How are Kohanim supposed to position their hands and in what shape during Birkhat Kohanim? Answer with most opinions backed by sources wins.

  • The Beit Yosef OC 128:12 records some who'd shape their fingers into the word שדי somehow.
    – Double AA
    Nov 29, 2016 at 3:17

3 Answers 3


The Ben Ish Hai Year 1 Parashat Tetzaveh brings a Machloket as to whether the correct method is as Maran describes in the Shulhan Arukh or whether it is according to the AriZal(Sha'ar HaKavvanot 40A Pri Eitz Haim sha'ar 10 chapter 4) that states that the hands are supposed to be at the sides of the head. The Ben Ish Hai concludes that the hands should be held in accordance with the Ari with palms facing in toward the head.

Rav Ovadia Yosef Shlit"a rules in Halicot Olam volume 1 page 207 rules(unusually) against the Shulhan Arukh in favor of Ben Ish Hai, with the exception that palms should face forward.

Rav Avner Apjin in his sefer Divrei Shalom O.C. 182 rules like Rav Yosef, while also bringing several other minor variations from the words of the RaShaSh, the Torat Hakham and several others.

  • mekubal, don't they also say that all the fingers should be spread from each other, not like the Ashkenazic practice?
    – Yahu
    Dec 16, 2010 at 3:46
  • There are some mekubalim that hold that way based on the Zohar, but the Ari, and thus the RaShaSh and those following do not. Haim Vital writes quite explicitly in several places that there are deep Kabbalistic reasons for holding the fingers in the pattern mentioned by the Mechaber in the Sh"A. Hence the argument over the direction of the palms, as he says that the shefa is mashpia only from the palms. Dec 16, 2010 at 6:12
  • 1
    this is interesting and reminds me of the practice of raising one's hands toward the head after washing n'tilas yadayim. When doing so, some are also noheg to say the pasuk 's'eu y'daychem kodesh, u'barchu es Hashem'(tehillim 134:2) which I believe the mishna berura associates with the Kohanim's blessing (128:6)
    – none
    Feb 15, 2012 at 15:01

Arms at shoulder height

Palms toward the ground

Right hand a drop above the left

5 windows are created: splitting the hand between 2 fingers and 2 fingers makes a window on each hand; splitting between the forefinger and the thumb makes another window on each hand. You now have 4 windows with each hand looking like Mr. Spock's. The 5th window is created through touching thumbs, with the right thumb on top of the left thumb.

Shulchan Aruch O.C. 128:12 Reasons are brought in the Mishna Berurah there.

  • R'YDK, what do you mean by "Arms at shoulder length"?
    – msh210
    Dec 15, 2010 at 4:04
  • That is one shita, but it ignores several others. Many of which have been codified as halakha. Dec 15, 2010 at 5:29
  • I'm not a kohen and merely brought the shulchan aruch since it was a lonely question with no answers. @msh the mechaber says k'neged kisposeihem. I'm not sure whether that is a minimum because vayisa Aharon implies so, or if that is practically so that your palms will be in the proper position (or another reason).
    – YDK
    Dec 15, 2010 at 6:22
  • Mekubal, you are correct that there are those who would use various forms of Hashems name. The Aruch haShulchan says (we) refrain from doing so and just do like the Shulchan Aruch since these formations are difficult and not everyone knows how. I'm sure you will find some who may have these formations as family/rebbe minhag or just like to find obscure minhagim and do them. Since the question allowed for any sources and customs, why don't you give an answer?
    – YDK
    Dec 15, 2010 at 6:32
  • 2
    Oh, then I guess you mean "Arms at shoulder height"....
    – msh210
    Dec 15, 2010 at 20:27

The Gra holds that you spread out all the fingers and don't do the "windows" thing (Maaseh Rav 167).

  • Wow, I'd never heard that before! I wish there were some discussion or explanation provided there. Do you know of any explanation provided elsewhere?
    – Seth J
    Feb 28, 2012 at 17:13
  • @SethJ See the Magen Avraham on the Shulchan Aruch quoted in YDK's answer.
    – Double AA
    Feb 28, 2012 at 17:20

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