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Shabbat Parashat Vayeilech | 5769
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Question: If it will be difficult to get to Birkat Kohanim (duchening) of Neilah on time, is it better to rush the davening or should we just not do it under these circumstances?
Answer: The practice of doing Birkat Kohanim (=BK) at Neilah is found in a mishna (Ta’anit 26a) and accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 623:5). The Rama (ad loc.), though, says that the minhag is not to do so. The Bach (OC 623) and Mishna Berura (623:8) say that this is because BK ends up being at night too often. The Gra (ad loc.; see Sha’ar Hatziyun 14) explains that since the mishna says to do BK also at Shacharit, just as our minhag is not to do it then, we do not do it at Neilah either. Ashkenazim outside
Is there a clear need, in light of the minhag in
Yet, the cutoff point is not as simple as many assume, because is not clear cut, in general and in this regard, that the day finishes at what we call sunset. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (623:8) says that daytime in this regard is until halachic night, tzeit hakochavim, which is at the very least thirteen and a half minutes after sunset. In general when the Shulchan Aruch talks about sheki’a he refers not to the “disappearance” of the sun under the horizon but around an hour later. It is difficult to rely on this latter opinion since most of us regularly do work on Motzaei Shabbat and eat at the end of Yom Kippur before this. However, during the time of bein hashemashot, which we usually assume starts at sunset and extends for approximately 20 minutes, there is more room for leniency. Yechaveh Da’at (ibid.) says that while BK should be skipped at Neilah rather than said after nightfall, it should be done during bein hashemashot if the congregation did not succeed to get it in by sunset. This is because of a sefeik sefeika (double doubt). Maybe BK can be done at night. Even if it cannot be done at night, bein hashemashot is viewed only as a safek of night. This is all the more logical considering that the source of not doing BK is probably only rabbinic.
While in theory, a congregation (in Israel) should consider steps, such as rushing and skipping piyutim, the psychological effect and the impact on the quality of tefilla may preclude going too far. If, then, the congregation gets up to BK modestly after sunset and has to choose between passing up BK or doing it at that time, we would suggest doing it – unless the matter would cause a fight.
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Hemdat Yamim of this week
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfel
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.