I recently prayed mincha on a fast day where no talis was present. The kohen present did not bless us, since he could not cover his hands with a talis. (No one called him to do so, so he wasn't in violation of refusing to bless when called to do so, which I understand is the main problem with not blessing. Still, had there been a talis, he would have blessed.) What should he have done?

  • Not blessed us.
  • Blessed us without covering his hands.
  • Covered his hands with something else and blessed us.
  • Something else. (What?)
  • Even if he isn't called to, if he hasn't already made the blessing and knows he won't later that day, isn't it still a bitul aseh?
    – Loewian
    Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 15:38

4 Answers 4


See SA OC128, 23 in annotation of the Rama.

הגה: וגם הכהנים לא יסתכלו בידיהם על כן נהגו לשלשל הטלית על פניהם וידיהם חוץ לטלית. ויש מקומות שנהגו שידיהם בפנים מן הטלית שלא יסתכלו העם בהם (בית יוסף):‏

The function of the Talit is not to cover the hands according to the first minhag, because the hands are out of the Talit.

At first glance, it seems that Talit is not really required.

We see that it is no (if at all) absolute requirement to cover their hands.

See Magen Avraham sk 35

דמשמע דלשון להסתכל משמע דוקא להסתכל הרבה אסור אבל ראיה בעלמא לא מיתסר' ...to see without focusing (or observing) is not prohibited.


What should he have done? Blessed us without covering his hand?

--> Yes

  • This means a talis is only ideal and not m'akev. But maybe in absence of one, he should cover his hands with something else?
    – msh210
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 17:50
  • @msh210 right, good sommer, I have no knowledge about this
    – kouty
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 18:23

Chashukei Chemed - Megila - page 314 says that it is better for the Kohain not to Duchan rather than covering himself with another object.

Yalkut Yosef 5764 edition - Tefila Volume 2 - 128:100 also says that a Kohain should not Duchan if he has no Talis.

אם אין לכהן טלית, וגם אין טלית בבית הכנסת, אין לכהן לישא כפיו בלא טלית

  • 1
    Fascinating. This seems to contradict the interpretation of the SA brought by @kouty which makes clear that the tallis is not necessary to cover the hands... So either they disagree or there's another reason why a tallis is required for the cohen to duchan. Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 19:34
  • 2
    @IsaacKotlicky There isn't really a contradiction: the argument of the first source is that doing something unusual will be distracting to people and will prevent them from concentrating properly afterwards, so it makes no difference whether a talis is otherwise halachically necessary - it's the deviation from whatever is normally done that's the problem.
    – Jay
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 21:20

http://etzion.org.il/en/birkat-kohanim-priestly-blessing-part-iv According to this article on the Yeshivat Har Etzion Virtual Beit Midrash there are achronim who hold that If one does not have a tallit he should not go up to duchan because that would be too distracting to the tzibbur. However the Piskei Teshuvot 128:53 says that if the only tallit one has is passul, then one should put on the tallit only out of respect for Birkat Kohanim and not as a garment thereby exempting the garment from the mitzvah of tzizit.


The sefer נשיאת כפים כהלכתא writes in perek 10 (12) that if one cannot obtain a tallis one should not duchan since the custom today is that ll the kohanim cover themselves with a tallis and one is not allowed to deviate from the custom and therefore the kohain should leave the synagogue (temporarily) before “retzei”.

He gives an argument to support his words above and says that this is the pesak of Teshuvos veHanhogos part 2, 107, from Rav M Sternbuch and Shaalos & Teshuvos “Shevet Hekehosi” 1 (79).

  • +1. What argument?
    – msh210
    Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 16:41
  • He quotes the argument of Rav Sternbuch. Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 16:44
  • What if he is the only kohein at a temporary minyan ie there is no fixed custom nor divergent practice? Moreover what if there is only exactly a minyan present so he can't leave? This "psak" leaves much to be desired
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 17:09

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