Positive Mitzvah Twenty-Six

Kohanim Blessing Yisarel

BaMidbar 6:23 Speak to Aharon and his sons, saying: 'So shall you bless the Benei Yisrael, saying to them: May Hashem bless you and protect you. May Hashem cause His countenance to shine upon you and favor you. May Hashem lift his face to you, and grant you peace.'

The Kohanim are commanded to bless Yisrael every day.

The provisions of this Mitzvah are explained in the last chapter of Megillah and of Taanit, and in the 7th chapter of Tractate Sotah.

This Mitzvah is binding for every day throughout the year, and in the Land of Yisrael the Priestly Blessing is invoked daily even in our time. In the Diaspora, however, it is recited only on festivals and holy days during the Additional Service (Mussaf). It is dictated word by word to the Kohanim by the Reader of the public prayers, who in most cases is of non-Priestly stock. The Sages based this procedure upon the Scriptural words, "You shall say unto them: Hashem bless the", etc. (BaMidbar 6:23), implying that an Israelite is to dictate the blessing to the Kohanim, who in turn are to bestow it upon Yisrael. In this way it becomes all the more apparent that the Priestly Blessing owes its efficacy solely to Him whose ministering emissaries the Kohanim are, and to the Torah which affirms them to be such.

The question was raised in the Talmud: while the Kohanim are to bless Yisrael, who is to bless the Kohanim themselves? To this Rabbi Akiva's rejoinder was, that Hashem had assured Avraham our father that whoever should bless his seed would in turn be blessed by Hashem: "And I will bless them that bless you" (Bereishit 11:3, Hul. 49a).