Sunday, March 04, 2007


The Mishna had stated: A Kohen who has blemishes on his hands may not recite the priestly blessing. Rabbi Yehudah says: Even a Kohen, whose hands were dyed, may not recite the priestly blessing because the people stare at him.

Rashi explains: At the time when the Kohanim recited the priestly blessing, the Divine Presence rests on their outstretched hands.

Tosfos (Chagigah 16a) asks: That only happened in the times that the Beis Hamikdosh was in existence and the Kohanim used the Ineffable Name of Hashem, and therefore nowadays, there should be no prohibition against gazing at the Kohanim’s hands.

Tosfos learns that it is nevertheless forbidden to look at the Kohanim in order not to be distracted from what they are saying.

Turei Even writes that Rashi only wrote that explanation in the Mishna which ruled regarding blemishes on their hands and not on their faces or feet. This is because the Mishna is referring to the times when the Beis Hamikdosh was standing and the reason one cannot gaze is because of the Divine Presence that is resting upon their outstretched hands.

The commentators ask: Why weren’t we concerned for lack of concentration in the times of the Beis Hamikdosh?

Dvar Avraham answers based on a Hafla’ah in Kesuvos (24b) that just like a Kohen has an obligation to recite the Priestly blessing one time per day, so too the Israelites have an obligation to be blessed by the Kohanim only once per day. If the congregation heard the priestly blessing and are now listening again, there would be no concern for lack of concentration (since they fulfilled their mitzva already), but they still would not be able to gaze at the Kohanim’s hands because of the Divine Presence that is resting on their hands.