Each year during the holidays of Passover and Sukkot, a moving and impressive Birkat Kohanim takes place in the presence of hundreds of kohanim and thousands of Jews from both Israel and around the world.
The Priestly Blessing or priestly benediction, also known in rabbinic literature as raising of the hands (Hebrew nesiat kapayim) or rising to the platform (Hebrew aliyah ledukhan) or dukhanen (Yiddish from the Hebrew word dukhan – platform – because the blessing is given from a raised rostrum) or duchanning, is a Hebrew prayer recited by Kohanim (the Hebrew Priests, descendants of Aaron). The text of the blessing is found in Numbers 6:23–27.
According to the Torah, Aaron blessed the people, and YHWH promises that “I will place my name on their hands” (the Kohanim’s hands) “and bless them” (the Jews receiving the blessing). The Jewish Sages stressed that although the priests are the ones carrying out the blessing, it is not them or the ceremonial practice of raising their hands that results in the blessing, but rather it is God’s desire that His blessing should be symbolised by the Kohanim’s hands.
Even after the destruction of the second Hebrew Temple in Jerusalem, the practice has been continued in Jewish synagogues, and today in most Jewish communities, Kohanim bless the worshippers in the synagogue during special Jewish prayer services.