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I am getting a bit tired of having to listen to another "jumbled" Birkat Kohanim this Yom Tov. It seems to be the same in almost every shul. There are always a group of Kohanim that sing a different tune than the others.

I understand that the Levi'im in the Bet Hamikdash had a choir master, so I assume that they must have rehearsed before they sang. Is there any supporting halacha or minhag that would require or recommend that Kohanim rehearse or at least agree to a uniform tune for duchenin before performing it?

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A friends of mine who is a Kohen told me that he once ended up in Washington Heights for Yom Tov and showed up at Breuer's (German minhag) on Yom Tov morning. The Gabbai asked him if he was a Kohen, and after answering affirmatively, the Gabbai sighed, and called over another Kohen to give him a quick lesson in how the tune goes. Apparently, in addition to having very unique tunes for each Yom Tov, the German shuls normally have all Kohanim who will duchen practice the tunes beforehand to make it go smoothly. So it's not such a far-fetched suggestion.

  • Bravo! Considering that I lived in Wash. Heights when I was a lad, I prob. should have gone to Breuer's on Yom Tov more often. – DanF Jan 8 '18 at 18:46
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Rabbi Israel Isserlein ruled (Terumat HaDeshen 26) that the Kohanim may only use one tune for the entire duration of the blessings lest they come to make a mistake in saying the words properly. This ruling is codified in Shulchan Aruch (OC 128:21). Presumably, agreeing beforehand on a tune to use would be a wise idea.

  • I haven't checked the SA (or its nos'e kelim) but the THD seems to be talking only about switching tunes in the middle, and only because then the kohen who does so will confuse himself. I see no reason to think that he would (necessarily) hold that a kohen who uses the same tune all the way through, but a different tune from the other kohanim's, will likewise likely be confused, to the extent that he'd say it shouldn't be done. – msh210 Apr 13 '14 at 6:13

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