Priestly Blessings

April 14th 2011

Biblical times are here again!

Travel in Israel back in time. For a few hours at least.

The second day of chol hamoed Pesach, go back to where and when it all happened- the First Temple in Jerusalem. Which means, roughly translated nowadays, meet you at the Western Wall. There will be a huge event that Ashkenazic Jews throughout the world perform only a few times during the year- on all the “big holidays”- PesachShavuotSukkotShemini AtzeretRosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur.

What type of event is it?

Why the Mass Birkat haKohanim, or Mass Priestly Blessing, of course!

Calling all you kohanim (or Jewish priests) out there! According to Jewish law, all kohanim are required to participate in this call-and-answer, which means no weaseling out of your sacred duties!  Imagine this- you and hundreds of other kohanim, in an enormous crowd, calling out the oldest known biblical text. In fact, there have been records of the Priestly Blessing recorded for posterity from the First Temple, its remains housed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem ( if you’re on a private Israel tour group, try and get this scheduled into the schedule for chol hamoed Pesach, when museums are free).  Traveling in Israel during Pesach break is the best time to travel.

To impress your fellow Israeli group tour mates with your sophisticated knowledge, the Blessing goes a little something like this, – “May Gd bless you and guard you, May He shine his face upon you and be gracious unto you, May He lift up his face onto you and give you peace. ( Numbers).”

Along with the words are the hand gestures- Hands raised in the air  ( albeit covered by a tallis) and fingers spread apart, with a space between the third and fourth finger.

If the words “Priestly Blessing” don’t ring a bell, try and remember the “Vulcan Hand Salute” that Spock gave on Star Trek.  Spock, perhaps better known to the Jewish shtetl world as Leonard Nimoy, had indeed been raised in a traditional household and had witnessed the Priestly blessing being given. Stealing (or borrowing) it’s hand gesture, he used it to add some spiritual metaphysical dimension on Star Wars.

So when should you schedule in your palm pilot for this glorious event? ThursdayApril 21st, 2011, at approximately 9:30 a.m., or Musaf Birkat Cohanim, at 10:15 a.m..

If you have an inkling to meet with one of those great rabbis, including the chief rabbis of Israel, Rabbi Yona Metzger and the Rishon LeZion, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, and the rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, they are receiving guests in the Western Wall plaza from 10:45 to noon.

On your Israel vacation, meet the who’s who of Jewish celebrities!


If you are celebrating your son’s bar mitzvah in Israel, this is one event not to miss. If you can’t make it this day, check out or for suggestions on .how to best plan your son’s big day.