1 – Is halakha or custom/tradition, of covering yourself with the tallit at Bircat Kohanim?
2 – The left-right movements of covering up with the Tallit, is related to Tefilah’s “Osse Shalom” of Shemoneh Esrei?
- It is the wide spread custom, that no one looks at the hands of the kohanim while they are saying Birkas Kohanim. Therefore the kohanim cover their hands, so that neither the congregation nor themselves should look at their hands. There are two reasons for this. The first one is because we should be concentrating on the actual bracha that they are saying, and by looking at their fingers it diverts our concentration away from the bracha. Secondly, because when the kohanim gave their bracha in the Beis Hamikdash, the kohanim said the bracha with the “shem hamiforash” (Y-H-V…) and the shechina rested on their hands, therefore it was forbidden to look at them. Nowadays, although we don’t do it this way, we still keep the custom not to look, and cover their hands. Some congregations even have the custom that the congregation themselves covers their eyes during the bracha, for the above reasons.
- The reason why the kohanim move their hand from side to side is not related to “osse shalom”. When saying “osse shalom”, we are bowing as a servant departing from his master. During birkas kohanim, the reason he kohanim move their hands is in order to include all those in the shul in their bracha.
The reason they do it specifically then is because bikas kohanim is really 6 different brachaos. When they say yivorechicha, it is a bracha for wisdom, (torah learning), v’yismirecha- children, (which are a protection for the person). Yo’er is – for life, v’chunecha- is to find favor. Yisa is for wealth, and shalom is for peace.
May Hashem bless us all
- Orach Chaim 128-23, M:B 89,90, 92.
- Orach Chaim 128-45, M:B 128-170.