From growing up in Israel, I’m used to there being birkat haKohanim (the priests’ blessing to the congregation) during the prayers at synagogue. I was disappointed to find that outside of Israel it seems that it’s not customary to have it.
But this past Shabbat I actually made it to shul (synagogue) in the morning. I went to the Sephardi synagogue in Vancouver, Beit HaMidrash. And they did birkat haKohanim! I was very happy to see that Sephardi Jews do it, even outside of Israel.
It is customary not to look at the Kohanim while they’re giving the blessing. Of course I always took that seriously. It feels like a kabbalistic idea and I wouldn’t want to mess with that.
But now that I’m no longer as fearful of being smitten by lightening, yesterday I looked at them. They drape their tallitot over their heads so you cannot see their faces. Their hands are in front of them, holding the tallit up sort of creating a tent. They take off their shoes for the blessing and they chant it together.
So there I was, looking at the Kohanim’s feet (it’s sort of all you can see) and I started noticing their socks. They all had grey or black socks but one guy was wearing Champion socks. You know, like the sporty white socks. And then I noticed (I know, I’m slow) that he was wearing jeans.
I don’t know why, but that touched me. I loved that we had a guy in jeans up there blessing us. I loved that he knows that his family on his father’s side descends from Aharon, Moshe’s brother, and the first Kohen in history.
It touched me. I still don’t know exactly why.