I'm confused as to whether or not birkat kohanim is a true "blessing" in the halachic sense. Part of my confusion arises from how we respond when it is said. In many ashkenazic minyanim outside of Israel, during the week it is recited by the chazzan and the congregation responds "keyn yehi ratzon - so should be his will" after each verse. I have seen some sefardic minyanim where they respond "baruch hu u'varuch shemo" after each mention of God's name as well. However during Yom Tov the Kohanim recite it and the congregation responds Amen to each verse. At still other times, such as blessing the children on Shabbat all three verses are recited with no responses in between, and possibly not even an 'amen' afterwards at all.

So my question is, what exactly do we mean when we say that birkat kohanim is a 'bracha'?

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    Not everyone says kein yehi ratzon after each line. Some customs say it once at the end, the reason being that the Chazzan isn't giving them the priestly blessing then (he's often not even a priest!) but rather we say ky"r to the whole paragraph (ברכנו בברכה המשלשת...) which brings some verses as support.
    – Double AA
    Apr 11, 2013 at 14:03
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    See Mishna Sotah 7:6​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
    – Double AA
    Apr 11, 2013 at 14:04
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    I've known a couple of people who say (on shabbos, here in the US) ken yehi ratzon bizchut ________ avinu [inserting one of the avot for each line of the duchening]
    – rosends
    Apr 11, 2013 at 14:44
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    Even in the US Sephardim say the entire thing every day at Davening. For every blessing they say Barukh Hu U'Varukh Sh'mo, after mention of the Name, and then Amen at the end of the Berakha(in this case each line), as each line is considered a separate Berakha. Apr 11, 2013 at 15:24
  • I don't know what you mean by "a true 'blessing' in the halachic sense". (FWIW, my family's custom as taught me by my father (I'm Ashk'nazi) is that when kohanim bless us I say "baruch hu uvaruch sh'mo" after each name and "amen" after each verse; and when the chazan says it I say "ken y'hi ratzon bizchus... avinu" after each verse.)
    – msh210
    Apr 11, 2013 at 16:00

1 Answer 1


Each of the 3 Pesukim in Birkat Cohanim consists of 2 Brachot. Here is how Rashi describes them:

  1. יברכך. שיתברכו נכסיך
  2. וישמרך. שלא יבואו עליך שודדים ליטול ממונך
  3. יאר ה' פניו אליך. יראה לך פנים שוחקות, פנים צהובות
  4. ויחנך. יתן לך חן
  5. ישא ה' פניו אליך. יכבוש כעסו
  6. וישם לך שלום

The בעל הטורים brings a proof to there being 6 blessing: אמ*ו*ר להם - מלא - כנגד ו' ברכות יברכך,וישמרך, יאר, ויחנך, ישא, וישם שלום. כנגד ו`. תורת י"י עדות י"י ופקודי י"י מצות י"י יראת י"י משפטי י"י

(בעל הטורים - במדבר ו-כ"ג)

They are one of the few examples in the Torah of a Bracha; wishing somebody health, wealth and peace, etc.

Other examples are the blessings that Yitzchak wished upon Yaakov and Eisav, and the blessings Moshe gave the Yidden at the end of his life.

Not to be confused with the "Baruch Ata" type of Bracha which is either thanking or praising Hashem for something.

Other points you raised:

Responding keyn yehi ratzon: That's because the Chazan is not really giving a direct Bracha. He says "Bless us with the threefold Bracha written in the Torah; Yevarechecha, etc.", so we answer "may it be [His] will"; we can't answer Amen since there was no direct "wish".

As opposed to the Cohanim who are actually blessing us, so we answer "Amen".

Responding: baruch hu u'varuch shemo is frowned upon by many Poskim - when the Cohanim are blessing us - since it's a Hefsek. Other Poskim seem to allow it, judging by common practice.

When blessing the children on Shabbat they usually don't answer Amen either out of habit, since they havbe been blessed this way since before they could talk, or else because it's often said quietly. Lately my kids have started saying Amen when they figure out I'm done (by lifting my hands off their head); I have no idea what prompted that behavior.

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    sources would greatly improve this answer
    – user2110
    Apr 17, 2013 at 13:00
  • Each Pasuk consists of 2 brachot? So there are 6 brachot? Do you have a source for this?
    – Double AA
    Apr 17, 2013 at 16:36
  • @DoubleAA: Why can't we rely on counting? יברכך - וישמרך - יאר - ויחונך - ישא - שלום. Check the גר"א and רש"י on those psukim for [2 different] explanations for each of the 6 brachot. Apr 18, 2013 at 6:09
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    @nikmasi - agreed; will have to wait until I get back to my study with a few spare minutes. Apr 18, 2013 at 6:10
  • @DannySchoemann I didn't know we counted brachot by verbs. Do you count the opening bracha as two as well for קדשנו and צונו? What about the common חזק ואמץ? Is that two responses?
    – Double AA
    Apr 18, 2013 at 7:11

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