Mishneh Torah Hilchot Tefilla 15:10 (:9 according to some):

נְשִׂיאַת כַּפַּיִם בַּעֲשָׂרָה, וְכוֹהֲנִים מִן הַמִּנְיָן. בֵּית הַכְּנֶסֶת שֶׁכֻּלּוֹ כּוֹהֲנִים, כֻּלָּן נוֹשְׂאִין אֶת כַּפֵּיהֶן; וּלְמִי הֶן מְבָרְכִין, לַאֲחֵיהֶם שֶׁבַּצָּפוֹן וְלַאֲחֵיהֶם שֶׁבַּדָּרוֹם; וּמִי עוֹנֶה אַחֲרֵיהֶם אָמֵן, הַנָּשִׁים וְהַטָּף. וְאִם נִשְׁאָר שָׁם עֲשָׂרָה כּוֹהֲנִים יָתֵר עַל אֵלּוּ שֶׁעָלוּ לַדּוּכָן--הָעֲשָׂרָה עוֹנִין אָמֵן, וְהַשְּׁאָר מְבָרְכִין.

I'm having trouble understanding what this means. I'm confused about what he means in the last line, especially.

If there are ten kohanim left in the congregation besides for those who go up to the duchan, those 10 answer amen, and the rest bless. (My understanding)

Why does there need to be 10? Who are the ten? Why wouldn't they go up?


2 Answers 2


See Keseph Mishnah's explanation, there. Excerpt:

דה"ה אם יש שם יותר מעשרה כהנים עשרה מהם אינן עולין לדוכן והשאר עולין ואלו העשרה עונין אחריהם אמן ואף ע"ג דברכת כהנים בעשרה וכהנים מן המנין שאני התם דישראל הם העונים אמן אבל הכא דכולם הם כהנים ואין ביניהם ישראל לא חשיבי לברכת כהנים לענות אמן אא"כ העונים הם עשרה. ומה שהחליף רבינו וכתב שבצפון ושבדרום ומי עונה אחריהם הנשים והטף. ירושלמי פ' אין עומדין

My loose translation & summary:

If there are more than 10 Kohanim, 10 of them will NOT duchen, so that they answer "Amen", an dthe remainder wil duchen. Even though it originally stated that Kohanim may be included in the count of 10, this assumes that there are Yisrae'lim (non Kohanim) answering "Amen". But, in this case if there are only Kohanim and there is no Yisra'el among them, they are not considered among those answering "Amen" to the duchenin unless there are 10 of them (the Kohanim) available to answer.


From Chabad's commentary on the Rambam, it seems that if there are more than 10 kohanim in a place with only kohanim, Rambam prefers to have a minyan of 10 answering amen than to have all the kohanim duchan. It would seem, though, that if you cannot have a minyan of 10 answering amen, then Rambam would instruct every kohen to duchan.

If more than ten priests remain besides those who ascend to the duchan, these ten [priests] respond "Amen" - i.e., if there are twelve priests, two recite the blessings and ten respond "Amen," so that there will be a minyan responding "Amen."

and the remainder of the priests recite the blessings. - The Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:33 states that in such an instance, the chazan should not call out "Kohanim," since, according to many opinions, if the priests are not called to recite the blessings, they are not obligated to do so. Thus, the priests who did not recite the blessings will not be considered negligent in their fulfillment of the mitzvah.

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