Mishna Berura Summaries

Siman 128

  1. It is a positive commandment for a cohen to bless Yisroel. Yisroel that stand quietly facing the cohanim and concentrate upon receiving the beracha are included in this mitzva. (BeH introduction)
  2. A minyan of 10 is required to begin N.K. It is considered a dovor shebikdusha. Cohanim count as part of the minyan. (ShA 1 – BeH “ain”)
  1. If N.K. began with 10 men and some left in the middle, you must finish the mitzva anyhow.   (BeH “b’pochos”)
  1. At certain times a non-cohen will give the birkas cohanim to his friends (or children). The reason that this is allowed is because it is not given with spread hands like cohanim must do. Or else, since the beracha is not given during tefilla, it is as if there is explicit intention not to fulfill the mitzva. (BeH “d’zor”)
  1. The mitzva begins its activation at the time the cohen is told to go bless. This is done by someone calling out “Cohanim” or by telling the cohen to ascend onto the platform or by telling him to wash his hands. (ShA 2)
  1. Although the cohen need not do N.K. more than once a day, if he chooses to do N.K. again he must say the preceding beracha. (ShA 3 – MB 11)
  1. A cohen needs a good excuse not to do N.K. (e.g. he’s feeling weak). He should exit the shul before R’tzay and not re-enter until after N.K. is over so people will not think that he is a disqualified cohen. (ShA 4 – MB 12 – BeH “ainom”)
  1. A disqualified cohen need not exit the shul even if the disqualification is d’rabbonon. If he is the only cohen in shul he should exit before R’tzay. (MB 12)
  1. The cohanim should not go up for N.K. wearing shoes or boots. Barefoot is considered disgraceful, so wear socks. (ShA 5 – MB18)
  1. A cohen removes his shoes before washing his hands unless they can be removed without touching them. Hide the shoes out of respect for the shul. (MB15)
  1. The cohen washes with water up to his wrist just before N.K.(Wiping does not help here like it does for tefilla.) Use a k’li, koach gavra, and a revi’is of clear and clean water. A levi should do the pouring. If not, a bechor should do it. If not, the cohen should pour for himself but not a Yisroel. (ShA 6 – MB 19,20,21)
  1. A cohen who said the beracha of “al netillas yodayim” for his morning washing should not repeat the beracha at this washing. However, some poskim hold that if his hands touched filth since the morning he needs to wash again with a beracha for N.K. Therefore, the cohen should be vigilant to keep his hands away from filth from the morning netilla until N.K. so as to avoid a sofek beracha. (ShA 7 – MB 24)
  1. The cohanim should go to wash before R’tzay. When the chazzan begins reciting R’tzay they should approach the duchan. As long as the chazzan has not completed R’tzay the cohanim can uproot their feet and do N.K. Once R’tzay is over and a cohen did not uproot his feet (no matter why) he cannot do N.K. (ShA 8 – MB 25,27,29)
  1. If the cohen merely uprooted his feet to go wash, it does not suffice. Therefore the minhag developed that when the chazzan reaches R’tzay and the cohanim have not yet come to near the duchan, he waits until they come. As he says “R’tzay” they all step up onto the duchan. (MB 28)
  1. After the cohanim finish Modim D’rabbonon they should say the Yehi Ratzon. They should try to coincide the end of it with the chazzan’s ending of “..ul’cho noeh l’hodos.” so the tzibbur’s omayn will be for the Yehi Ratzon as well. The cohanim will answer “omayn” to the chazzan’s beracha. (ShA9 – MB 30,31)
  1. The chazzan calls out “Cohanim!” (unless there is only one cohen in which case the cohen begins without being called). There is a minhag that the chazzan recites “Elokaynu valokay avosaynu…” silently until he reaches “Cohanim!” – which he announces out loud. Then, chazzan (and only the chazzan) says “Am kedoshecha ka’omoor” silently. (ShA 10 – Rama 10 – MB 36)
  1. They stand on the duchan facing the haychal with their backs to the congregation and fingers folded into their palms until the chazzan finishes Modim. When they hear the call “Cohanim!” each cohen begins his beracha “asher kid’shanu bikdushaso shel Aharon”. Then they turn towards the congregation so they are face to face and say “v’tzivonu l’voraych ess amo Yisroel b’ahava”. (ShA 10, – MB 37, 40 – ShaT 18)
  1. The cohanim turn towards their right (clockwise). (ShA 17)
  1. The cohanim lift their hands to the height of their shoulders. The right hand should be a little higher than the left, but ensure the right thumb lays resting on the left thumb. The back of their hands should be facing the sky while their palms face the ground. (ShA 12 – MB 43)
  1. The cohanim should make five “window” spaces with their two hands: between two fingers and two fingers – between index finger and thumbs – and between the two thumbs. You can relax your fingers between each word and beracha if they become tired. (ShA 12 – MB 43)
  1. The chazzan becomes the “makreh” to call out word for word of Birkas Cohanim beginning with “Yevorech’cha”. He should read the words from the siddur, not by heart.                                  (ShA 13 – Rama 13 – MB 49)
  1. When the cohanim complete the first possuk the congregation answers “omayn”. The same goes for the second and third possuk. (ShA 13)
  1. The following conditions are me’akayv. If a cohen cannot fulfill any one of them he should leave shul before R’tzay:
    1. Lashon Hakodesh
    2. The cohanim must be standing (leaning is not enough)
    3. Lifted hands (for at least while saying the words – in between can be relaxed)
    4. Audible voice (lift it louder for people who cannot hear from the back of the shul) (ShA 14 – MB 50,51,52,53)
  1. The custom is for the congregation to stand during N.K. They must stand with reverence and seriousness. (MB 51)
  1. When the chazzan begins Sim Shalom the cohanim turn again towards the haychal and recite the Ribono shel Olam. They extend this tefilla to coincide its end to the end of Sim Shalom so the tzibbur’s omayn will apply to both tefillos. If the Ribono shel Olam prayer is too short, the cohen should add the prayer Adir Bamarom to coincide its end to the end of Sim Shalom. The cohanim likewise answer omayn to Sim Shalom. (ShA 15 – MB 56,57)
  1. On Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippur when the piyyut Hayom T’amtzaynu is being recited the cohanim should wait until afterwards to say the Ribono shel Olam prayer so they will be able to coincide it with the final beracha. (MB 54)
  1. The cohanim are not allowed to turn around until the chazzan begins Sim Shalom. They should not relax their arms and hands until they turn around. They should not talk as long as they are on the duchan. They may descend only once the tzibbur responds omayn to Sim Shalom. It is preferred for the cohanim to remain on the duchan until after Kaddish so they can answer Kaddish properly without the tzibbur telling them “Y’yasher !…..” (ShA 16 – MB 57,58,60)
  1. When they descend they should not turn their backs to the haychal, rather turn their faces slightly towards the haychal out of respect like leaving a master. (MB 61)
  1. This is the order of recitations – no overlapping allowed:

Tzibbur – “omayn” after “…u’lecho noeh l’hodos.”

Makreh – “Cohanim!”

Cohanim – preceding beracha “…asher kidshanu…”

Tzibbur – “omayn” after “…b’ahava.”

Makreh – “Yevorech’cha”

Cohanim – “Yevorech’cha”

Makreh – “Hashem” (etc)

Tzibbur – “omayn” after each beracha (ShA 18 – MB 68)

  1. The chazzan may answer omayn to each of the three pesukim of Birkas Cohanim to accept the beracha – as long as he is daavening from a siddur. He may not answer omayn to the cohanim’s preceding beracha because of hefsek. (MB 71)
  1. If the chazzan is the only cohen and he is daavening from a siddur he will do N.K. How so? Beginning R’tzay, he will uproot his feet a little towards the duchan. After Modim he will go up and face the congregation and immediately begin “…asher kidshanu…”. Then someone will makreh for the cohen word for word. The chazzan will then descend to his place and continue Sim Shalom. (ShA 20 – MB 76, 78, 79, 80, 81)
  1. The cohanim should all chant the same tune. They should not change tunes because they’re liable to get confused. (ShA 21)
  1. The makreh should be a non-cohen. Since it is our minhag that the chazzan is the makreh, try lechatchila that the chazzan should not be a cohen. (ShA 22 – MB 85)
  1. If the chazzan happens to be a cohen, a non-cohen should stand next to him and be the makreh while the chazzan stays quiet. He will resume from Sim Shalom. (ShA 22 – MB 87)
  1. If no one else knows how to be a makreh, the cohen/chazzan can be the makre. (MB 87)
  1. During N.K. the congregation should not look around or become distracted. They should be concentrating on the beracha with their eyes pointed downward as in Shemoneh Esray. (ShA 23)
  1. Although they face the cohanim, the congregation should not look at them and become distracted. In the Bais HaMikdosh the people were not allowed even to glance at the cohanim’s hands.Even now, the custom has developed not to even glance at their hands, zecher lamikdosh. Therefore, the cohanim customarily cover their faces and hands with tallisim. (ShA 23 – MB 89)
  1. A better minhag is for the cohanim to cover their faces and stick their hands out from under their tallisim, while the congregation cover their faces with tallisim. (MB 91,92)
  1. People standing behind the cohanim are not included in the beracha, but those that are directly beside the cohanim are included. (ShA 24 – MB 95)
  1. Those people who, for no fault of their own, cannot come in front of the cohanim are included in their beracha. e.g. people at work. (ShA 24)
  1. Someone who is too lazy to come to shul is considered “behind the cohanim” and is not included in the beracha. (BeH “im”)
  1. During N.K. the people should not recite pesukim. One who does, should at least say them silently and only when the makreh is announcing the words, not when the cohanim are actually saying them. (ShA 26 – MB 103)
  1. Also, you should not review the parsha, sh’nayim mikra v’echad targum, during N.K. (BaH 46)
  1. Rambam writes that the cohanim shouldn’t add any other blessing, even quietly, because of Bal Tosif. Accordingly, this may apply likewise even without lifting their hands. (Some use this as a source not to say “Boruch tihyeh” – Har Tzvi 1 Siman 62) (BeH “v’im”)
  1. A cohen who is in the middle of Shemoneh Esray when it is time for N.K. should not interrupt unless the following 4 conditions are met:
    1. There is no other cohen in shul.
    2. The cohen is up to N.K. in his private Shemoneh Esray.
    3. The cohen uprooted his feet towards the duchan during R’tzay.
    4. He is sure he will not become confused so he’ll be able to continue his Shemoneh Esray. (MB 106)
  1. A cohen who has unusual blemishes on his face, hands or feet should not do N.K. because they could distract peoples’ attention from the beracha. Our minhag is for the cohanim to have their faces and hands covered by a tallis and feet by socks, therefore this disqualification doesn’t apply. (ShA 30,31)
  1. A cohen that has a speech impediment should not do N.K. (MB 119)
  1. A cohen who cannot pronounce all of the letters properly should not do N.K. In our times, most of us don’t know how to distinguish between the ayin and the alef, so in that case it becomes allowed to do N.K. (ShA 33 – MB 120)
  1. There are 3 categories of ages for cohanim:
    1. A child from the age that he can lift his hands correctly – we train him to do N.K. with a preceding beracha but only with other adult cohanim. (ShA 34 – MB 123)
    2. At age 13 – he may do N.K. with other cohanim every day. N.K.by himself should be done only once in a while. (e.g. Yom Tov). (MB 121,125)
    3. At age 18 (or he can grow a full beard), he may do N.K. by himself every day. (MB 126)
  1. The following sins disqualify a cohen from N.K.
    1. Murder or Manslaughter – teshuva helps. (ShA 35)
    2. Mumar (changed his religion even to Islam) or desecrates Shabbos in public – teshuva helps. If he was forced to, he doesn’t become disqualified. (ShA 37 – MB 134)
    3. Profanes his kedushas c’huna:
      1. married to a gerusha, chalutza, zona or challola. (ShA 40 – MB 147)
      2. becomes contaminated to the dead. (ShA 41 – BeH “nitmoh”)
  1. Any other sin does not disqualify a cohen, even a severe one like arayos. We do not tell a rasha to add on more wickedness by not performing mitzvos. (ShA 39 – MB 143,146)
  1. If the cohen drank a revi’is of undiluted wine in one shot he may not do N.K. If he is intoxicated to the point that he wouldn’t speak before a king he may not do N.K. (ShA 38 – MB 141)
  1. During availus (12 months for parents – 30 days for other relatives) a cohen is not in the joyous mood that is required for N.K. If he would be called for N.K. he will have to go do it. Therefore, the cohen should exit the shul before R’tzay. (ShA 43 – MB 157, 159 – BeH “yatzay”)
  1. If cohanim/availim are the only cohanim in shul, they should do N.K. (ShA 127)
  1. A cohen who buries a relative on a moed should not do N.K. even though he is not officially an avail. (MB158)
  1. An onen, even on Yom Tov, should not do N.K. (MB 158)
  1. When a relative who is to you possul for testimony passes away, you should conduct yourself with some aspects of availus until the first Shabbos. In such a case, still do N.K. (ShaH 126)
  1. The custom in Eretz Yisroel and in Egypt is to do N.K. every day. (MB 164)
  1. In the rest of the countries the minhag is not to do N.K. except for on Musaf of Yom Tov when there is an elevated level of joy. (Rama 44)
  1. Cohanim have a minhag to toivel in a mikva erev Yom Tov because of N.K. of the morrow. Anyways a man must purify himself for the Reggel. The cohen may do N.K. even if he didn’t toivel. (MB 165)
  1. In order to spread their beracha around, the cohanim have a custom to swing their arms left and right at the following words:
    1. Y’vorech’cha
    2. v’yishm’recha
    3. aylecha
    4. vichoonecka
    5. aylecha
    6. l’cha
    7. shalom (ShA 45 – MB 168)
  1. Whenever the cohanim extend these words they should make sure only to extend the last syllable. This applies likewise to chazzanim; they should not break words in their middle. (MB 169)
  1. Our minhag is for the k’hal to say the Ribon prayer for dreams after the makre calls out the last word of each possuk. Let the cohanim be silent, or better yet chant a tune, until the Ribon prayer is over and then say the last word. The k’hal should hurry so as to minimise the time between the makre’s calling and the cohanim’s response. (BeH “uvshah”)
  1. The makre  should not recite the Ribon prayer except for the one recited after he calls out “shalom”. And if the makre is the chazzan, even that Ribon prayer shouldn’t be said. (MB 173)
  1. If there are no cohanim for N.K. at Musaf we do not recite “V’sayarave…” (MB 173)
  1. It is forbidden to use a cohen’s service even these days unless he will be paid. If he is moichel on his kavod the Rama permits it. The Ta”Z holds that using his service is not merely a lack of kavod  that he can be moichel – it’s a disgrace.You should certainly not use the cohen to do lowly and degrading tasks. (Rama 45 – MB 175)
  1. If you yourself are a cohen or the cohen you are using is an am ha’oretz, you might be allowed to use his services. Still, do not use him to do lowly or degrading tasks. (BeH “ossur”)
  1. If the cohen enjoys serving an odom choshuv it is like receiving payment and is permitted.      (MB 175)