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Is Sefiras Haomer nowadays m'doraisa or m'dirabonon?
The Biur Halacha cites a machlokes Rishonim as to whether counting sefira in our times is a mitzvah m'doraisa or only a rabbinic requirement that serves as a reminder of the Beis Hamikdash. The Rishonim write that since it calls attention to the fact that we no longer have a Beis Hamikdash, this mitzvah contains a trace of sadness and we therefore do not recite shehechiyanu on sefira. The beracha of shehechiyanu is typically recited only on joyous occasions. The Biur Halacha further notes that although the Mechaber and other poskim are of the opinion that sefira today is only m'dirabonon, there are many Rishonim who hold that it is m'doraisa. Therefore, he writes, it is proper to adhere to the prevalent custom of counting sefira only after nightfall [the emergence of three stars], as is generally the practice with mitzvos d'oraisa that are fulfilled at night.
(ביאור הלכה ד"ה לספור; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 20)

 Hilchos Tefilla 128 (page 7)
 מסימן קכח סעיף ט עד סעיף יא

The Kohein's Special Prayer
Announcing "Kohanim"
"With Love"

The kohein's special prayer
Before birkas kohanim, the kohanim recite a special tefilla asking Hashem to grant the blessing they are about to offer. They recite this prayer after Modim D'rabonon and aim to complete it on time for the Amein following the chazan's beracha of Modim. The kohanim may respond Amein to the chazan's beracha even though it follows their tefilla. A kohein who is in the middle of pesukei d'zimra should not recite this tefilla even though he is permitted to recite birkas kohanim.
( סעיף ט וס"ק ל-לא; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 47-48)

Announcing "kohanim"
The Sefardic custom is that the chazan calls the kohanim to begin by announcing " kohanim." In many Ashkenazic [and Yemenite] circles, someone other than the chazan makes the announcement. In other Ashkenazic communities, the chazan begins by softly reciting the introduction of " E-lokeinu v'E-lokei Avoseinu" recited when there is no birkas kohanim and raises his voice when he reaches the word " kohanim." He then quietly completes the tefilla with the words am kedoshecha ka'amur. If only one kohein is present, he begins without an announcement.
(51 סעיף י וס"ק לו; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, )
"With love"
The kohanim recite a beracha-"Who commanded us to lovingly bless His people"-before they bless the people. This is explained to mean that the kohanim must love the people they are blessing; by extension, a kohein should not give the blessing if he despises a member of the congregation or if a member of the congregation despises him. This is based on a quote from the Zohar which states that it is dangerous for a kohein to bless someone he hates. If the kohein or other individual cannot control his feelings, he should leave the shul before the chazan begins Retzei. Two kohanim who hate each other may recite the beracha together.
( ס"ק לז)

  • It is customary for the leviim to wash the hands of the kohanim prior to birkas kohanim. If there are no leviim in shul, a bechor (a mother's eldest child) should pour the water on the hands of the kohanim.
  • The kohanim do not recite a beracha (al netilas yadayim) when they wash their hands prior to birkas kohanim. However, there is an opinion that the kohein should recite a beracha on this washing.  As such, it is preferable for the kohein to be careful to keep his hands clean from the time he washes neigel vasser so as to avoid the issue of whether or not to recite a beracha.
  • In the Beis Hamikdash, birkas kohanim was performed as part of the service of the korbanos. When Chazal appended birkas kohanim to tefilla, they associated it with the beracha of Retzei and required the kohanim to step forward to perform the mitzva during this beracha.

  • Which direction should the kohanim face when reciting the beracha?

  • Raised hands

  • Reading the pesukim


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.