378. Bless You!: The obligation for the kohanim to bless the people daily

…so shall you bless the children of Israel… (Numbers 6:23)

The kohanim (priests) were commanded to bless the nation every day. They do this with the three blessings that are familiar to us as “Birkas Kohanim,” AKA “The Priestly Blessings” or “duchening.”

The reason underlying this mitzvah is that the kohanim spend their lives ministering to God in the Temple. They thereby develop a special relationship with Him. This makes a blessing from them especially effective. Since God wants us to enjoy good things, He commanded the kohanim to bless the people as a step towards achieving that goal. (He doesn’t just “fork over” all good things automatically because our efforts are an integral part of the process.)

Our practice nowadays is that the kohanim only bless the people on Yom Tov (Festivals), but in Israel, the kohanim continue to do so on a daily basis.

This general obligation for the kohanim to bless the people applies in all times and places. In the Talmud, it is discussed in the tractates of Sotah (38a-b), Taanis (26a-b) and Megillah (24b). It is codified in the Shulchan Aruch in Orach Chaim 128. This mitzvah is #26 of the 248 positive mitzvos in the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos and #58 of the 77 positive mitzvos that can be fulfilled today as listed in the Chofetz Chaim’s Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzar.