A Kohen blesses in jeans

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.


2 thoughts on “A Kohen blesses in jeans

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  1. OK I know this is a bit off the topic of blessings, but I just had to comment that I love how we Jews still have the concept of a priestly tribe even though it has been some 2000 years since any have been kohanim in the traditional sense.

    I recall once on a Jewish trip to Monsey, a close nit orthodox community outside of New York city, we visited a volunteer firehouse run by Jewish members of the community. One of the paramedics was talking about his work functions and somehow the topic of death came up and in response to a question he commented how if G-d forbid one of his patients dies, he has to leave the room and have another paramedic take over because he is a Kohen. Some in our group were not at all familiar with the concept so started asking questions. He explained how Kohanim are expected to follow certain purity laws because otherwise they would not be able to serve in the Beit Hamikdash (temple). But hold on a second! We don’t even have a temple anymore. We haven’t had one for 2000 years and according certain branches of Judaism it is merely part of our past tradition. What’s with the silly laws? I firmly believe it is a dangerous path to try and rationalize G-d’s commandments and I hate it when people start doing that, but I really liked the Orthodox paramedic’s point of view even though he did not express it in quite so many words: It is not much as I am following some seemingly silly law for tradition’s sake. What if the Beit Hamikdash was rebuilt today? G-d has commanded the kohanim to perform certain functions in the Beit Hamikdash to serve him and if I become ritually impure I cannot do that and that would be a great tragedy. I find that kind of faith and love for G-d beautiful.

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