What is the significance of the shapes (windows?) created by the kohen during birkas cohanim? This question and the ensuant answers detail at least 3 opinions of the gesture, I would really appreciate an answer that explains the difference between the three (as far as the significance of the shapes created by each).

  • I was surprised to recently learn that the gesture was (at least according to some Rabbinic sources) intended to form the letters of the Name. Looking forward to seeing the answers. Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 17:44
  • @ABlueThread from my understanding the two hands are supposed to form the letter shin (each) and the overall gesture is supposed to recreate the name shin-daled and yud.
    – user2110
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 17:54
  • The letters of the Name are written on the wrist of the last image of the hands. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priestly_blessing I have not been able to independently verify this, but a book I recently read quotes a Rabbinical source as saying "the priest would form the letters of the Tetragammaton with his hands." Citing Bahya ben asher, Biur Al Ha-Torah, volume 3, page 94. Priests are required to place the Name on the Children of Israel. The hand gesture seems to be how they did it after the Rabbinic ban on speaking the name was enacted. Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 18:13
  • @user2110 See my answer
    – hazoriz
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 2:22

2 Answers 2


The reason for the 'windows' is spelled out in Midrash Tanchuma, Naso 8:

וכן הוא אומר, הנה זה עומד אחר כתלנו משגיח מן החלונות מציץ מן החרכים (שה"ש ב ט), מה בין אצבעות של כהנים. מציץ מן החרכים, בשעה שפושטין כפיהם. לכך נאמר, כה תברכו את בני ישראל:

החרכים is read as 5 apertures (ה' חרכים), thus the custom of most Kohanim to place the 2 hands together, with the thumbs touching, and the two left and right fingers of each hand paired together, with the hands otherwise stretched out.

Some Sefardim follow the Zohar: The 10 fingers correspond to the 10 distinct Sefiros. Thus, no fingers should be touching.

Some, wishing to follow both of the above customs, combine the 2. Thus, fingers 1-2 and 3-4 (that most keep together) are kept very slightly apart, with a larger gap in between 3 and 4 on each hand.

(Source: Bircas Kohanim by Rabbi Ave Gold, Artscroll 1981)


This video starting 1:30 https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VVjP9mzOEE4

Explains that this gesture is to have Hashem's name

The shin in the "window" with the thumbs.
The daled (with the numerical value of 4) with the 4 groups of 2 fingers each separated by 3 Windows.
The yid (with the numerical value of 10) with the 10 fingers in total

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