Thursday, June 2, 2011

Duchenen- The Priestly Blessing

And  Hashem spoke unto Moshe saying:"Speak unto Aharon and his sons saying:
Thus shall you bless the children of Israel , say unto them
May Hashem bless you and keep you
May  Hashem make his face shine upon  you and be gracious unto you
May Hashem lift up his countenance unto you and  grant you peace
So shall they put My name upon the children of Israel and I will bless them"

In Parashat Naso, after the laws of the Nazir, the Torah brings the commandment of Birkat Cohanim-the priestly blessing. This is called "duchanen" in Yiddish after the word duchan (originally a hebrew word) which means the platform from which the Cohanim blessed the people in the temple.

I havealways felt that the duchenen holds a special place in the synagogue service. It is said that the Shechina (the appearence of G-d in this world) emanates from the hands of the Cohanim when they bless the people. This is the only ceremony from the Temple that we continue to perform in the synagogue. Just as the Cohanim in the Temple ascended the duchan to bless the people, today they get up in front of the congregation, remove their shoes ( as was required in the Temple), put their talitot over their heads and raise their hands in a special configuration. I always get a spiritual high when they intone the same tripartite blessing that was said in the Temple 2,000 years ago.

One of the privilages of living in Eretz Yisrael is that we have birkat Cohanim every day. In the galut birkat Cohanim is done only during musaf of the holidays. Why is this so? According to the RAMBAM and Sefer Ha-Chinuch, birkat Cohanim is one of the 613 laws of the Torah, and must be said every day.
Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook ZTZL said that the essence of the blessing is "simcha"(joy or gladness). The Jews in galut lack simcha because of all the troubles and tribulations of living among the Goyim. Only on the holidays is there an atmosphere of joy and gladness as we are commanded "vesamachta bechagecha" (be joyful on your festival) Only then can the Cohanim bless the people. The REMA and the Mishna Brura paskened that in the galut ducchanen is done only on the festivals and yom Kippur.

Harav A.I. Kook ZTZL said:" From the source of exalted unity the divine sovereignty of the commandment (of  birkat Cohanim) is revealed in His world as a blessing of love, chesed and rachamim" Only in Eretz Yisrael in the time of the ingathering of the exiles, can that exalted unity be found. This is part of the beginning of  our redemption, may Hashem fulfill it speedily and in our days.

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