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 Hilchos Tefilla 128 (page 3)
  מתחילת סימן קכח עד סעיף ב

The Mitzva of Birkas Kohanim
Using the Words of Birkas Kohanim for Other Occasions
A Minyan for Birkas Kohanim

The mitzva of birkas kohanim
Kohanim have a mitzva to bless the people, as it says "so shall you bless the bnei Yisrael." The poskim discuss whether it is a mitzva for the people to be present for the beracha. According to one opinion, the people listening also fulfill a mitzva and are in violation of it if they do not participate. A second opinion holds that the people fulfill a mitzva when present but are not in violation if they do not participate. A third opinion holds that while there is no mitzva to participate, those who do are facilitators of the kohanim's mitzva. A fourth opinion holds that there is no mitzva for the people to participate in birkas kohanim.
( ביה"ל בפתיחה; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 8-9)

Using the words of birkas kohanim for other occasions
It is forbidden for a non- kohein to perform birkas kohanim. Chazal derive this from the pasuk "instruct Ahron and his children to bless" - i.e. Ahron and his children, to the exclusion of others. According to some poskim, the prohibition is limited to blessing with raised hands in the manner of the kohanim, but other poskim hold that it is assur in all situations. It is permissible for a Yisrael to bless people with birkas kohanim without intent to fulfill the mitzva. Now that Chazal integrated birkas kohanim into tefilla, someone who recites it outside of davening is considered to be doing so without intent to fulfill the mitzva [and the recitation is therefore permissible].
( סעיף א, ס"ק ג, וביה"ל ד"ה דזר)
A minyan for birkas kohanim
Ten adult males must be present to recite birkas kohanim. The kohanim are counted towards the minyan. A congregation of mostly kohanim may recite the beracha even if there is just one non- kohein present, as implied by the singular form of the beracha. If there were ten people present at the beginning of birkas kohanim and some left, the beracha is completed. But if some of the people who were present at the beginning of chazaras hashatz left and now there is less than a minyan, birkas kohanim is not recited.
( סעיף א, ס"ק א-ב, וביה"ל ד"ה בפחות; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 5)

  • Chazal mandated that the tzibur should recite modim d'rabonon while the chazan recites modim in his repetition. The chazan can represent the people when reciting the requests found in the other berachos of Shemoneh Esrei, but not in the case of modim.
  • When the chazan reaches modim, everyone present in shul should bow with him and recite modim d'rabonon. The poskim discuss whether one should remain bowed for the entire prayer or just for the beginning and end, straightening out in the middle.
  • According to the Arizal, Sim Shalom is always the final beracha of Shemoneh Esrei. According to nusach Ashkenaz,Sim Shalom is recited only during those tefillos eligible for birkas kohanim.

  • Birkas kohanim multiple times in a day

  • A kohein who refuses to bentch

  • A kohein who is unable to recite the blessing



PLEASE NOTE:  The information in this email is for learning purposes only. Please review the Mishna Berura and Biurim U'Musafim before making a halachic decision. Hebrew words are occasionally transliterated to enable a smoother reading of the text. Common Ashkenazi pronunciation is generally used in these cases.