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    The priestly blessing – Emor

    The sidra has a great deal to say about the task of the kohanim.

    These days almost the only kohanic role we see is the priestly blessing, which is carried out on festivals in the Diaspora and daily in Israel. The difference between the two arenas is explained by Rabbi Moses Isserles in his notes to the Code of Jewish law.

    He tells us that the blessing must be pronounced with a feeling of joy, which is not easily attained outside Israel. Diaspora Jews are subject to strains which affect their mood. They need the extra feeling of the festivals to summon up the appropriate emotions.

    The kohanim utter their benediction with their faces hidden from the congregation. This indicates that it is not the kohen who is invoking the blessing but God; we are wrong to think otherwise.

    This also has a message for the kohen. He shouldn’t try to escape pronouncing the blessing on the basis that he is not sufficiently pious. The words are not his: they come from God. A kohen may be guilty of transgression, but God is not.

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