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In most congregations (as far as I know), when the chazzan recites Birkat Kohanim (Priest's blessing) as part of the repetition of Shmoneh Esreh, after each of the 3 blessings, the congregation responds כן יהי רצון . What is the origin of this expression? Since it's a blessing (true, it doesn't have the format of a "standard" blessing (shem umalchut)) shouldn't we say אמן, instead, or perhaps, both?

Also, I noticed that when the Cohanim duchen, the cong. responds just אמן. Why the difference?

I am dealing with Nusach Ashkenaz in a shul outside Israel, as in Israel, they duchen every day.

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    Note that, in some congregations, the response is "amen" to each line when the chazan says it also. – msh210 Aug 13 '15 at 21:54
  • @msh210 See edits. I have heard "amen" in a few, but it seems to be the minority. In either case, I am curious about the origin and reason for this expression. – DanF Aug 13 '15 at 21:56
  • @msh210, have you heard אמן in non-Chabad kehillot outside of duchaning? – Noach MiFrankfurt Aug 13 '15 at 21:58
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    @DanF You haven't expressed that there is differences in custom. It may be worth noting that or at least noting what custom you are working in. – Double AA Aug 13 '15 at 21:59
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    Note the Chazzan's "Kohanim" piece when there is no duchening is not itself a blessing. It is a prayer that God bless us with the blessings that the Kohanim gave, with an accompanying proof-text describing the alluded to blessings. – Double AA Aug 13 '15 at 22:02
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The כף החיים explains this as follows:

Birkat Kohanim when recited by the priests is a blessing of the priests to the the congregation; thus, the appropriate response, as it is with all blessings, is אמן.

However, when recited by the chazzan, there is a difference of opinion on how the Birkat Kohanim should be viewed.

Some still see it as a ברכה, and hence their custom is that the congregation responds with אמן. (This is the chabad custom btw.) Whereas others argue that when recited by a non-kohen, the birkat kohanim cannot be seen as a blessing (this is strictly the domain of priests); rather it is considered to be a prayer, בקשה, of the chazzan on behalf of the congregation, and therefore, they respond with כן יהי רצון as is the customary response to a prayer.

  • Vote pending source, esp. for the claim of כן יהי רצון as is the customary response to a prayer. I'm curious what he means by "prayer" within this context. This is the only place in davening that I hear this response. Every other place is "Amen" (except for responsive readings like Kaddish or Kedusha, but that is not really a "response".) – DanF Aug 14 '15 at 13:07
  • @DanF added source – intuit Aug 14 '15 at 13:26
  • +1 as "promised". Quite interesting. I will prob. have to raise a follow-up M.Y. question on what he says about duchening. He says that since the kohanim made a bracha before duchening, we answer "Amen". I understand that we answered "Amen" after "Be'ahava", the actual bracha. But, the phrases are not in the form of a bracha! – DanF Aug 14 '15 at 15:14
  • @DanF: He says this in the source I quote? I don't see that there. – intuit Aug 14 '15 at 15:21
  • I had to read par. 15 again. I mistranslated the intent of the term "lashon bracha", which I initially translated as the format of a bracha (i.e. having shem umalchut). On second reading, I don't think that's what Kaf Hacha'im meant. Although the term is ambiguous, so, I'm not 100% sure. Your opinion? – DanF Aug 14 '15 at 15:35
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Mishnah Berurah 127:10 explains that it is because the chazzan is not actually blessing the congregation, which only the kohanim do. Instead, he is requesting of G-d that He bestow those blessings on us. As such ken yehi ratzon (may it be His will) is the appropriate response, rather than the typical amen response to a blessing.

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    While this is fine, quoting some earlier sources would add more strength to this post. See the quotes at the end of the Beit Yosef which all (and so rules the the Shulchan Arukh) say not to say Amen, and the gist is more like "say one kein yehi ratzon at the end if you want or you can say nothing too" – Double AA Jun 20 at 13:11

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