Special Passover Birkat Kohanim attended by thousands at the Kotel in Jerusalem old City
More than 80,000 people packed the Kotel (Western Wall) plaza in the Old City of Jerusalem Thursday for the bi-annual Birkat Kohanim, Priestly Blessing, ceremony.
Hundreds of Kohanim, members of the priestly class and descendants of the Biblical Aaron, stood adjacent to the Wall and recited the three-verse blessing (Numbers 6:24-26), “May the Lord bless you and protect you; May the Lord shine His countenance upon you and be graciousness to you; May the Lord shine His Countenance on you and grant you peace.”
The ceremony, attended today by chief rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel Rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch and others, included two recitations of the blessing and concluded with prayers for the State of Israel and the safety of the IDF and security forces.
“Everybody felt a terrific sense of unity today,” said Rabinovich. “Jews from around Israel and around the world participated… the pilgrimage [to Jerusalem] is an impressive testimony to the Jewish people’s connection to the ruins of our destroyed Temple. When so many people come to lay their hands on the stones at this place. The inspiring sight of thousands of Jews filling every inch of the plaza reminds one of ancient times, when thousands of pilgrims would come to see and be seen, and of course it is more reminiscent of the Temple than of the destruction.”
The modern ceremony was instituted in 1971 by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gafner, for the fourth Passover following the Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem. Gafner cited a rabbinic legend that a ceremony including more than 300 priests blessing the nation adjacent to the site of the Temple held unique spiritual powers. Thursday’s services were led by Rabinovitch and by Gafner’s son, Rabbi Mordechai Gafner.