Siman 100ק׳
1 א

מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה מִן הַתּוֹרָה עַל הַכֹּהֲנִים שֶׁיְבָרְכוּ אֶת הָעָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, כֹּה תְבָרְכוּ אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל. וְכָל כֹּהֵן שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ מִדְּבָרִים הַמְעַכְּבִים אוֹתוֹ וְאֵינוֹ עוֹלֶה לַדּוּכָן, עוֹבֵר בַּעֲשֵׂה. וְאֵינוֹ עוֹבֵר אֶלָּא כְּשֶׁקּוֹרְאִין אוֹתוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, אָמוֹר לָהֶם וְתִרְגֵּם אוֹנְקְלוֹס, כַּד תֵּימְרוּן לְהוֹן, (וְעַיֵּן לְקַמָּן סָעִיף ח'). וְהַמִּנְהָג בִּמְדִינוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁאֵין נְשִׂיאַת כַּפַּיִם אֶלָּא בְּיוֹם טוֹב, מִשּׁוּם דְּאָז שְׁרוּיִּים בְּשִׂמְחַת יוֹם טוֹב, וּבְיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים יֵשׁ בּוֹ שִׂמְחַת מְחִילָה וּסְלִיחָה, וְטוֹב לֵב הוּא יְבָרֵךְ (וְעַיֵּן לְעֵיל סִימָן מ"ה סָעִיף ה'), מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן בִּשְׁאָר יָמִים, אֲפִלּוּ בְּשַׁבָּתוֹת הַשָּׁנָה, שֶׁטְּרוּדִים בְּהִרְהוּרִים עַל מִחְיָתָם וְעַל בִּטּוּל מְלַאכְתָּם. וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּיוֹם טוֹב אֵין נוֹשְׂאִין כַּפֵּיהֶם אֶלָּא בִּתְפִלַּת מוּסָף, שֶׁיּוֹצְאִין אַחַר כָּךְ מִבֵּית הַכְּנֶסֶת וְיִשְׂמְחוּ בְּשִׂמְחַת יוֹם טוֹב (וְעַיֵּן לְקַמָּן סִימָן קל"ח סָעִיף ח'). עוֹד נוֹהֲגִין בִּמְדִינוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁבְּיוֹם טוֹב שֶׁחָל לִהְיוֹת בַּשַׁבָּת, אֵין נְשִׂיאַת כַּפַּיִם, אֶלָּא בְּיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים, שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ חָל בַּשַׁבָּת, נוֹשְׂאִין כַּפֵּיהֶם. וְיֵשׁ מְקוֹמוֹת שֶׁנוֹהֲגִין שֶׁבְּכָל יוֹם טוֹב, אֲפִלּוּ חָל בַּשַׁבָּת, נוֹשְׂאִין כַּפֵּיהֶם, וְכֵן נָכוֹן יוֹתֵר.

It is a positive commandment of the Torah1Even in our times. (See Magein Avraham 128:41, Peri Megadim etc., unlike the Penei Yehoshua, Maseches Kesubos 24b and Yeshuos Yaakov, who assert that it is de’oraisa only in the Beis Hamikdash.) for the kohanim to bless the people, as it is said: "This is how you must bless the Children of Israel."2Numbers 6:23. Any kohein who is not disqualified and does not go up to the duchan3Platform. It is traditionally built in front of the Holy Ark on the East side of the synagogue. The platform is not essential for the mitzvah, but the Eshel Avraham (Butchatch) says it is preferable. However, the Rambam makes no mention of it in the laws concerning the architecture of a synagogue. violates a positive commandment.4Shulchan Aruch 128:2. (Rambam) But he is not in violation, unless he is called upon to do so,5Maseches Sotah 38a. It is sufficient to call out kohanim or to tell them to wash their hands (at the appropriate time). as it is said: "Say to them,"6The command is stated in the plural. Therefore, they are to be summoned only when there are at least two kohanim. But if there is only one kohein, he pronounces the blessings without being summoned. (Shulchan Aruch 128:10.) and the Targum translates: "When they tell you." It is the custom in our regions7This is the custom throughout most of the Diaspora. In Eretz Yisroel, some cities have the blessings on Shabbos, too, while in Jerusalem they are pronounced daily. The custom of the Jews of Seforad is to have the blessings daily. It is also the custom of the Yeshivos, even those not in Jerusalem. that the kohanim bless the people only on Yom Tov because then, people rejoice Yom Tov,8The source for the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch’s ruling is the Ramah 128:44. and it is said that a happy heart will bless, and on Yom Kippur there is (also) rejoicing over the forgiveness and pardon [of our sins]. This is not true on other days. Even on the Shabbos days of the whole year, people are worried about their livelihood and about being idle from work. And even on Yom Tov, they only bless the people during the musaf service, because they will soon leave the synagogue and rejoice in the joy of Yom Tov. We are accustomed in our regions that [even] when Yom Tov occurs on Shabbos, the kohanim do not bless the people9See Magein Avraham 128:70, Yeshuos Yaakov, Yosef Da’as (responsa) for various explanations for this custom. except on Yom Kippur; for even if it occurs on Shabbos, they bless the people. There are communities that have the custom, that on every Yom Tov, even when it occurs on Shabbos, the kohanim bless the people; and this is more correct.10Taz 128:38, Shulchan Aruch Harav.

2 ב

אֵין נְשִׂיאַת כַּפַּיִם אֶלָּא בַּעֲשָׂרָה, וְהַכֹּהֲנִים מִן הַמִּנְיָן, לְפִי שֶׁגַּם הֵם בִּכְלַל הַבְּרָכָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וַאֲנִי אֲבָרְכֵם.

The Birkas Kohanim is pronounced only in a congregation of at least ten adult males,11Shulchan Aruch 128:1. including the kohanim, because they also are included in the blessing, as it is said: "And I will bless them" (Numbers 6:27).

3 ג

קֹדֶם נְשִׂיאַת כַּפַּיִם, לֹא יִשְׁתֶּה הַכֹּהֵן לֹא יַיִן וְלֹא שְׁאָר מַשְׁקֶה מִמַּשְׁקִים הַמְשַׁכְּרִין. וְאִם לִבּוֹ חָלוּשׁ וְרוֹצֶה לֶאֱכוֹל פַּת כִּיסְנִין קֹדֶם מוּסָף, יִשְׁמַע קִדּוּשׁ מֵאַחֵר (עַיֵן לְעֵיל סִימָן ע"ז סָעִיף ט"ו).

Before pronouncing the Birkas Kohanim the kohein may not drink12He is forbidden to drink a revi’is of undiluted wine without pausing. However, if he drinks more than a revi’is of wine, even if diluted with water, and even if he paused many times while drinking, he may not pronounce the priestly blessings. (Shulchan Aruch 128:38) wine or any other intoxicating13Magein Avraham 128:55 rules if he drank other intoxicating beverages, he may duchan so long as he is not stone drunk; even if he is not sober enough to speak before a king. The Eliyahu Rabbah and Derech Hachaim rule that he must be sober enough to speak before a king (as by tefillah). Taz rules that he may not drink any amount of an intoxicating beverage before he duchans, because the minumum of a revi’is applies only to wine. beverage. And if he feels faint, and wants to eat some cake before musaf, he should listen to someone else's kiddush.

4 ד

קֹדֶם הַדּוּכָן, צָרִיךְ הַכֹּהֵן לִטּוֹל יָדָיו עַד הַפֶּרֶק, שֶׁהוּא חִבּוּר הַיָּד עִם הַזְּרוֹעַ, כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁהָיוּ מְקַדְּשִׁין אֶת יְדֵיהֶם בַּמִּקְדָּשׁ לַעֲבוֹדָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, שְׂאוּ יְדֵיכֶם קֹדֶשׁ וּבָרְכוּ אֶת ה'. וְיֵשׁ סָפֵק אִם צְרִיכִין לְבָרֵךְ עַל נְטִילָה זוֹ אוֹ אֵין צְרִיכִין לְבָרֵךְ, כֵּיוָן שֶׁבֵּרַךְ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִם בְּקוּמוֹ מִמִּטָּתוֹ. וּמִסְּפֵקָא נוֹהֲגִין שֶׁלֹּא יְבָרֵךְ. וְאִם נָגַע בֵּינָתַיִם בְּמָקוֹם מְטֻנָּף, הָיָה רָאוּי לְבָרֵךְ עַל נְטִילָה זוֹ, אֶלָּא שֶׁלֹּא נָהֲגוּ. וְרָאוּי לְכָל כֹּהֵן יְרֵא שָׁמַיִם, לִשְׁמוֹר הֵיטֵב יָדָיו מִנְּטִילַת יָדַיִם שַׁחֲרִית, שֶׁלֹּא לִגַּע בְּמָּקוֹם הַמְלֻכְלָךְ, כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִצְטָרֵךְ לְבָרֵךְ שֵׁנִית.

Before going up to the duchan the kohein must wash his hands14Maseches Sotah 39a. up to the wrist, that is the junction of the hand and the arm, just as the kohanim sanctified their hands in the Beis Hamikdash before the avodah,15The priestly service in the Beis Hamikdash. This comparison is found in the Rambam. (Laws of Tefillah 15a Psalms 134:2) as it is said: "Raise your hands in holiness and bless Hashem." It is questionable if they have to recite a berachah on this washing, or if they do not have to say a berachah, since he made a berachah on washing his hands when he got up in the morning. Because of the doubt, the custom is not to recite a berachah. In the meantime16From the time he washed his hands in the morning until he goes to duchan. if he touched an unclean spot, it would be proper to say a berachah on this washing, but this is not the custom.17Magein Avraham 128:9. See Eliyahu Rabbah that perhaps a berachah is never made on this handwashing. Every God-fearing kohein should watch his hands carefully after washing his hands in the morning, not to touch an unclean spot, so that he would need not repeat the berachah.

5 ה

הַלֵּוִי יוֹצֵק אֶת הַמַּיִם עַל יְדֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים, עַל שֵׁם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וְגַם אֶת אַחֶיךָ מַטֵּה לֵוִי וְגוֹ' הַקְרֵב אִתְּךָ וִילָּוּוּ עָלֶיךָ וִישָׁרְתוּךָ. וְאִם אֵין שָׁם לֵוִי, יִצּוֹק בְּכוֹר פֶּטֶר רֶחֶם שֶׁהוּא קָדוֹשׁ, עַל יָדוֹ. וְאִם גַּם בְּכוֹר אֵינוֹ, מוּטָב שֶׁהַכֹּהֵן בְּעַצְמוֹ יִצֹּק, וְלֹא יִצֹּק יִשְֹרָאֵל. הַלֵּוִי אוֹ הַבְּכוֹר אֲשֶׁר יִצֹּק מַיִם עַל יְדֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים, אִם אֵין יָדָיו נְקִיּוֹת, יֵשׁ לוֹ לִרְחוֹץ יָדָיו תְּחִלָּה.

A levi pours the water18Only water may be used (Beis Yosef, Peri Chadash), but the Shevus Yaakov Vol. 3:2 rules that anything that cleans may be used (if no water is available). on the hands of the kohanim19Shulchan Aruch 128:6. (Zohar) as it is said: "And also your brothers, the tribe of Levi bring near to you, and they will accompany you and serve you."20Numbers 18:2. If no Levi is present, a first born of the mother, who is holy, should pour the water on his hands, and if there is no firstborn21See Sefer Massah Chaim (cited in Orchos Chaim) that if there are no first-born, the shamash (sexton) of the synagogue should pour the water. present, it is better that the kohein himself pour it rather than a Yisrael. If the Levi or firstborn who pours water on the hands of the kohanim, has unclean hands,22Shulchan Aruch rules as the Zohar that even if their hands are clean, they should wash again. Ramah says this is not the custom. Bach and Mishnah Berurah 128:23 rule that if they were distracted from their previous handwashing, they should wash again, even if they don’t remember touching anything unclean. he must wash them first.

6 ו

אָסוּר לַעֲלֹת לַדּוּכָן בְּמִנְעָלִים. וְיַחֲלֹץ הַמִּנְעָלִים קֹדֶם נְטִילַת יָדָיִם, וְטוֹב לִזָּהֵר לְהַצְנִיעַ הַמִּנְעָלִים תַּחַת הַסַּפְסָלִּים, שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיוּ מְגֻלִּין וְנִרְאִין, מִפְּנֵי כְּבוֹד הַצִּבּוּר.

The kohanim are forbidden to go up to duchan wearing shoes.23See Maseches Sotah 41a. He may not go up barefoot, either because it is considered disrespectful in our times. He should go up in stockings. (Mishnah Berurah 128:18) They should remove their shoes before washing their hands.24If they are sure they can remove them without touching them, they may remove them after they wash. (Mishnah Berurah 128:15, Acharonim) They should be careful to hide their shoes under the benches, so that they cannot be seen, out of respect for the congregation.

7 ז

כְּשֶׁשְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר מַתְחִיל רְצֵה, צְרִיכִין כָּל הַכֹּהֲנִים לַעֲקֹר מִמְּקוֹמוֹתֵיהֶם לַעֲלוֹת לַדּוּכָן. וְעַל כֵּן יִטְלוּ אֶת יְדֵיהֶם קֹדֶם לָכֵן, כְּדֵי שֶׁכְּשֶׁיֹּאמַר שְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר רְצֵה, יַעַקְרוּ מִמְּקוֹמָם לַעֲלוֹת לְדוּכָן עִם יָדַיִם רְאוּיוֹת לִבְרָכָה. וּבְדִיעֲבַד גַּם אִם נָטְלוּ יְדֵיהֶם אַחַר כָּךְ, שַׁפִּיר דָּמִי.

When the Chazzan begins Retzeih, all the kohanim must leave their places25Maseches Sotah 38b. Shulchan Aruch 128:8. to go up to the duchan. Therefore, they should wash their hands before this, so that when the Chazzan says Retzeih, they will leave their places to go up to the duchan with hands fit for the blessing. If post facto they washed their hands afterwards (after Retzeih), it is acceptable.26They must move up towards the duchan during the berachah of Retzeih. If they did not wash before Retzeih, they should go to the duchan and water should be brought to them for washing at the duchan. (Mishnah Berurah 128:27)

8 ח

כְּשֶׁעָלוּ לַדּוּכָן, עוֹמְדִים וּפְנֵיהֶם כְּנֶגֶד אֲרוֹן הַקֹּדֶשׁ שֶׁבַּמִּזְרָח, וְאוֹמְרִים מוֹדִים דְּרַבָּנָן עִם הַצִּבּוּר, וְאַחַר כָּךְ אוֹמְרִים, יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹקֵינוּ וֵאלֹקֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ שֶׁתְּהֵא בְּרָכָה זוֹ שֶׁצִּוִּיתָנוּ לְבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמְּךָ יִשְֹרָאֵל, בְּרָכָה שְׁלֵמָה, וְלֹא יִהְיֶה בָּהּ שׁוּם מִכְשׁוֹל וְעָוֹן מֵעַתָּה וְעַד עוֹלָם. וּמַאֲרִיכִין בִּתְפִלָּה זוֹ עַד שֶׁיְכַלֶּה שְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר וּלְךָ נָאֶה לְהוֹדוֹת, כְּדֵי שֶׁיַּעֲנוּ הַצִּבּוּר אָמֵן גַּם עַל תְּפִלָּה זֹאת. הַשְּׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר אוֹמֵר אֱלֹקֵינוּ וֵאֱלֹקֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, בָּרְכֵנוּ בַּבְרָכָה וְכוּ' בְּלַחַשׁ, וְתֵיבַת כֹּהֲנִים אוֹמֵר בְּקוֹל רָם, וּבָזֶה הוּא קוֹרֵא אֶת הַכֹּהֲנִים שֶׁיְבָרֵכוּ. וְשׁוּב אוֹמֵר בְּלַחַשׁ, עַם קְדוֹשֶׁךָ כָּאָמוּר. וּלְאַחַר שֶׁקָּרָא שְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר כֹּהֲנִים, מַתְחִילִים וּמְבָרְכִים כֻּלָּם בְּיַחַד, בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בִּקְדֻשָּׁתוֹ שֶׁל אַהֲרֹן, וְהוֹפְכִין פְּנֵיהֶם כְּלַפֵּי הָעָם, וּמְסַיְמִים אֶת הַבְּרָכָה, וְצִוָּנוּ לְבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמּוֹ יִשְֹרָאֵל בְּאַהֲבָה. וְעוֹנִין הַצִּבּוּר אָמֵן. אֲבָל שְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר לֹא יַעֲנֶה אָמֵן, מִשּׁוּם דַּהֲוֵי הֶפְסֵק. מַה שֶּׁאוֹמְרִים בְּאַהֲבָה, הוּא לְאַפּוֹקֵי שֶׁאִם הַצִּבּוּר שׂוֹנְאִים אֶת הַכֹּהֵן אוֹ הַכֹּהֵן שׂוֹנֵא אֶת הַצִּבּוּר, לֹא יִשָּׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו, וְסַכָּנָה הוּא לַכֹּהֵן אִם יִשָּׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו, וְעַל כֵּן, יֵשׁ לוֹ לָצֵאת מִבֵּית הַכְּנֶסֶת. אִם אֵין בְּבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת אֶלָּא כֹּהֵן אֶחָד, אֵינוֹ אוֹמֵר שְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר כֹּהֲנִים בְּקוֹל רָם, אֶלָּא הוּא מֵעַצְמוֹ מַחְזִיר אֶת פָּנָיו.

When they go up to the duchan, they stand facing the Holy Ark (which is) in the East, and they say Modim Derabanan with the congregation, and after27Magein Avraham etc. (Rema), unlike the Shulchan Aruch 128:9, who rules that they say this on their way up to the duchan. that they say: "May it be your will Adonoy, our God, and God of our fathers, that this blessing which you have commanded us to bless your people, Israel, be a perfect blessing; that there be in it neither stumbling nor iniquity from now and forever." And they should prolong this prayer until the Chazzan concludes with: Ulecha na'eh lehodos, so that the congregation may respond amein also to this prayer. The Chazzan says: Elokainu v'Eilokei avoseinu barecheinu vaberachah etc. quietly, but the word kohanim he says in a loud voice, for with this he calls the kohanim to bless (the people). And then he says quietly: am kedoshecha ka'amur "Your holy people, as it is said." And after the Chazzan proclaims: kohanim, they begin the berachah, all saying in unison "Baruch atah Adonoy, Elokeine Melech ha'olam, asher kiddeshanu, bikedushaso shel Aharon," then, turning around facing the people28See Rambam. (Laws of Tefillah 14:11) The poskim rule that this is essential. But the Peri Megadim 128:9 says it is not. See paragraph 11. they complete the berachah "vetsivanu levareich es amo Yisrael be'ahavah," and the congregation responds amein. But the Chazzan should not respond amein, for this would constitute an interruption (in his prayer). From the words "With love," it is infered, that if the worshippers hate the kohein, or the kohein hates the worshippers, he should not bless them. In fact, it is dangerous for the kohein to bless them (under such circumstances). Therefore, he should leave the synagogue (at that time). If there is only one kohein29See footnote 6. in the synagogue, the Chazzan should not say, kohanim in a loud voice, but the kohein should, on his own, turn around to face the congregants.

9 ט

מַגְבִּיהִים אֶת יְדֵיהֶם נֶגֶד כִּתְפֵיהֶם, וּפוֹשְׁטִים אוֹתָן, וְחוֹלְקִין אֶצְבְּעוֹתֵיהֶם שֶׁיִּהְיוּ בֵינֵיהֶן חֲמִשָּׁה אֲוִירִים, דְּהַיְנוּ בֵּין שְׁתֵּי אֶצְבָּעוֹת לִשְׁתֵּי אֶצְבָּעוֹת אֲוִיר אֶחָד, וּבֵין שְׁתֵּי אֶצְבָּעוֹת לַאֲגוּדָל גַּם כֵּן אֲוִיר אֶחָד, וְכֵן בַּיָּד הַשְּׁנִיָּה, הֲרֵי אַרְבָּעָה אֲוִירִים. וּבֵין אֲגוּדָל לַאֲגוּדָל גַּם כֵּן אֲוִיר אֶחָד, הֲרֵי חֲמִשָּׁה אֲוִירִים. וְצָרִיךְ לַעֲשׂוֹת כֵּן, מִשּׁוּם דִּכְתִיב, מֵצִיץ מִן הַחֲרַכִּים, ה' חֲרַכִּים. וְצָרִיךְ לִזָּהֵר מְאֹד, שֶלֹא יִגְּעוּ רָאשֵׁי הָאֲגוּדָלִין זֶה בָּזֶה, שֶלֹּא יִתְקַלְקֵל הַחַלּוֹן. וְצָרִיךְ לְהַגְבִּיהַּ אֶת הַיָד הַיְמָנִית קְצָת לְמַעְלָה מֵהַשְׂמָאלִית, וִיהֵא אֲגוּדַל יָמִין עַל אֲגוּדַל שְׂמֹאל, (עַיֵן מָגֵן אַבְרָהָם וּלְבוּשֵׁי שְׂרָד). וּפוֹרְשִֹין כַּפֵּיהֶם, שֶׁיִּהְיֶה תּוֹךְ כַּפֵּיהֶם כְּנֶגֶד הָאָרֶץ, וְאַחוֹרֵי יְדֵיהֶם כְּנֶגֶד הַשָּׁמָיִם.

They raise their hands to the level of their shoulders30Maseches Sotah 38a. and stretch them out, and separate their fingers in such a way that there are five spaces between them. That is, between two fingers and two fingers there is one space, and between the two fingers and the thumb, there is another space, and the same with the other hand; making four spaces. And between the two thumbs there is another space, which makes a total of five spaces.31Shulchan Aruch 128:12. This must be done, because it is written, "He is peering through the lattices,"32Shir Hashirim 2:9. five open spaces.33Rosh, Maseches Megillah 3:21, Midrash. (Tanchuma Parshas Nasso) Metaphorically, Hashem watches over His people through those five spaces between the fingers of the kohanim at the duchan. (Hei Charakim, hei, is the equivalent of the number five, and Charakim means openings) He must be careful that his thumbs should not touch each other, so that there will be five spaces. He must raise his right hand slightly above the left and the right thumb should be above the left thumb. They should spread out their hands in such a way that the palms of their hands are turned toward the ground, and the back of their hands toward Heaven.34If the kohein is too weak to raise his hands properly without resting them on something, he may not duchan. This is essential to fulfilling the mitzvah. See Nodah Biyehudah Responsum 5. He should step outside until the kohanim complete the blessings. (Mishnah Berurah 128:50, Acharonim) Some say if he is tired, it is sufficient to keep the fingers separated when he says the words and may relax his fingers between words (Mishnah Berurah 128:43) and the same applies to raising the hands. (see Ksav Sofer 13, Mishnah Berurah 128:55) The kohein must stand. If he is too weak, and must lean on something, he may not duchan (Panam Meiros, Noda Biyehudah, etc.) unlike the Shvus Yaakov, who says if he is unable to stand, he may lean (or sit).

10 י

בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהַכֹּהֲנִים מְבָרְכִים אֶת הָעָם, לֹא יַבִּיטוּ וְלֹא יַסִּיחוּ דַּעְתָּם, אֶלָּא יִהְיוּ עֵינֵיהֶם כְּלַפֵּי מַטָּה, כְּמוֹ בַּתְּפִלָּה, וְהָעָם יְכַוְּנוּ לַבְּרָכָה, וְיִהְיוּ פְּנֵיהֶם נֶגֶד פְּנֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים, אֲבָל לֹא יִסְתַּכְּלוּ בָּהֶם. וְגַם הַכֹּהֲנִים בְּעַצְמָם לֹא יִסְתַּכְּלוּ בִּידֵיהֶם. וְנָהֲגוּ לְשַׁלְשֵׁל אֶת הַטַּלִּית עַל פְּנֵיהֶם, וִידֵיהֶם חוּץ לַטַּלִּית. וְגַם הַצִּבּוּר מְשַׁלְשְׁלִין אֶת הַטַּלִּיתִים עַל פְּנֵיהֶם שֶׁלֹּא יִסְתַּכְּלוּ.

When the kohanim35Shulchan Aruch 128:23. bless the people, they should not look around, nor should they cause their mind to stray; but their eyes should be directed downward as in prayer.36They are praying that Hashem will bless His people. (Levush) The people should concentrate on the blessing, and face the kohanim, but they should not gaze at them,37Staring at them is forbidden, for you distract yourself from the berachah. Seeing or looking was only forbidden in the Beis Hamikdash, where the Divine Presence rested on their hands at the duchan. Now it is a custom not to look, in remembrance of the Beis Hamikdash. (Magain Avraham, Mishnah Berurah 128:89) The Neziras Shimshon, Zohar says in our times, too, there is Divine Presence on their hands and, out of respect, you should not look. neither should the kohanim gaze at their hands. It is [therefore] their custom to lower the tallis over their faces, extending their hands outside the tallis. The worshippers also lower their tallissim over their faces in order not to gaze at the kohanim.38Darkei Moshe.

11 יא

הָעָם שֶׁאַחוֹרֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים, אֵינָם בִּכְלָל הַבְּרָכָה, אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן הָיוּ אֲנוּסִים. אֲבָל הָעָם שֶׁמִּן הַצְּדָדִים לִפְנֵיהֶם, הֵמָּה בִּכְלָל הַבְּרָכָה. וּבִמְקוֹם שֶׁאֲרוֹן הַקֹּדֶשׁ בּוֹלֵט מִן הַכֹּתֶל, אִם כֵּן הָאֲנָשִׁים שֶׁעוֹמְדִין אֵצֶל הַכֹּתֶל הַמִזְרָחִי, הֵמָּה מִן הַצְּדָדִין שֶׁאֲחוֹרֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים, צְרִיכִין לָלֶכֶת מִשָּׁם וְלַעֲמוֹד בְּמָּקוֹם שֶׁיִּהְיוּ לְכָל הַפָּחוֹת מִן הַצְּדָדִין שֶׁלִּפְנֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים. וְאִם אִי אֶפְשָׁר, הֲרֵי הֵן כְּמוֹ אֲנוּסִים, וְהֵם בִּכְלַל הַבְּרָכָה.

The people standing behind the kohanim, are not included in the blessing,39Because they show the blessing is not important to them. (see Rashi and Tosafos Sotah 38b) unless they were compelled to stand there, but those standing on the sides facing (the kohanim) are included in the blessing. In a synagogue where the Holy Ark projects from the wall, the men standing near the eastern wall, on the sides behind the kohanim, should leave their places and stand in a place where they will be at least on the sides facing the kohanim. If this is not possible, they are considered as being compelled to do so, and are included in the blessing.

12 יב

שְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר מַקְרֶא אוֹתָם בִּרְכַּת כֹּהֲנִים מִלָּה בְּמִלָּה, וְהֵם אוֹמְרִים אַחֲרָיו כָּל מִלָּה, עַד שֶׁמְסַיְּמִים פָּסוּק רִאשׁוֹן, וְעוֹנִין הַצִּבּוּר אָמֵן, וְכֵן אַחַר הַפָּסוּק הַשֵּׁנִי וְאַחַר הַפָּסוּק הַשְּׁלִישִׁי. לֹא יִקְרָא שְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר בְּעַל פֶּה, אֶלָּא מִתּוֹךְ הַסִּדּוּר, שֶׁלֹּא יִתְבַּלְבֵּל. וְיָכוֹל לוֹמַר גַּם הוּא הָאֲמֵנִים שֶׁלְּאַחַר הַפְּסוּקִים וְלֹא הֲוֵי הֶפְסֵק, שֶׁזֶּהוּ צֹרֶךְ תְּפִלָּה. אֵלּוּ תֵבוֹת שֶׁהַכֹּהֲנִים הוֹפְכִים בָּהֶן לַדָּרוֹם וְלַצָּפוֹן, יְבָרֶכְךָ, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ, אֵלֶיךָ, וִחֻנֶּךָ, אֵלֶיךָ, לְךָ מִשּׁוּם דְּתֵבוֹת אֵלּו הֵן לְנֹכַח, לָכֵן הוֹפְכִין אֶת עַצְמָם גַּם לַצְּדָדִין, כְּדֵי לְבָרֵךְ אֶת כֻּלָּם. וְכֵן הוֹפְכִין גַּם בְּתֵבַת שָׁלוֹם, לְפִי שֶׁהִיא סִיּוּם הַבְּרָכוֹת. וּבְשָׁעָה שֶׁמַּאֲרִיכִין בְּנִגּוּן שֶׁל הַתֵּבוֹת שֶׁבְּסוֹף הַפְּסוּקִים, דְּהַיְנוּ, וְיִשְׁמֶרְךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָ, שָׁלוֹם, אוֹמְרִים הַצִּבּוּר רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם וְכוּ'. וְהַמַּקְרֶא, אֲפִלּוּ אֵינוֹ שְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר, לֹא יֹאמַר, רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, מִפְּנֵי הַטֵּרוּף. וּמִכָּל שֶׁכֵּן שֶׁאִם הוּא שְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר, שֶׁלֹּא יֹאמְרוֹ מִפְּנֵי הֶפְסֵק בַּתְּפִלָּה. וְלֹא יְנַגְּנוּ הַכֹּהֲנִים אֶלָּא נִגּוּן הַמְיֻחָד, מִפְּנֵי טֵרוּף הַדָּעַת.

The Chazzan reads40Shulchan Aruch 128:13. If this was not done, the blessings are still valid. (Peri Chadash, Mishnah Berurah 128:49) to them the Birkas Kohanim word for word, and they repeat each word after him until the conclusion of the first verse, whereupon the congregation responds amein. [In this manner, the Chazzan reads the second and third verses as well.] After the second verse and after the third verse, [the congregation also responds amein.] The Chazzan should not recite (these verses) from memory but should read them from the Siddur in order not to get confused. The Chazzan, too, may respond amein after these verses.41Only if he prompts from a siddur so he will not get confused. (see Chayei Adam, Sha’ar Hatziyon 128:61) It is not considered an interruption because it is necessary to the prayer. When reciting the following words, the kohanim turn (partially) toward the South and then to the North: yevarechecha, veyishmerecha, eilecha ["May He bless you" "and safeguard you," "to you"] vichuneka, eilecha, and lecha, ["and be gracious to you" to you" "you"] because these words are in the second person. therefore, the kohanim turn also toward the sides, in order to bless the entire congregation. They also turn thus when saying the word shalom, because it is the conclusion of the blessings. While the kohanim prolong the slow chant before saying the concluding words of each verse, which are ve'yishmerecha, vichuneka and shalom, the congregation recites (the prayer) Ribono shel olam etc. "Master of the Universe …" The one who prompts the kohanim, even though he is not the Chazzan, should not recite Ribono shel olam, in order not to get confused. Certainly the Chazzan should not recite it because it would be considered an interruption of the Shemoneh esreih. The kohanim should chant only the customary melody in order to avoid confusion.

13 יג

בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהַכֹּהֲנִים אוֹמְרִים אֶת הַתֵּבוֹת, אֵין לַצִּבּוּר לוֹמַר שׁוּם פָּסוּק, רַק יִשְׁמְעוּ הֵיטֵב בְּכַוָּנָה אֶת הַתֵּבוֹת מִפִּי הַכֹּהֲנִים, כִּי כְּלוּם יֵשׁ עֶבֶד שֶׁמְבָרְכִים אוֹתוֹ וְאֵינוֹ מַאֲזִין וּמְכַוֵּן לַבְּרָכָה. וְאִם אוֹמְרִים הַפְּסוּקִים, אֵינָם יְכוֹלִים לְכַוֵּן לַבְּרָכָה. אַךְ קְצָת, נוֹהֲגִים לוֹמַר פְּסוּקִים. וְיִזָהֲרוּ שֶׁלֹּא לְאָמְרָם אֶלָּא בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁשְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר אוֹ הַכֹּהֲנִים מְנַגְּנִים, וְלֹא בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁאוֹמְרִים אֶת הַתֵּבוֹת.

When the kohanim recite the words (of the Birkas Kohanim),the congregants should not recite any verse, but should listen very attentively to the words pronounced by the kohanim; for is there a slave who, while receiving a blessing, would not listen attentively to his blessing?42See Maseches Sotah 40a. But if the worshippers recite verses, they cannot concentrate on the blessing. However, some are accustomed to recite various verses, and they must be careful to recite them only when the Chazzan or kohanim are chanting but not when they are saying the words.

14 יד

אַחַר כָּךְ מַתְחִיל שְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר שִׂים שָׁלוֹם, וְאָז הַכֹּהֲנִים מַחְזִירִים אֶת פְּנֵיהֶם כְּלַפֵּי אֲרוֹן הַקֹּדֶשׁ שֶׁבַּמִּזְרָח, וְאוֹמְרִים, רִבּוֹן הָעוֹלָמִים וְכוּ', וְיַאֲרִיכוּ בִּתְפִלָּה זוֹ עַד שֶׁיְסַיֵּם שְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר, הַמְבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמּוֹ יִשְֹרָאֵל בַּשָּׁלוֹם, כְּדֵי שֶיַּעֲנוּ הַצִּבּוּר אָמֵן גַּם עַל תְּפִלָּתָם. וְאִם אֵינָם יְכוֹלִים לְהַאֲרִיךְ כָּל כָּךְ יֹאמְרוּ עוֹד, אַדִּיר בַּמָּרוֹם וְכוּ', וּבְרֹאשׁ הַשָׁנָה וְיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים שֶׁמְנַגְּנִים הַיּוֹם תְּאַמְּצֵנוּ וְכוּ', לֹא יַתְחִילוּ הַכֹּהֲנִים רִבּוֹן הָעוֹלָמִים וְכוּ', עַד קָרוֹב לַסּוֹף, כְּדֵי שֶׁיְסַיְמוּ בְּשָׁוֶה עִם שְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר.

After the conclusion of the Birkas Kohanim, the Chazzan begins reciting Sim shalom, and then the kohanim turn their faces toward the Holy Ark in the East, and say, Ribon Ha'olamin etc. "Master of the Universe," and they prolong this prayer until the Chazzan concludes the berachah Hamevareich es Amo Yisrael bashalom ["Who blesses His people Israel with peace,"] so that the congregation should respond amein to their prayer as well.43The kohanim, too, should probably answer amein to the berachah of the Chazzan. (Mishnah Berurah 128:52) If they are unable to prolong this prayer until then, they should also recite, Adir bamarom. ["Mighty One on high."] On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when everyone sings Hayom te'amtzeinu ["Strengthen us this day,"] the kohanim should not begin reciting Ribon Ha'olamim until that prayer is nearly ended, in order to finish at the same time as the Chazzan.

15 טו

אֵין הַכֹּהֲנִים רַשָּׁאִים לְהַתְחִיל בִּרְכַּת אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ וְכוּ', עַד שֶׁתִּכְלֶה לְגַמְרֵי תֵּבַת כֹּהֲנִים מִפִּי הַמַּקְרֶא. וְאֵין הַמַּקְרֶא רַשַּׁאי לְהַתְחִיל יְבָרֶכְךָ, עַד לְאַחַר שֶׁיִּכְלֶה אָמֵן מִפִּי כָּל הַצִּבּוּר. וְכֵן בְּאָמֵן שֶׁעוֹנִים אַחַר וְיִשְׁמֶרְךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָ, שָׁלוֹם, יַמְתִּין הַמַּקְרֶא וְלֹא יַתְחִיל יָאֵר, יִשָּׂא, שִׂים שָׁלוֹם, עַד לְאַחַר שֶׁיִּכְלֶה אָמֵן מִפִּי כָּל הַצִּבּוּר. וְאֵין הַכֹּהֲנִים רַשָּׁאִים לְהַחְזִיר פְּנֵיהֶם מִן הַצִּבּוּר לַהֵיכָל, עַד שֶׁיַּתְחִיל שְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר שִׂים שָׁלוֹם. וְאֵינָם רַשָּׁאִים לָכֹף אֶצְבְּעוֹתֵיהֶן מִפְּשִׁיטָתָן, עַד שֶׁיַּחְזִירוּ פְּנֵיהֶם מִן הַצִּבּוּר. וְאֵינָם רַשָּׁאִים לַעֲבוֹר מִן הַדּוּכָן, עַד שֶׁיְסַיְמוּ הַצִּבּוּר אָמֵן, לְאַחַר הַמְבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמּוֹ יִשְֹרָאֵל בַּשָּׁלוֹם.

The kohanim are not permitted to begin the berachah Asher kiddeshanu etc. until the Chazzan completely finishes the word kohanim. The Chazzan is not permitted to begin saying yevarechecha until the entire44The Mishnah Berurah 128:65 rules that it is sufficient if most of the congregation answered amein. congregation finishes answering amein. The same applies to the amein the congregation says after Veyishmerecha, Vichuneka and Shalom. The Chazzan must wait and may not begin saying Ya'eir, Yissa and Sim Shalom until after the entire congregation has said45Similarly, the kohanim and the one who prompts them must wait for each other to complete the words, and the congregation must wait for the kohanim to complete the words before answering amein. See Shulchan Aruch 128:18; because the congregation must hear the blessings from the kohanim. (Shulchan Aruch Harav 128:29) amein.46Mishnah Berurah 128:60 says, since the custom is (in the Diaspora), to thank the kohanim after their blessings, the kohanim should stay at the duchan until after kaddish to ensure that kaddish be answered properly. The kohanim are not permitted to turn their faces away from the congregation to the Holy Ark until the chazzan begins Sim Shalom. They are not permitted to relax their fingers from their extended position until they turn their faces away from the congregation. They are not permitted to leave the duchan until the congregation47Shulchan Aruch 128:17, Mishnah Berurah. responds amein after the berachah Hamevoreich es amo Yisrael bashalom.

16 טז

כְּשֶׁמַּחְזִירִין הַכֹּהֲנִים אֶת פְּנֵיהֶם, בֵּין בַּתְּחִלָּה בֵּין בַּסּוֹף, לֹא יַחְזִירוּ אֶלָּא דֶּרֶךְ יָמִין. לָכֵן בַּתְּחִלָּה כְּשֶׁעוֹמְדִים וּפְנֵיהֶם לַמִּזְרָח, יִפְנוּ לַדָּרוֹם וְאַחַר כָּךְ לַמַּעֲרָב. וְאַחַר הַדּוּכָן כְּשֶׁהוֹפְכִין פְּנֵיהֶם לַמִּזְרָח, פּוֹנִים דֶּרֶךְ צָפוֹן. וּכְשֶׁהֵם יוֹרְדִין מִן הַדּוּכָן, יִהְיֶה פְּנֵיהֶם קְצָת לְנֶגֶד אֲרוֹן הַקֹּדֶשׁ, וְיִפְסְעוּ לְאַחֲרֵיהֶם כְּתַלְמִיד הַנִּפְטָר מִלִּפְנֵי רַבּוֹ. כְּשֶׁנּוֹעֲלִין הַמִּנְעָלִים, לֹא יִגְּעוּ בָּהֶם. וְאִם נָגְעוּ, צְרִיכִין לִטּוֹל יְדֵיהֶם.

Whenever the kohanim turn around, either at the beginning or at the end of (the Birkas Kohanim), they must always turn towards the right. Therefore, at the beginning, when they are standing facing to the East, they should first turn South and then West. After concluding Birkas Kohanim, when they turn to face East, they should do so by first turning North. When going down from the duchan, their faces should be somewhat towards the Holy Ark, and they should walk backwards, like a pupil taking leave of his master. When putting on their shoes, they should not touch them. If they did touch them, they must wash their hands.48In order to continue their tefillah. (Ramah 128:17)

17 יז

מִשְׁתַּדְּלִים שֶׁשְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר לֹא יִהְיֶה כֹּהֵן. וְאִם הוּא כֹּהֵן, לֹא יַעֲלֶה לַדּוּכָן, וְגַם לֹא יַקְרֶא לִפְנֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים, אֶלָּא אִישׁ אַחֵר יַעֲמֹד אֶצְלוֹ שֶׁיִּקְרָא כֹּהֲנִים, וְגַם יִקְרֶא לִפְנֵיהֶם אֶת הַתֵּבוֹת יְבָרֶכְךָ וְגוֹ', וּשְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר עוֹמֵד וְשׁוֹתֵק עַד שִׂים שָׁלוֹם. וְאֵינוֹ עוֹבֵר בְּמַה שֶּׁאֵינוֹ עוֹלֶה לַדּוּכָן, אַף שֶׁזֶּה קָרָא כֹּהֲנִים בְּקוֹל, כִּי אֵין הַכַּוָּנָה אֶלָּא עַל מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ עוֹמֵד בִּתְּפִלָּה וְעָקַר רַגְלָיו בִּרְצֵה. וְאִם אֵין שָׁם כֹּהֵן אַחֵר אֶלָּא הוּא, אֲזַי כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא תִּתְבַּטֵּל מִצְוַת נְשִׂיאַת כַּפַּיִם, יַעֲלֶה הוּא לַדּוּכָן וְסוֹמֵךְ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִם שֶׁל שַׁחֲרִית. כֵּיצַד עוֹשֶׂה. עוֹקֵר רַגְלָיו קְצָת כְּשֶׁאוֹמֵר רְצֵה, וְאוֹמֵר עַד וּלְךָ נָאֶה לְהוֹדוֹת, וְאַחֵר אוֹמֵר, אֱלֹקֵינוּ וֵאֱלֹקֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בָּרְכֵנוּ בַּבְּרָכָה וְכוּ', וּשְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר עוֹלֶה לַדּוּכָן, וְזֶה הָאַחֵר מַקְרֶא לוֹ, וְחוֹזֵר שְּׁלִיחַ הַצִבּוּר וְאוֹמֵר שִׂים שָׁלוֹם, וְלֹא יֹאמַר רִבּוֹן הָעוֹלָמִים וְכוּ', עַד לְאַחַר הַקַּדִּישׁ. וְאִם לֹא עָקַר רַגְלָיו בִּרְצֵה, אֵינוֹ רַשַּׁאי לַעֲלוֹת.

An effort should be made to have a Chazzan, who is not a kohein. If he is a kohein, he should not go up to duchan, and should not prompt the kohanim, but someone else should stand alongside him to call kohanim. He should also read to them the words Yevarechecha etc. and the Chazzan should remain silent, until Sim Shalom. He commits no sin by not going up to bless the people, even though the other man called out kohanim, because this call is intended only for a kohein who is not engaged in prayer, and who moved from his place during Retzeih. If he is the only kohein present, then, in order not to forego the mitzvah of the priestly blessings, he should go up to the duchan,49This is so only if he is sure he will not get confused in his tefillah. (Shulchan Aruch 128:20) Even if they call him, he may go up only if he is sure he will not get confused. (Peri Megadim)
But the Eliyahu Rabbah, Derech Hachaim and Chayei Adam hold, if called, he must go up, even if he is not sure of himself. Now that we use a siddur, there is no concern of confusion. (Mishnah Berurah 128:75)
relying on his hand-washing in the morning. How should he act? He should move his feet slightly while saying Retzeih, and continue until Ulecha na'eh lehodos. ["And to You it is fitting to give thanks."] Then someone else says, Elokeinu veilokei avoseinu barecheinu vaberachah; the Chazzan then goes up to the duchan, while the other man prompts him. After this, the Chazzan resumes and recites Sim Shalom, but does not say Ribon Ha'olamim until after reciting the kaddish. If he did not move his feet while reciting Retzeih, he is not permitted to go up to the duchan.

18 יח

צִבּוּר שֶׁכֻּלָּם כֹּהֲנִים, אִם אֵין שָׁם אֶלָּא עֲשָׂרָה, כֻּלָּם עוֹלִים לַדּוּכָן. לְמִי מְבָרְכִין. לַאַחֵיהֶם שֶׁבַּשָּׂדוֹת. וּמִי עוֹנֶה אַחֲרֵיהֶם אָמֵן. נָשִׁים וָטָף. וַאֲפִלּוּ אֵין נָשִׁים וָטַף, עֲנִיַּת אָמֵן אֵינָהּ מְעַכֶּבֶת. וְאִם יֵשׁ יוֹתֵר מֵעֲשָׂרָה, הַיְתֵרִים מֵעֲשָׂרָה יַעֲלוּ לַדּוּכָן, וַעֲשָׂרָה יִשָּׁאֲרוּ לַעֲנוֹת אָמֵן.

If a congregation consists of kohanim only, then, if there are no more than ten men, they all go up to the duchan. Whom do they bless? Their brethren in the fields (countryside). And who responds, amein? The women and the little children. Even if there are no women and children, the lack of the amein response is not an obstacle. If there are more than ten kohanim present, then as many as there are in excess of ten go up to the duchan, and ten should remain to respond amein.50When there are no Yisraeilim [Israelites] in the congregation, the priestly blessings is a de’rabbonon mitzvah, not a de’oraisa. (Peri Megadim. See Biur Halachah 128:25)

19 יט

כֹּהֵן שֶׁנָּשָׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו וְאַחַר כָּךְ הָלַךְ לְבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת אַחֵר, אִם רוֹצֶה, יָכוֹל לַעֲלוֹת לַדּוּכָן גַּם כָּאן. וְאִם אֵינוֹ רוֹצֶה, אַף שֶׁשּׁוֹמֵעַ קוֹרְאִין כֹּהֲנִים אֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ לַעֲלוֹת כֵּיוָן שֶׁכְּבָר עָלָה.

A kohein who had already blessed the congregation, and, afterwards, went to another synagogue, if he wishes to do so, he may go up to the duchan again, but if he does not wish to do so, even if he heard the call kohanim, he is not obligated to go up, since he has already gone up [and fulfilled his obligation.]

20 כ

מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ מוּם בְּפָנָיו, בִּמְדִינוֹתֵינוּ שֶׁנּוֹהֲגִים שֶׁכָּל הַכֹּהֲנִים מְשַׁלְשְׁלִים אֶת הַטַּלִּיתִים עַל פְּנֵיהֶם, מֻתָּר לִשָּׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו. אֲבָל מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ מוּם בְּיָדָיו, כְּגוֹן שֶׁהֵן בַּהֲקָנִיּוֹת (פֵּרוּשׁ מִין נֶגַע לָבָן), אוֹ מְנֻמָּרוֹת בִּנְקֻדּוֹת דַקּוֹת, אוֹ שֶׁהֵן עֲקֻמּוֹת, אוֹ שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְחַלֵּק אֶת אֶצְבְּעוֹתָיו, לֹא יִשָּׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהָעָם יִסְתַּכְּלוּ בוֹ וְיַסִּיחוּ דַּעְתָּם. וְאִם הוּא רָגִיל בְּעִירוֹ, שֶׁכְּבָר שָׁהָה שָׁם שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם וּמַכִּירִים אוֹתוֹ, נוֹשֵׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו. הָיוּ יָדָיו צְבוּעוֹת, לֹא יִשָּׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהָעָם מִסְתַּכְּלִין בָּהֶם. וְאִם רֹב הָעִיר מְלַאכְתָּן בְּכָךְ, יִשָּׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו. מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לַחְתֹּךְ הָאוֹתִיּוֹת הֵיטֵב וְקוֹרֵא שִׁי"ן יְמָנִית כְּמוֹ שְׂמָאלִית, לֹא יִשָּׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו, אִם לֹא שֶׁכָּל הַקָּהָל קוֹרִין כֵּן. וְכָל כֹּהֵן שֶׁאֵינוֹ נוֹשֵׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו, יֵצֵא קֹדֶם רְצֵה מִבֵּית הַכְּנֶסֶת לַחוּץ, עַד שֶׁיִּגְמְרוּ נְשִׂיאַת כַּפָּיִם.

In our communities where it is customary for all kohanim to lower their tallisim over their faces, a kohein who has a blemish on his face, is permitted to pronounce the Birkas Kohanim. But a kohein who has a defect on his hands, like bahakaniyos, i.e. a white lesion, or they are speckled with small spots, or they are deformed, or he is unable to separate his fingers, may not bless the people,51Unless they follow the custom of covering their hands with their tallis. (Shulchan Aruch, Remah 128:31) because the people might look at him, and be distracted. If he is well-known in his town, having lived there for thirty days,52Only if he intends to stay there for at least six months or so. But if he just happened to be there for thirty days, he may not go up. (Shulchan Aruch 128:30) and people recognize him, he may raise his hands to bless the people. If his hands are discolored from dye or paint, he may not raise his hands to bless the people because the people will look at them. If most of the people of the town follow this trade [of dyeing or painting], he is permitted to raise his hands in blessing. If he does not know how to pronounce the letters properly, or if he pronounces the letter shin like the letter sin, he may not raise his hands to bless the people, unless the entire congregation53Radvaz, Maharit. See Mishnah Berurah 128:120, that if many people say it that way, he may duchan. pronounces it like that. Any kohein, who does not raise his hands for the Birkas Kohanim, should leave the synagogue before Retzeih is said, [and stay outside] until the end of the priestly blessing.54In all these cases, if he went to the duchan, he need not step down. (Peri Chadash, also see Chayei Adam)

21 כא

הָרַג אֶת הַנֶּפֶשׁ בְּמֵזִיד, אֲפִלּוּ עָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה, לֹא יִשָֹא אֶת כַּפָּיו. וְאִם הָרַג בִּשְׁגָגָה וְעָשָׂה תְשׁוּבָה, נוֹשֵׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו. וְכֵן מוּמָר שֶׁעָשָׂה תְשׁוּבָה, נוֹשֵׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו. נָשָׂא גְּרוּשָׁה אוֹ חֲלוּצָה אוֹ שֶׁנִּטְמָא לְמֵּת שֶׁאָסוּר לוֹ לִטְמָא אֵלָיו, לֹא יִשָּׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו, עַד שֶׁיַּעֲשֶׂה תְשׁוּבָה עַל פִּי תַּלְמִיד חָכָם. וּשְׁאָר עֲבֵרוֹת, אֵינָן מוֹנְעוֹת מִנְּשִׂיאַת כַּפָּיִם. חָלָל, אֵינוֹ נוֹשֵׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו.

A kohein, who once intentionally killed someone, even though he has repented, may not raise his hands to bless the people.55Peri Chadash, Eliyahu Rabbah. But the Ramah 128:35 permits him. Shulchan Aruch forbids him, even if it was accidental. Biyur Halachah remains undecided, but if he went up, he shouldn’t step down. If he accidentally killed someone, and has repented, he may raise his hands. Similarly, an apostate56An idol worshipper or one who publicly desecrates Shabbos may not go up to duchan. (Mishnah Berurah 128:134, see Igros Moshe 1:33) who repented, may raise his hands to bless the people. A kohein who married a divorcee, or a chalutzah57According to Deut. 25:5–10, a brother-in-law has the obligation to marry his brother’s childless widow. If he declines, he must perform the chalitzah ceremony, whereby the widow attains the status of chalutzah. A kohein is forbidden to marry a chalutzah or a divorcée., or who became ritually unclean by contact with a corpse,58Even a non-Jewish corpse, which is not a de’oraisa prohibition. (Mahari Assad 47) A kohein who is a medical student or doctor and exposes himself to this, may not duchan. (Ksav Sofer 16, Maharam Shick 303) This is only if he does this on purpose, but if by accident (out of ignorance), he may duchan. (Beis Yosef, Mishnah Berurah 128:150) for whom he is forbidden to defile himself, may not raise his hands until he repents under the direction of a Torah scholar. Other transgressions do not disqualify a kohein from raising his hands. A chalal59A chalal is a person born from a marriage forbidden only to kohanim. may not raise his hands to bless the people.60If he went up to the duchan, he must step down. (Peri Chadash)

22 כב

אוֹנֵן אֵינוֹ נוֹשֵׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו. וְאָבֵל תּוֹךְ שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ עַל אָבִיו וְאִמּוֹ אוֹ תוֹךְ שְׁלֹשִׁים עַל שְׁאָר קְרוֹבִים, אֵינוֹ נוֹשֵׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו, וְצָרִיךְ לָצֵאת מִבֵּית הַכְּנֶסֶת קֹדֶם רְצֵה עַד אַחַר נְשִׂיאַת כַּפָּיִם. וְאִם אֵין בְּבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת שְׁנֵי כֹּהֲנִים אֲחֵרִים, מֻתָּר לְאָבֵל לִשָּא אֶת כַּפָּיו תּוֹךְ שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ עַל אָבִיו וְאִמּוֹ וְתוֹךְ שְׁלֹשִׁים עַל שְׁאָר קְרוֹבִים. אֲבָל תּוֹךְ שִׁבְעָה, כְּגוֹן הַקּוֹבֵר מֵתוֹ בָּרֶגֶל, אֲפִלּוּ אִם אֵין שָׁם שְׁנֵי כֹּהֲנִים אֲחֵרִים, אֵינוֹ נוֹשֵׂא אֶת כַּפָּיו (קכ"ח).

A mourner, before burial takes place, may not raise his hands.61Even on Yom Tov, when the laws pertaining to the mourning period do not take effect. (see Chapter 198) He may not duchan because he is not in a state of happiness. (Magein Avraham, Mishnah Berurah 128:158) A mourner, during the twelve months of mourning for his father or mother, or, during the thirty days of mourning for other relatives, may not raise his hands.62If he were called upon to duchan, he should not go up. (Peri Chadash) If he went up, he does not have to step down. (Rav Ephraim Zalman Margalios Z“l [Laws of Onein], Ba’eir Heiteiv, Peri Chadash) The Peri Megadim 128:64 says he should step down. The Mishnah Berurah 128:158 seems to be inclined to say if he were called upon, he should go up, but he also mentions the ruling of Peri Chadash, also see Chayei Adam. He must leave the synagogue before Retzeih is said, and stay outside until after Birkas Kohanim. In the event there are no other kohanim in the synagogue, the mourner is permitted to raise his hands during the twelve month period of mourning, for his father or mother, or during the thirty days of mourning for other relatives. But during the seven days of mourning, for example, if he buried his dead on the Festival, even if there are no other kohanim, he may not raise his hands to bless the people.