four Walls Coming Full Circle
Eytan Kobre All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing...
And Yet We Smile
Yisroel Besser We are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs
Out of This World
Rabbi Henoch Plotnick Dirshu Hashem b’himatzo — we are in Hashem’s company now...
Steven and Jonathan Litton
Rachel Bachrach The co-owners of Litton Sukkah, based in Lawrence, NY
Tali Messing
Moe Mernick Tali Messing, engineering manager at Facebook Tel Aviv
Sick Note
Jacob L. Freedman “Of course, Dr. Freedman. Machul, machul, machul”
Avoiding Health Columns Can Be Good for You
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Only one reliable guide for good health: our Torah
Endnote: Side Notes
Riki Goldstein Most Jewish music industry entertainers have side profes...
Me, Myself, and Why
Faigy Peritzman Where there’s no heart and no love, there’s no point
Can’t Do It Without You
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When you step up to the plate, you build your home team
Eternal Joy
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz The joy of Succos is the fruit of spiritual victory
The Appraiser: Part III
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Make sure your child knows his strengths
Hidden Special Needs
Rena Shechter You won’t see his special needs, but don’t deny them
Dear Wealthy Friend
Anonymous There’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you