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This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.
This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.
- 1 The Mitzvah of Birkat Cohanim Nowadays
- 2 Upon whom is the mitzvah of Birkat Cohanim?
- 3 When is Birkat Cohanim said?
- 4 Procedure of Birkat Cohanim for the Cohanim
- 5 Cohanim Raising Their Hands
- 6 Intention
- 7 The Recitation of the Bracha
- 8 Returning Back to Their Seats
- 9 Procedure of Birkat Cohanim for the Shaliach Tzibbur
- 10 Proper behavior of the congregation during Birkat Cohanim
- 11 Things that may prevent a Cohen from doing Birkat Cohanim
- 12 Minhag of thanking Cohanim
- 13 Interruptions in middle of Birkat Cohanim
- 14 Imitating Birkat Cohanim
- 15 Birkat Kohanim Posters and Postcards
- 16 Sources
The Mitzvah of Birkat Cohanim Nowadays
- The Mitzvah of Birkat Cohanim is biblical (Deoritta) even nowadays, in all places at all times.  It is based on the pasuk "דַּבֵּר אֶל-אַהֲרֹן וְאֶל-בָּנָיו לֵאמֹר, כֹּה תְבָרְכוּ אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: אָמוֹר, לָהֶם" meaning "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: This is how you must bless the Israelites". 
- The Mitzvah isn’t strictly obligatory, but rather a Mitzvah which is an opportunity to fulfill a positive command, similar to Tzitzit. 
- The Ashkenazic minhag outside Israel is not to do Birkat Cohanim except at Mussaf of Yom Tov because Birkat Cohanim should be done when people are relaxed and not bothered by work.  Throughout Jewish history, some have made a great effort to change this minhag (in order to fulfill this biblical Mitzvah) and were unsuccessful. 
- Some have the practice not do Birkat Cohanim when Yom Tov falls out on Shabbat, however, the poskim strongly disapprove of this and urge to discontinue this practice without causing conflict. 
Upon whom is the mitzvah of Birkat Cohanim?
- Most rabbinic authorities assume that the mitzvah is upon the Cohanim while a minority opinion assumes that there’s a mitzvah both upon the Cohanim and the Yisraelim who are being blessed. 
- If a Cohen is in shul and isn’t called up to do the Birkat Cohanim, strictly he isn’t obligated to do Birkat Cohanim (certainly, it’s appropriate and correct to do so) however, once a Cohen is asked to do Birkat Cohanim he violates the biblical command by refusing. 
- When a Cohen goes up to bless the congregation, it is as if the Cohen is also being blessed. 
When is Birkat Cohanim said?
- Birkat Cohanim is done in Shacharit, Musaf, and Ne'ilah. It is not done during Mincha because perhaps the Cohen drank wine, and a Cohen who is intoxicated may not do Birkat Cohanim. 
- Therefore, during a fast day which doesn't have Ne'ilah (like Tish'a B'av (the ninth of av) or Shiv'a Asar B'tamuz (The 17th of Tamuz) we do Birkat Cohanim during mincha, since we are not worried about the Cohanim being intoxicated if they are fasting. 
- There is no Birkat Cohanim at night. 
- Birkat Cohanim is only said if there is a minyan and the minyan includes the Cohanim. 
Procedure of Birkat Cohanim for the Cohanim
- Even though they already did Netilat Yadayim that morning, during the Chazara, the Cohanim must wash their hands all the way to their wrists, except in extenuating circumstances (i.e. if they would have to pass in front of someone praying Amidah , when they may rely on the original Netilah if they had washed their hands up to their wrists and kept them clean since. On Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, however, one cannot rely on the minimal morning washing of the fingers alone and must wash his hands to the wrists.
- Even if there is no platform, the Cohanim should still go up to bless the congregation. Therefore, if the one leading the prayers is the only cohen present, he should bless "Birkat Cohanim" from where he is standing, and he doesn't need to move to the platform. 
- The Cohanim who are going to say Birkat Cohanim must remove their shoes, whether or not they are leather. However, those communities in Chutz LeAretz who have a minhag not to remove their shoes if they say Birkat Cohanim from the floor without going up on the duchan have what to rely on.
- The shoes should be left in a hidden place or even under a chair less than ten Tefachim (~2.5ft) off the ground in order to preserve the sanctity of the Beit HaKnesset.
- When the Cohanim put back on their shoes, they shouldn't touch their shoes. If they touch their shoes, they have to wash Netilat Yadayim.
- By the time the Sheliach Tzibur arrives at the blessing of "Retzeh", the Cohanim must make a motion ("Akirat Raglayim") towards doing the Duchan. If the Sheliach Tzibur finished the blessing of "Retzeh", and said the word "Modim" before a cohen made this motion, that cohen may not go up to do Birkat cohanim.  Bediavad, in extenuating circumstances, if he moved towards the sink and not towards the Duchan at that time, it’s also ok; however, if he did not move at all after the Chazzan started Modim, he may not participate and must leave the room.
- A Cohen who refuses to go up to the Duchan without a valid reason is in violation of one positive commandment from the Torah, though it’s equivalent to three.
- While on the Duchan, the Kohanim should say the “Yehi Ratzon” prayer printed in the Siddur and complete it with one of the Chazzan’s Berachot, so the Tzibbur essentially answers Amen to them, as well.
- The Cohanim should stand there, facing the heichal, with their backs to the congregation. They hold their fingers closed, against their palms, until the sheliach tzibur completes the blessing of "hatov shimcha". When the shaliach tzibbur calls to them "Cohanim!", they turn their faces to the people, spread out their fingers, and lift up their hands to shoulder height. The Minhag is that they raise their hands already before they start the Beracha. A cohen doesn't fulfill the mitzvah if he isn't facing the people.
- All turns in Halacha are made to the right, and Birkat Kohanim is no exception. The Kohanim must turn clockwise while saying the Beracha so that they should finish saying "BeAhavah" while facing the Tzibbur. They again turn clockwise after the Chazzan starts Sim Shalom.
- If only one Cohen is blessing the people, he should turn around after the shaliach tzibbur finishes the bracha of "hatov shimcha" and begin reciting the blessing alone. Afterwards, the sheliach tzibur says the words of Birkat cohanim one word at a time and Cohen repeats each word after the shaliach tzibbur, as explained below.
- If there are two or more Cohanim present, they do not begin reciting the blessing until the sheliach tzibur calls them, saying the word “Cohanim”. 
- One of the measures ordained by Ezra is that the Cohanim should not ascend to the duchan wearing sandals. Rather, they should stand barefoot
- If the only cohen in the tzibur is the Sheliach tzibur, and he is using a siddur and will therefore not be confused and will be able to continue in his tefila after Birkat cohanim, he should move his feet during the bracha of "Retzeh", and then go do Birkat cohanim, so that the tzibur will not miss out on this special blessing. But if there is another cohen who can do Birkat cohanim, the sheliach tzibur should not go. 
- If the sheliach tzibur forgot to do Birkat coahanim, and he started the blessing of "Sim Shalom", as long as he did not finish the blessing of "Sim Shalom", if he remembers he can go back. But if he finished the words "Hamevarech et amo yisrael basahalom"(the end of "Sim Shalom"), he can no longer go back. And even though there are those who say that you can do Birkat cohanim after the prayers are finished, it is better not to do it. (Safek brachot lehakel- when we have a doubt about blessing we should be lenient, and not say the blessing)
Cohanim Raising Their Hands
- Birkat Kohanim must be said loudly in Hebrew - so at least nine people (Lechatechilah, the entire Tzibbur) can hear, while standing up with raised hands, all of which are necessary even Bediavad. Any Cohen who cannot fulfill these requirements may not go up to the Duchan. Accordingly, the Cohanim must raise their at shoulder height.
- According to the Shulchan Aruch, the outstretched arms must be held in a straight line (i.e. no bent elbows, fingers, etc.), the right hand should be a little bit higher than the left with spaces in between the middle and ring fingers so that the middle and index fingers are held together and the ring and pinky fingers are held together. The thumbs should be spread out, as well, and not touching. The fingers should all be held straight, parallel to the ground. If a Kohen can’t hold his fingers in this position, he should just spread them all out.
- Even though there are various Minhagim regarding how to spread one’s fingers, everyone agrees the hands must be at shoulder height while saying the words! Therefore, one may not "shuckle" back and forth with his hands going up and down. Also, if a Cohen gets too tired, he may briefly rest his hands in between words, as long as he raises them up again before saying the next word.
- The Cohanim should have in mind to fulfill the Mitzvat Aseh Min HaTorah (Positive Torah commandment) of blessing Am Yisrael.
The Recitation of the Bracha
- The Cohanim must be vigilant to stay in sync, to say each word together in unison, starting each word after the Chazzan finishes saying it and not elongating the words more than the other Kohanim.
- While saying the words ending in a Chaf Sofit (Yevarechecha, VeYishmerecha, Eilecha, Viyichuneka, Eilecha, and Lecha) and “Shalom,” the Cohanim turn to their left and right to spread out the Beracha to the people on their sides.
- The cohanim should be careful not to continue the next blessing until the congregants have finished saying "Amen".
Returning Back to Their Seats
- At the end of Birkat Cohanim, the Cohanim should not turn back around (so that their backs are facing the congregation), nor should they put their hands down and close their fingers, until the sheliach tzibur begins the beracha of "Sim Shalom". 
- The cohanim should not return to their places until the shaliach tzibbur finishes "sim shalom" and some say until the congregation finishes answering Amen.
- The Cohanim are not allowed to add any other blessings to the Birkat Cohanim. Doing so constitues "Bal Tosif".
- If there is unresolvable hatred between a Kohen and the congregation, the Kohen must leave the room before Retzeh, because Birkat Kohanim must be done “BeAhavah,” as indicated in the Beracha itself.
Procedure of Birkat Cohanim for the Shaliach Tzibbur
- The Sheliach Tzibur should say the words of Birkat cohanim one word at a time and the cohen should repeat each word after the shaliach tzibbur. 
- The Sheliach Tzibbur should say each word to the Cohanim out loud and not quietly.  If one of the Cohanim didn’t hear a word (even the name of Hashem), the Sheliach Tzibbur should repeat it out loud. 
- The sheliach tzibur should not answer "Amen" to the blessings of the Cohanim, like the rest of the congregation, for perhaps he will get confused about which beracha he is up to. However, if the Shaliach Tzibbur is praying from a Siddur and is confident that he won't get confused which bracha he is up to, he may answer Amen after the bracha's of the Cohanim. However, some Sephardim hold that the Sheliach Tzibbur shouldn't answer amen even if he's using a Siddur.
- In regards to the Brachat HaMitzvah the Cohanim make prior to Birkat Cohanim, some say that certainly the Shaliach Tzibbur should not answer amen.
- If the Sheliach Tzibbur reaches Retzeh and the last Cohen has not yet started walking towards the Duchan (from the sink), he should wait until he does before saying HaMachazir Shechinato LeTzion.
Proper behavior of the congregation during Birkat Cohanim
- Because of the opinion that there is also a mitzvah for the Yisraelim to receive the Bracha if one is in Shul when the Cohanim were called one may not leave until after Birkat Cohanim.  Even if one already heard Birkat Cohanim that day, it's improper to leave the Shul when the Cohanim get up for Birkat Cohanim. 
- The Tzibbur should stand during Birkat Cohanim and listen to every word with intent.  However, a sick or old person may sit during Birkat Cohanim. 
- If one is slightly behind the Cohanim one is not included in the Bracha, however, if one is standing directly on the side, one is included in the Bracha, yet, one should face the Cohanim. Even if there is a partition - even an iron wall - between the Cohanim and the people who are being blessed, since they are facing the Cohanim, they are included in the blessing.
- If one is in front of the Cohanim one should face east (the front of the Shul). 
- One shouldn’t look at the hands of the Cohanim during Birkat Cohanim but rather one should face downward  or cover one’s face with a Tallit.  However, nowadays that the Cohanim wear the Tallit over their hands one may look at the Cohanim. 
- The congregation shouldn't say any pesukim during the Birkat Cohanim. 
- If one is in the middle of his silent shemoneh esrei when the congregation says birkat kohanim, he should stand silently without answering amen. 
Answering Amen and Baruch Hu Baruch Shemo
- The congregants should answer "Amen" after each of the three berachot said in Birkat Cohanim.
- The congregants should be careful not to answer "Amen" until the cohanim have finished saying the last word of the pasuk. 
- There are various opinions regarding whether one should answer Baruch Hu Baruch Shemo after Hashem’s name in Birkat Cohanim. 
- Someone who’s in middle of Shmoneh Esrei should stop to listen even if one is in front of the Cohanim, however, according to Sephardim one may continue Shmoneh Esrei but if one wants one may stop to listen in between Brachot.  If one stopped to listen to Birkat Cohanim one should not answer Amen. 
Things that may prevent a Cohen from doing Birkat Cohanim
- If a person can not pronounce his letters correctly, for example if he says his "Ayin's" like "Alephs" and his "chet's" like "caf's", he is still allowed to do Birkat cohanim, because nowadays that is how everyone pronounces them. However if he happens to be in a place where they are very meticulous about correct pronounciation, he should not do Birkat cohanim. There are those who say that if a person is in a place that they are meticulous, but all the people know that this person can not pronounce their letters the "corect" way, or if they pronounce it a different way (for example: if an ashkenazi, who has different letter pronunciations, is in a sephardic shul they all know that he can't pronounce the letters correctly), he may do Birkat cohanim. This is the accepted minhag. 
- Similarly, a stutterer or one who speaks unclearly, whose words cannot be understood by everyone, should not recite Birkat Cohanim
- A Cohen who has a defect, blemish, or deformity, on his face or his hands should not do Birkat cohanim, because the people will look at him and be distracted. However if he is "Dash B'Iro", meaning that he is had a blemish for at least 30 days and the whole tzibur knows that he has this blemish, there is no worry that people will look at him, and he may do Birkat cohanim. Nowadays, since the Cohanim cover themselves with a Tallit during the blessing, there is no worry that people will look at him, and any Cohen who has a blemish on his hands or face may do Birkat cohanim. 
- A Cohen who drank a revi'it of wine at any time should not do Birkat Cohanim until the effects of the wine have worn off. 
- A Cohen who recited the Birkat Cohanim and went to another synagogue and found the congregation in the midst of prayer, before Birkat Cohanim, should partake in that minyan's Birkat Cohanim. A Cohen may recite the Birkat Cohanim several times during the day.
- If a cohen who already performed Birkat cohanim finds himself in another shul which is going to do Birkat cohanim, he doesn't violate the biblical commands if he doesn't do Birkat cohanim another time. However, if he does do Birkat cohanim a second time, he should make a new bracha prior to the Birkat cohanim. 
- A Cohen is forbidden marry a divorcee or a convert. If he does, his child has the title of a "Challal", and this child may not do Birkat Cohanim. Him and all his descendents are "Challalim" and may not do Birkat Cohanim (because they are not considered Cohanim).
- A sick person who is attatched to a catheter, which holds his urine under his clothing, may do Birkat Cohanim as long as his outer clothes are clean, and there is no bad smell coming out of him. 
- A Cohen who killed someone intentionally or unintentionally may not perform Birkat Cohanim. According to Ashkenazim, if the Cohen killed someone unintentionally and did Teshuva, he may perform Birkat Cohanim.
- If the tzibur hates a cohen or the cohen hates the tzibur, it is prohibited for that cohen to do birkat cohanim. 
Cohanim washing their hands before Birkat Cohanim
- A Cohen with impure hands (i.e. he did not wash his hands) should not do Birkat Cohanim.A Cohen who was unable to wash his hands or is sickly and can't go to wash his hands, in extenuating circumstances may rely on the washing he did in the morning. 
- The kohanim need to wash their entire hands (from the fingertips to the wrist) for Birkat kohanim, even on Tisha Be’av on which one can’t wash past the knuckles for other reasons. Only Levim who regularly wash their own hands before washing the kohanim’s, can wash on Tisha Be’av before washing the kohanims' hands. 
- No bracha is made when the Cohanim wash their hands for Birkat Cohanim. However, in order to avoid a situation in which there is a dispute whether one should make a bracha, the Cohanim should be careful not to touch a dirty area from the time they wash Netilat Yadayim upon waking up until Birkat Cohanim.
- The Levi is supposed to pour the water upon the hands of the cohanim in order to wash them. If there's no Levi, a firstborn should do it. If there's no firstborn, the cohen should wash his own hands.
- If there is exactly a minyan of people and if the cohen leaves the room to wash his hands there will not be a minyan, some say that the cohen should wash his hands before the chazarat hashatz. Others say that if he washed his hands up to his wrist in the morning and kept his hands clean, he shouldn't leave the room. Lastly, some say that the cohen may leave the room during the chazara in order to wash his hands. 
Minhag of thanking Cohanim
- There is a minhag that after Birkat Cohanim, the congregants should go to the Cohanim and say "Chazak U'baruch" or "Yashar Koach". Even though they (the Cohanim) were obligated to do what they did, they still could have made themselves exempt by leaving. Therefore, it is fitting to praise them.
- At the conclusion of Birkat Cohanim, some have the practice to thank the cohanim for the Brachot and the cohanim respond Tzivku LeMitzvot. However, some authorities advise avoiding having the Cohanim respond these words.  However, saying Yasher Koach or thank you isn’t an issue. 
Interruptions in middle of Birkat Cohanim
- During Birkat Cohanim one shouldn’t make any interruptions even to answer Kaddish or Kedusha. 
- The Tzibbur shouldn’t say anything during the Birkat Cohanim except for Amen. Sephardim also have the minhag to answer Baruch Hu UBaruch Shemo after hearing Hashem's name in Birkat Cohanim.
- The Shaliach Tzibbur shouldn’t answer Amen unless he’s Davening from a Siddur and feels that he won’t loose his place,  but to the Bracha of the cohanim before Birkat Cohanim one certainly shouldn’t answer Amen. 
Imitating Birkat Cohanim
- Some say that a Yisrael may not raise his fingers in the same fashion as the cohanim do for Birkat Cohanim. 
- If a Yisrael makes the blessing of the cohanim, with the intention of doing the mitzvah, he is transgressing a positive commandment, because only the cohanim were commanded.
- However, parents blessing their children and Rabbis blessing their students, may put both of their hands on their heads while reciting the blessing, since the only prohibition is to make the blessing with the intention of fulfilling the mitzvah of the commandment, and to do it like the cohen.
- There is no worry about saying a "Bracha levatala", a blessing in vain, since they are verses in the Torah, which are permitted to say.
Birkat Kohanim Posters and Postcards
For a helpful poster with a summary of the basic Halachot to hang in your school or synagogue, or for informative Halachacards to distribute to your community members, visit BirkasKohanim.com.
- Sefer HaChinuch (378), Shaar HaTziyun 128:131*, Yalkut Yosef (Tefillah vol 2, pg 217), Shu"t Mishkenot Yaakov 66.
- Bamidbar 6:23
- Dvar Avraham 1:31
- Rama 128:44 writes that the Ashkenazic minhag outside Israel is not to do Birkat Cohanim except at Mussaf of Yom Tov because Birkat Cohanim should be done when people are relaxed and not bothered by work. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 100:1 agrees. For other reasons to explain the Ashkenazi minhag see Bet Yosef 128 quoting the Sefer Chasidim, Sh”t Zera Emet 3:13, and Sh”t Bet Efraim 6
- Aruch HaShulchan 128:64
- Mishna Brurah 128:165, Sh”t Igrot Moshe 3:18, 5:15. See also Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 100:1 who quotes the minhag not to say Birkat Cohanim when Yom Tov falls out on Shabbat, but says the minhag to say it on Yom Tov even when it falls out on Shabbat is the more proper minhag.
- Beiur Halacha 128 intro, Sefer Charedim 12:18, Igrot Moshe 4:21
- Beiur Halacha 128:4
- Mishna Brurah 128:2, Yalkut Yosef, Tefillah Volume 1, page 294
- Rambam (Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim 14:1)
- Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim 14:2
- Yalkut Yosef, Tefillah Volume 1, page 339. Hacham Ovadia (Yechave Daat 6:40) rules that Birkat Kohanim should not be recited after Set Ha’kochavim (nightfall), which occurs approximately 20 minutes after sunset. However, during the period of Ben Ha’shemashot, which extends for approximately 13-15 minutes after sundown, the blessing may be recited. Halacha Brurah, vol. 6, p. 609 concurs.
- Shulchan Aruch 128:1, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 100:2, Mishna Brurah 128:2
- Yalkut Yosef Tefillah Volume 2, Siman 128, Seif 25, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano volume 1 page 117
- Shulchan Aruch 128:6, Mishna Brurah 128:19
- Chazon Ovadia: Yamim Noraim page 312
- Yalkut Yosef, Tefillah Volume 1, page 294
- Gemara Sotah 40a writes that Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai instituted that the Cohanim should not go up wearing sandals or any type of shoe for two reasons: 1) out of respect to the congregation not to go before them with dirty shoes and 2) so that a Cohen doesn't have to tie his shoes during Birkat Cohanim and then appear as if he's a Pasul Cohen. This halacha is codified in Rambam 14:6 and Shulchan Aruch 128:5. Chida in Machzik Bracha 128:7 writes that this halacha applies even to non-leather shoes. Kaf HaChaim 128:28, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano volume 1 page 117, and Halacha Brurah 128:16 agree.
- Yafeh Lelev 128:29 is lenient for Cohanim to wear shoes if they don't go up on the duchan. (See Yechave Daat 2:13 for many others who agree). Although Kaf HaChaim 128:107 disagrees, Halacha Brurah 128:17 says that there's what to rely upon. Yechave Daat 2:13 writes that one who finds it hard to take off their shoes may do birkat cohanim from the floor (not the bima) so as not to lose this mitzvah entirely, however, those who want to fulfill mitzvot in the best way should remove their shoes.
- Kaf HaChaim 128:30 in the name of the Kenesset HaGedolah (middle of the footnote), Ohr Letzion volume 2, 45:40, See Halacha Brurah 128:19 that explains that they should really be left outside the synagogue sanctuary.
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 100:16
- Yalkut Yosef, Tefillah Volume 1, page 299, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano volume 1 page 117, Rambam Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim 15:11 based on the gemara in Sota 38b.
- Ben Ish Chai, Year 1, Parashat Tetzaveh, Halacha 9; See further Mishna Brurah 128:28 and Sha'ar HaTziyun Ot 30
- Shulchan Aruch 128:2
- Shulchan Aruch 128:13 and Mishna Brurah there
- Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 14, Halacha 3, Shulchan Aruch 128:10
- Halacha Brurah 128:14
- Mishna Brurah 128:50
- Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 14, Halacha 13; Yalkut Yosef Tefillah Volume 2, 128:49
- Shulchan Aruch 128:17
- Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 14, Halacha 8, Shulchan Aruch 128:10
- Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 14, Halacha 8, Shulchan Aruch 128:10
- Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 14, Halacha 6
- Yalkut Yosef, Tefillah Volume 1, page 311
- Yalkut Yosef, Tefillah Volume 1, page 315
- Ohr Letzion vol. 2 Siman 4
- Rambam Hilchot Tefillah 14:11, See Shu"t Noda BeYehudah vol. 1 Siman 5, Torah Temimah Parashat Naso ot 134, Mishna Brurah 128:52, Piskei Teshuvot vol. 2, Siman 128, Footnote 174, Shu"t Yabia Omer vol. 8, O"C 13:2 brought down in Yalkut Yosef Tefillah vol. 2 128:50, and at length in Halacha Brurah 128:57, especially in footnote 127.
- 128:12. See Yalkut Yosef Tefillah vol. 2 128:50, Piskei Teshuvot vol. 2, footnote 175, as well as his explanation on the top and the pictures in the back of the Sefer, Halachaq Brurah 128:45-48 and the Berur Halacha 41-42 for various explanations and illustrations of the different Minhagim regarding how to hold one's hands and fingers, including a Yishuv for the Lashon or the Shulchan Aruch and the Minhag HaArizal. For further understanding of the two Minhagei HaMekubalim, see Zohar Parashat Naso 121a, Siddur Ya'avetz Dinei Nesiat Kappayim Ot 24, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 100:9, Ma'aseh Rav Ot 167, Ben Ish Chai Shana Aleph Parashat Tetzaveh and Halichot Olam Parashat Tetzaveh. (editor's note regarding the BI"H: he says he can't find the source in the Kitvei HaAri, but the other Acharonim mentioned before and after did), Kaf HaChaim 128:77 and 80, Shu"T Ohr LeTzion vol. 2, Hilchot Nesiat Kappayim 8:3, and, of course, the Halacha Brurah mentioned above.
- Yalku Yosef Tefillah vol. 2, 128:50
- Mishna Brurah 128:52, see earlier footnote about shoulder height.
- Shulchan Aruch 128:18
- Shulchan Aruch 128:45, Mishna Brurah 168
- Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Bikcat Cohanim, Chapter 14, Halacha 5, Shulchan Aruch 128:13
- Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 14, Halacha 6, Shulchan Aruch 128:16
- Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 14, Halacha 4, Shulchan Aruch 128:16
- Gemara Rosh Hashana 28b, Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 14, Halacha 12
- Deuteronomy (Devarim) 4:2
- Mishna Brurah 128:37, Halacha Brurah 128:43
- Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 14, Halacha 3, Shulchan Aruch 128:13
- Halichot Shlomo 10:15
- Halichot Shlomo (pg 133 note 56)
- Rambam (Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim 14:5), Shulchan Aruch 128:19
- Mishna Brurah 128:71, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 100:12
- Yalkut Yosef (5764 edition, Tefillah vol 2, pp. 360-2), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano volume 1 page 118
- Mishna Brurah 128:71 quotes some who are strict not to let the Shaliach Tzibbur answer Amen to the birchat hamitzvah made by the cohanim because it would be an interruption to the tefillah. Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (comments on Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 100:14) agrees with that opinion.
- Mishna Brurah 128:28
- Piskei Teshuvot 128:2
- Kaf HaChaim 128:149
- Mishna Brurah 128:51, Tefillah KeHilchata 14:48
- Yalkut Yosef, Tefillah Volume 1, page 298
- S”A 128:24, Beiur Halacha s.v. Aval, Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 15, Halacha 8
- Beiur Halacha 128:24 s.v. Aval
- S”A 128:23
- Mishna Brurah 128:92, Tefillah KeHilchata 14:49
- Siach Tefillah (Shaar 5, 1:2) writes that nowadays that the Cohanim wear the Tallit over their hands one may look at the Cohanim. [See also Rav Herschel Schacter’s opinion at yu.edu.] Rabbi Hershel Schachter in a shiur on Birchat Cohanim (min 33-5) explains that if the Cohanim cover their hands with a Tallit it's permitted for the congregation to look at the Cohanim (based on Shulchan Aruch 128:23). However, the Piskei Teshuvot 128:55 writes that one should still not look at the Cohanim so as not to get distracted even if the Cohanim cover their hands with a Tallit.
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 100:13
- Iggerot Moshe OC 4:21:2
- As such: "Yevarechecha Hashem v'yishmerecha --Amen-- Ya'er Hashem panav elecha v'yichunecha --Amen-- Yisa Hashem panav elecha v'yasem lecha shalom --Amen--. Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 14, Halacha 3
- Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 14, Halacha 5, S”A 128:18, Igrot Moshe 2:31
- The Weekly Halachah Discussion (Vol 2, pg 379) writes that one may follow one’s customary practice but should do so quietly. See Yechave Daat 4:9.
- The Gemara Sotah 40a tells us that one shouldn’t say Pesukim while the Cohanim are blessing the people because it’s disrespectful to ignore the blessings being said. This is codified in Shulchan Aruch 128:26. However, this may be different considering that one is involved in Davening and there’s no mitzvah to stop Davening to listen rather the principle of Osek BeMitzvah Patur Min HaMitzvah (one who is involved in a mitzvah should continue that mitzvah) comes into effect.
- If there’s a mitzvah on the individual Jews receiving the Bracha like the Sefer Charedim 4:18 then it’s understandable that one should pause to hear the Brachot. [This is also the opinion of the Raavad (Mishna Tamid end of chapter 6), Bet Efraim 6, Haflah (Ketubot 24b).] However, the Ritva (Sukkah 31a) writes clearly that the mitzvah is only upon the cohanim and not those being blessed. [This is also the opinion of the Keren Orah (Sotah 39b). The Chatom Sofer 167 writes that this is the opinion of the majority of Rishonim.] If so it’s logical that there’s no reason to stop to listen to Birkat Cohanim since there’s no Mitzvah of to say the Brachot but only to listen.
- It’s seemingly unanimous (Sh”t Yabia Omer 7:12, Halichot Shlomo 10:3) that even according to those Rishonim (Tosfot Brachot 21b) who disapprove of stopping in Shmoneh Esrei to hear Kedusha because the principle of Shomea KeOnah (listening is like hearing) makes it as if one actually said the words and interrupted one’s prayer, would agree here that it’s not an issue because one has no intent to be considered as if one said the words but rather one is silent in order to receive the blessings.
- Rav Ovadyah Yosef in Sh”t Yabia Omer 7:12 writes that one doesn’t have to stop in middle of Shmoneh Esrei in order to listen to Birkat Cohanim (based on the above two reasons), however, if one wanted to one should do so in between the Brachot. However, Rav Shlomo Zalman in Halichot Shlomo 10:3 writes that in deference to those who hold that there’s also a mitzvah for those being blessing one should stop to listen.
- Chazon Ish (Dinim VeHanhagot 4:29), Igrot Moshe 4:21(2), Shevet HaLevi 3:15, and Halichot Shlomo 10:3 (note 18 adds that one should listen from the beginning of the Bracha that the cohanim make before Birkat Cohanim.) all hold that one should stop and listen for Birkat Cohanim. See also Avnei Yishfah (Tefillah pg 205) quoting Rav Elyashiv and Sh”t Teshuvot VeHanhagot 2:77 who say that one shouldn’t stop to listen to Birkat Cohanim.
- Tefillah KeHilchata 14:51 based on Sh”t Shevet HaLevi 3:15, and the Imrei Yosher in name of the Chazon Ish writes not to answer Amen. Tefillah KeHilchata 14:51 writes that if one is saying Shmoneh Esrei together with the Shaliach Tzibbur one should answer Amen.
- Yalkut Yosef, Tefillah Volume 1, page 318
- Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 15, Halacha 1
- Yalkut Yosef, Tefillah Volume 1, page 319
- Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 15, Halacha 4, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 100:3
- Gemara Rosh Hashana 28b, Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 15, Halacha 11, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 100:19
- Shulchan Aruch 128:3, Mishna Brurah 128:11
- Yalkut Yosef, Tefillah Volume 1, page 322 Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 15, Halacha 5
- Yalkut Yosef, Tefillah Volume 1, page 319
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 100:21
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano volume 1 page 117
- Rambam, Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Tefillah U'Birkat Cohanim, Chapter 15, Halacha 5
- Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (comments on Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 100:5)
- Shulchan Aruch 128:6, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 100:4
- Rabbi Mansour on dailyhalacha.com
- Shulchan Aruch 128:7, Mishna Brurah 128:24
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 100:5
- Shulchan Aruch 128:6, Mishna Brurah 128:22
- Piskei Teshuvot 128:19
- Yalkut Yosef 128:28 and Halacha Brurah 128:20
- Rivevot Efraim 2:54, Nesiyat Kapayim Kehilchata 5:19 (p. 59)
- Yalkut Yosef, Tefillah Volume 1, page 338
- Mishna Brurah 128:60, Aruch HaShulchan 128:24, Sh”t Har Tzvi 62
- Nesiut Kapim KeHilchata (Chap 9 note 53) writes that the Cohanim saying the "Yashar Koach" isn’t an issue. Piskei Teshuvot 128:48 writes that saying "Thank you" isn’t an issue.
- Halichot Shlomo 10:4
- Mishna Brurah 127:11. Tefillah KeHilchata (pg 297 note 110*) writes that some have the minhag to answer Ken Yehe Ratzon after the first two pesukim and Amen Ken Yehe Ratzon after the third pasuk.
- Kaf HaChaim 124:27 and Sh”t Yechave Daat 4:9 write that one should say Baruch Hu UBaruch Shemo after the name of Hashem.
- S”A 128:19, Mishna Brurah 128:71, Tefillah KeHilchata 14:52
- Mishna Brurah 128:71, Kaf HaChaim 128:112, Tefillah KeHilchata 14:52
- Piskei Teshuvot 128:3 based on Kaf HaChaim 128:79 who quotes the Zohar. However, see Sh"t Rivevot Efraim 1:93(2) who questions whether this prohibition applies to Yisraelim or not. See also Sh"t Yechave Daat 5:14 who defends the minhag to bless one's children with one or two hands.
- Rama 128:1, Yalkut Yosef, Tefillah Volume 1, page 296
- Yalkut Yosef, Tefillah Volume 1, page 296. See Beiur Halacha 128:1 s.v. DeZar who writes that the minhag of Yisraelim to bless other Jews with the words of Birkat cohanim is either based on the fact that perhaps there's only a prohibition if they raise their hands like cohanim or that they have kavana not to fulfill the mitzvah of Birkat cohanim.