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The minhag I've seen is that a levi washes the hands of the kohen before he recites the birchas kohanim.

I have often seen numerous Levittes teaming up to wash a kohen together - each of them grasps the cup at a different point, and together they wash.

Is there any reason for a levi to do so if another levi is already washing? (Please provide sources)

  • It makes them feel good – Double AA May 28 at 12:16
  • From what I've seen, this is generally 1->1. One Levi washes one Cohen. Obviously, if there are more Cohanim than Levi'im, there will be one Levi who will wash more than 1 Cohen. However, I don't quite see the need for every Levi to wash a Cohen's hands if there are more Levi'im than Cohanim. Perhaps, as long as the Levi'im are there, hey each want to feel part of a mitzvah. therefore, more than one will do it simultaneously? – DanF May 28 at 18:19
  • See Piskei Teshuvot 128:22 who quotes a Machaloket Acharonim regarding the validity of the Minhag. Rav Elyashiv, for example, was opposed. – MDjava May 28 at 21:35
  • I once asked my Rav if it was better for me to go wash the Kohanim’s hands, or since we have at least two Leviim for every Kohen, maybe I should stay and listen to Chazaras Hashatz. He answered that it’s a Kavod for the Levi as well to wash the Kohen’s hands, and that’s reason enough for me to go out. – DonielF May 28 at 23:24
  • @DonielF getting a Kavod is a reason to skip prayers? I don't follow. (Even granting that it's a Kavod to wash his hands) – Double AA May 29 at 2:35
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According to this answer, the reason to have a Levi washing the Kohen's hand is because there is some sort of tosefes Kedusha when washed by a Levi. As long as the person washing is a Levi, there would be no need for other Leviim to bother joining in.

(This is to disprove any claim that there is a minhag or obligation for the Levitte to wash the Kohen's hand, which could therefore obligate the Levitte to participate in any way possible.)

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Mishna Ketubot 2:10

אלו נאמנין להעיד בגודלן, מה שראו בקוטנן: נאמן אדם לומר, זה כתב ידו של אבא, וזה כתב ידו של רבי, וזה כתב ידו של אחי.... ושהיה איש פלוני יוצא מבית הספר לטבול לתרומתו...‏

These are trusted to testify as an adult what they saw as a child: a person is trusted to say this is my father's handwriting, and this is my teacher's handwriting, and this is my brother's handwriting... that so-and-so would leave school to dip [in a Mikvah] to eat Terumah...

It's important to have Levi children going out to wash the Kohanim's hands so that they remember that they are Leviyim. This could be one reason to have multiple people washing the hands of an individual Kohein: a Minyan with many more Levi children than Kohanim (or one where Levi children below bar mitzvah are only allowed to wash assisted by an adult/parent).

Everyone else should stay inside and participate in the prayer service since they aren't needed elsewhere and God isn't taking a break from listening to our prayers (Teshuvot veHanhagot 3:48, who calls the practice of multiple Leviyim washing together "unclear", though he recommends even adult Leviyim occasionally make a point of being the one to leave and go wash so as to retain their public presumption of being a Levi).

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    R Shternbuch isn't sure if a Levi should ever miss an Amen to go out and wash even if he's the only one, and is sure a Bechor shouldn't leave. Shevet HaLevi 8:47:2 explicitly allows a Levi to miss Amens if he is needed. – Double AA May 29 at 1:31
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In this day and age a person may have the tradition passed down to him that he is a Levi but we cannot be 100% certain if it is fact.

There are indeed halachic rulings that acknowledge the difficulty in proving whether someone is a Levi: ma'aser rishon (the first tithe) should be given to a Levi - but since nobody can prove beyond doubt that they are a Levi and the obligation to give it to a Levi is unenforceable, the owner himself may keep it.

If multiple people that have a tradition in their family that they are a Levi wash the hands of the Kohen together, then perhaps there is more certainty (or a better chance) that the Kohen's hands were indeed washed by a Levi.

  • We don't need to be 100% sure. We even kill people based on Chazaka. But fun svara for here all the same. I'd +1 but if we're going to be making up explanations for people who just like going outside and feeling special, I prefer mine since it results in an actual good for the world, as opposed to casting aspersions on Mesorah. – Double AA May 28 at 20:45
  • I agree you do not need to be 100% sure. That doesn't stop people from developing minhags that go beyond what is required and developing other interesting practices. I have no sources or other material to cite to suggest this is a widespread practice or rationale for this but it's something (as a Levi myself -- or family tradition passed down that we are Levi) that I've contemplated. – Mordechai ben Yosef May 28 at 20:48
  • @DoubleAA I like your explanation nonetheless and +1 it. Why not! – Mordechai ben Yosef May 28 at 20:55
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  • Thank you @DoubleAA! – Mordechai ben Yosef May 29 at 16:50

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