Hebrew | Francais


> > Archive

Shabbat Parashat Vayeira 5780

Ask the Rabbi: Kohen Serving as Chazan in Israel

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: I am a kohen who comes from America, where a kohen does not duchen (do Birkat Kohanim) if he is chazan. At the yeshiva I am at, even the chazan duchens. What should I do if I am asked to be chazan?


Answer: A mishna (Berachot 34a) states that a kohen serving as chazan should not duchen even if he is the only available kohen unless he is confident that he will be able to return to his place in chazarat hashatz without undue confusion. The Tur (Orach Chayim 128) cites the Maharam MiRuttenburg as saying that the ability to not get confused does not erase the problem totally but only allows duchening when the chazan is the only available kohen. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 128:20) and the Rama (ad loc.) follow this ruling. The logic is that the slight endangering of the quality of the public tefilla is warranted only if it is needed to ensure Birkat Kohanim will take place at all.  

Some later poskim present ways of coming to a different policy. The Pri Chadash (ad loc.) reads the mishna differently. In practice, whether or not there are other kohanim makes no difference. The mishna starts by saying that even if there is no other kohen, a chazan who might have a concentration problem may not duchen. Once it introduces that this problem depends on the person, there is no reason for any capable kohen to forgo his mitzva of Birkat Kohanim.

The Magen Avraham (ad loc. 31) tries to explain a minhag he was aware of for a chazan to duchen even if there are others based on a societal change since the time of the gemara that many note. Nowadays, the chazan uses a siddur, in which case we can assume that he will be able to continue chazarat hashatz properly. While according to the Tur and Shulchan Aruch, this broad confidence in today’s chazanim is only enough to justify duchening when he is the only kohen, one can argue that it removes any effect of the problem and allows duchening in all cases. The Magen Avraham disagrees with this approach, because the poskim during hundreds of years of siddurim use did not write that the halacha had changed. However, he reasons that it is legitimate to follow it if this is the local minhag. The Mishna Berura (128:76 and Sha’ar Hatziyun 64) takes a similar approach to that of the Magen Avraham. This is also the practice of most Sephardi communities (see Ohr L’tzion II, 8:5; Yalkut Yosef, OC 128:62). However, the majority of Ashkenazim in Israel (especially, in Yerushalayim) follow the Pri Chadash and allow the chazan to duchen even if there are others who are doing so (see Dirshu 128:(84)). (Az Nidberu XIII:34 advocates a compromise. A kohen who is serving as chazan when there is only one other kohen should also do Birkat Kohanim, because many hold that Birkat Kohanim is a mitzva from the Torah only when there are two kohanim. However, he was unable to find a previous posek to explicitly make such a distinction.)

There are times when one whose minhag is to not duchen should do so. The Rama (ibid.) says that if someone calls him to duchen, which turns him into one who is obligated from the Torah to duchen, the obligation overpowers concerns of confusion. Poskim explain (see Yalkut Yosef ibid.) that generally when the kohanim are called, they do not intend for the chazan. One can argue that in shuls with the minhag that the chazan does duchen, the kohen chazan will thus be bound based on the Rama. However, in our shuls, the kohen is called too late, as a kohen who has not begun to approach the duchan before Modim may not do Birkat Kohanim (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 8). Nevertheless, just the fact that you are in a shul which has the minhag for the chazan to duchen is enough to follow the minhag. This is ostensibly so even for someone who has not joined the community in a manner that he should personally adopt all of their minhagim. Still, it would be best for someone like you to avoid being chazan at tefillot that have Birkat Kohanim, which is anyway a practice that many suggest for any kohen (see Birchot Horai 10:7).
Top of page
Print this page
Send to friend


We daven for a complete and speedy refuah for:


Nir Rephael ben Rachel Bracha
Efrat bat Sara

Refael Yitchak ben Chana

Netanel Ilan ben Sheina Tzipora

Netanel ben Sarah Zehava

Yehuda ben Chaya Esther

Meira bat Esther

Yair Menachem ben Yehudit Chana

Rivka Reena bat Gruna Natna

David Chaim ben Rassa

Lillian bat Fortune

Yafa bat Rachel Yente

Eliezer Yosef ben Chana Liba

Ro'i Moshe Elchanan ben Gina Devra


Together with all cholei Yisrael


Hemdat Yamim is dedicated

to the memory of:

those who fell in wars

for our homeland


Eretz Hemdah's beloved friends

and Members of

Eretz Hemdah's Amutah


Rav Shlomo Merzel z”l
Iyar    10


Rav Reuven Aberman z"l

Tishrei 9  5776


Mr. Shmuel Shemesh  z"l
Sivan 17 5774


R' Eliyahu Carmel z"l

Rav Carmel's father

Iyar 8  5776


Mrs. Sara Wengrowsky

bat R’ Moshe Zev a”h.

Tamuz 10    5774


Rav Asher Wasserteil z"l

Kislev 9 5769


RMeir ben

Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld z"l


RYaakov ben Abraham & Aisha


Chana bat Yaish & Simcha

Sebbag, z"l


Rav Yisrael Rozen z"l
Cheshvan 13, 5778


Rav Benzion Grossman z"l
Tamuz 23 5777


Rav Moshe Zvi (Milton)

Polin z"l

Tammuz 19 5778,


R' Abraham Klein z"l

Iyar 18


George Weinstein,

Gershon ben Yehudah Mayer,

a lover of the

Jewish Nation Torah and Land


R’ Eliezer ben R’ Yitzchak Steinberg z”l


Hemdat Yamim
is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker
of Chicago, Illinois
in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker
Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l

site by entry.
Eretz Hemdah - Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies, Jerusalem All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy. | Terms of Use.