Often on the grave stones of kohanim there is an engraving of two hands with fingers spread as kohanim do during birchas kohanim. (For an example drawn randomly from Google Images see here.) What does it mean if the thumbs of those hands are engraved broken?

(This appears on a gravestone in the United States of which I will post a picture if I can get one.)

  • 2
    Is the 'handicap' tag really appropriate here? (Unless the broken thumbs mean that the person was disabled, which I highly doubt.)
    – Dave
    Aug 16, 2011 at 0:32
  • @Dave - I echo your sentiment. Perhaps msh210 knows something neither of us does.
    – WAF
    Aug 16, 2011 at 1:34
  • 1
    I was tagged it handicap-disabled-impair because the depicted thumbs are broken (handicapped, disabled, impaired). (I wouldn't do the same for a question about a broken-down car, but these thumbs are at least depictions of human body parts, so....) But it was a stretch, and I regret it.
    – msh210
    Aug 16, 2011 at 17:05
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    WAF, if you could get a pic of an example, it would make it a great deal easier for people to answer with more certainty.
    – Isaac Moses
    Aug 19, 2011 at 17:26

2 Answers 2


In the Artscroll book, "Bircas Kohanim" by Avie Gold & Nosson Scherman (p 41) one of the various positions for the kohen's hands illustrated has the thumbs touching not at their tips but at the joint (knuckle). The tips of the thumbs are separated to give a space in between them. Could this have given the impression of the thumbs being broken?


Perhaps it was vandalized, perhaps the engraver did not do a good job, or maybe the Kohain was married to someone he was not supposed to marry and still wanted the Kohain hands and they intentionally made it with broken fingers to indicate that.

  • 2
    Have you ever heard of the latter possibility happening?
    – WAF
    Aug 16, 2011 at 15:56
  • 1
    All I said was perhaps or maybe, nothing definative. Aug 16, 2011 at 16:25

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