By the Emet Report
Tens of thousands of people turned out this week for the Priestly Blessing (Birkat Hakohanim) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
The blessing, described in the sixth book of Numbers, is a regular part of morning prayers in Israel.
Archaeological evidence suggests the ancient blessing was widely used for at least the past 2,500 years.
The idea of taking the blessing and making it a modern-day mass event in historic Jerusalem began with Jerusalem resident, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gafner.
In 1970, during the War of Attrition between Israel and Egypt, Rabbi Gafner was contemplating the troubles facing Israel, when he recalled a Talmudic verse stating that every day has been cursed since the Temple was destroyed. Suddenly, Rabbi Gafner remembered the second part of the verse, which states that Israel continues to exist in the merit of the Priestly blessing.
Rabbi Gafner also remembered an event described in the second book of Chronicles, when King Hezekiah gathered the nation to celebrate Passover and the priests blessed the Jewish people. The book notes that the priests’ blessing rose “even unto heaven.” He then found evidence that a mass ceremony including the Priestly blessing had been conducted approximately 700 years ago.
He began to discuss the idea of holding a mass blessing at the Western Wall and the plan was greeted with enthusiasm by rabbis and chassidic leaders. That year, in the Hebrew month of Kislev, several hundred Kohanim gathered and blessed several thousand people.
Those who attended the event were so inspired that they pushed to hold a similar mass blessing again. After each mass blessing event, the public pushed for more, until it was decided in 1978 that the blessings would be held twice a year, during the festivals of Passover and Sukkot.
Rabbi Gafner witnessed 51 of the Priestly blessing ceremonies before passing away in 1984. In his will, he wrote, “The Priestly blessing shall continue, with G-d’s help, until the coming of our righteous redeemer.”nnot be done – but we know that anything is possible with God.