We are instructed to cover our thumbs during shmoneh esrei (Mishnah Berurah 95:6 quoting Ramak), havdalah (Mishna Brura 298:10) and in the beit hamikdash as these would select the kohen to do the avodah. What is the significance of covering the thumb and are there other times where one must do so?

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    Can you explain what you mean by "Cover our Thumbs?" How are the thumbs covered? -- pretend that you are explaining this practice to someone who has never heard of it. – yydl May 2 '12 at 21:23
  • If I'm not mistaken (and I might be), the thumb represents gevurah. That might be why. – Hod - Monica's Army May 3 '12 at 0:10
  • @HodofHod can you supply a source regarding gevurah? Also, I'll just throw this out there, Menachos 41a indicates that the thumb is the basic unit of measurement. – alef lamed May 3 '12 at 17:29
  • Source for "cover our thumbs...in the beit hamikdash" - and yes, I know Yoma, Mishna 2:1 that says וְאֵין מוֹצִיאִין אֲגֻדָּל בַּמִּקְדָּשׁ – Danny Schoemann Oct 11 '15 at 7:17

In the selection of kohanim in the mikdash they used a lottery. The "no thumbs" rule seems to serve the practical purpose of not allowing confusion or deception when fingers of many people are held out to be chosen. If a kohen were to put out a thumb it could be placed far enough away from his other finger (assuming many people's hands were tightly packed) to make it look like it belonged to another person, effectively giving him two entries in the lottery and upping his chances unfairly over his coworkers'.

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    What about shmonah esrei and havdoloh? – Hahu Gavra May 3 '12 at 1:05

Concerning covering the thumbs by havdala, the Magen Avraham 298:5 brings down the practice, sourcing the Zohar Vaykhel 208:1, and Pri Eitz Chaim shar shabbas chapter 24 Shar Hakavaanos regarding the procedure of what to do with ones hand during the bracha on fire at havdala.

  • Not sure that this is an answer. It doesn't even contain the word 'thumb'. – Double AA May 3 '12 at 5:19
  • I understand your point but the magen avrham brings down the source which I did, more I cant do since they are kabbalistic ideas which I am not fluent in. – sam May 3 '12 at 5:22
  • I tried to clarify it somewhat. And don't feel left out; I am not a kabbalist either. – Double AA May 3 '12 at 5:31
  • @DoubleAA Where is Mekubal??? – ertert3terte May 3 '12 at 5:35
  • @ShmuelBrin Seems he's gone the way of Yahu judaism.stackexchange.com/users/184/… – Double AA May 3 '12 at 5:55

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