1 678
 Hilchos Tefilla 128 (page 8)
 מסעיף יא עד סעיף יד

Which Direction Should the Kohanim Face When Reciting the Beracha?
Raised Hands
Reading the Pesukim

Which direction should the kohanim face when reciting the beracha?
According to the Mechaber and other poskim, the kohanim should face the congregation when they recite the beracha of "to lovingly bless His nation." Different poskim hold that the kohanim should face the front of the shul. The minhag is to combine both opinions; the kohanim begin the beracha facing the front of the shul and then turn around to face the congregation, either before the word vetzivanu (He commanded us) or before b'ahavah (lovingly). All the kohanim in the minyan should turn before the same word.
( סעיף יא וס"ק מ; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 58)
Raised hands
Birkas kohanim is also known as nesias kapayim-"raised hands"- because the kohanim must raise their hands to recite the beracha. If they recite it without raised hands, the obligation is not fulfilled. The poskim discuss whether they must lift the entire arm or whether it is sufficient for them to lift just their hands. The hands should be raised to shoulder height and the poskim discuss whether they may be raised higher. The two hands should touch, and the right hand should be held a bit higher than the left hand while they are still connected. The mitzva is fulfilled even if the right hand was not held higher.
( סעיף יב וס"ק מג; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 61-62)

Reading the pesukim
The pesukim of birkas kohanim must be read to the kohanim word by word, preferably from a text. If the kohanim recite the beracha without hearing the words first, the mitzva is fulfilled. According to the Mechaber, it is not necessary to read the first word - yivarechecha - when more than one kohein is participating. According to the Rama, the word yivarechecha is also read to the kohanim, and this is the prevalent custom. The words should be read to the kohanim in a loud voice, and it is a mistake that some chazanim read the words in an undertone.
( סעיף יג וס"ק מז ו־מט; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 64-65)

  • 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 Sefardic custom is that the chazan invites the kohanim to begin by announcing "kohanim." In many Ashkenazic [and Yemenite] circles, someone other than the chazan makes the announcement.
  • 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.

  • Birkas kohanim in a normal voice

  • A frail kohein

  • The beracha should be recited independently


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.