In the shul next to my house they do not give enough time for me to finish shmone esre by the time the hazan starts. Now there is a hazan who is a chiyuv and he speeds. There are times it gets to the daily birkas kohanim and I am still in the middle of shmone esre. What should I do? Keep davening? Stop and listen? Is that considered a hefsek?
Some write that one must stop and listen to the berachah of the kohanim. This ruling, which is found in a number of contemporary authorities, is partly based on the opinion that the congregation takes part in the mitzvah of the kohanim.
See: Chazon Ish (cited in Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:77); Rav Moshe Feinstein (Orach Chaim Vol. 4, no. 21, sec. 2); Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo 10:3); Shut Shevet HaLevi (Vol. 3, no. 15, sec. 3); Az Nidbaru (11:48, 12:28). This is also the conclusion of contemporary books on tefillah (Ishei Yisrael and Tefillah Kehilchasah).
In fact, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach writes that Birkas Ha-Kohanim is considered superior to Kedusha (for which we stop and listen), because during Kedusha we are talking to and praising Hashem, and in Birkas Kohanim Hashem is “talking” to us.
However, others write that there is no obligation to stop and listen (see Yabia Omer Vol. 7, Orach Chaim 12), but that one can stop and listen if one wishes, and this is also the ruling given by Rav Chaim Kanievsky (She’elas Rav p. 205).
In deference to the poskim above, it is proper to stop and listen. This will certainly be true if one is anyway somewhat distracted by the Kohanim.
Thanks to Rabbi Yehuda Spitz for pointing out some of the above sources.