How should Kohanim hold their hands during Birchas Kohanim?


There are many customs with regards to the particular way a Kohen should spread his fingers during N’sias Kapayim, but first, it is important to outline what is Halachically required1:

The Hands are spread only after the Brocho – L’voreich Es Amoi Yisroel B’ahava2 which is said only after turning around to the Tzibur3.

The Hands must be raised to at least Shoulder Height4. If difficult to hold the hands up continuously, they may be lowered only in between the words5. According to many, it’s appropriate to raise the hands slightly higher, up to eye level. This is indeed the common practice. Some also note that the Kohen should attempt to raise not just his hands, but also his arms should be fully raised and extended forward (elbows straightened)6.

The hands/Fingers should be flexed open completely7 with the palms of the hand facing (mostly) downwards8.

When aligning the hands, the right hand should be slightly higher than the left hand9.


Position of the Fingers

The Halachic outline: There is no specification made in this regard until the later Rishonim and thus there isn’t any particular position that is Halachically necessary10.

Nonetheless, the Kohanim customarily separate their fingertips as alluded to in the interpretation by the Midrash of the verse, “peering through the windows” — that the Divine Presence rests above their heads and gazes through the spaces between their fingers.

The fingers are positioned in a manner which leaves five “windows”. This is done by separating each hand into three “sections”—leaving spaces on each hand between the thumb and index finger, and between the middle and ring finger. The fifth space is completed by the way the two thumbs are configured together.

In general, there are two ways to making the fifth space 1) by holding the thumbs apart from each other leaving a gap, 2) by holding the thumbs together but in a “window-like configuration”.  the Alter Rebbe brings both Minhogim11.

Each of the common Minhogim is valid and contains unique meaning12 and should be adhered to if you have a clear family tradition one way or another. (Nonetheless, there are benefits in learning what is the most commonly accepted Minhag in Chabad, as recommended in the letter of the Rebbe in Igros Kodesh referenced above. The Rebbe recommends checking to see if R’ Chaim Noeh wrote anything. See below) 

After extensive attempts to find out the particular traditions in the families of generational Kohanim in Anash, it seems fair to conclude that even among longstanding Anash families there are several traditions.

Note: it’s worth pointing out a practical and probable reason for why there isn’t a more uniform Minhag in this regard: According to our Minhag the Kohanim cover their hands with the Tallis, thus nobody other than the kohen’s own (very) young children would ever be seeing how he holds his hands. Additionally, the Zohar warns against looking at the hands of the Kohanim during the Brocho.

It has been written in some places that the common minhag in Chabad is to hold the thumbs apart as per the first opinion in the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, this is also the only way written by R’ Chaim Noeh13.

However our research has indicated that while some Anash families (1) have this tradition, the majority of families do connect the two thumbs in one form or another (as per the second opinion).

The most common form we’ve found among Anash (2) is to connect the two thumbs at their knuckles, thus leaving a fifth window between the tips of their thumbs, as the tips of the thumbs are bent away from each other (see attached image).

The second most common (3) is having the very tips of the thumbs connected to each other, followed by having the thumbs apart (as above), followed further by other less common forms of connecting the thumbs.

In conclusion: if a Kohen doesn’t have a clear tradition in this regard he can choose either custom.



(1) כך שמענו בשם הרה”ח ר’ שלמה הכהן זרחי שיחי’. ואולי באה”ק ובירושלים נתקבלה דרך זו יותר מפה בארה”ב. והלא דבר הוא שבקצוה”ש מביא רק מנהג זו על אף שבשוע”ר מביא ב’ מנהגים. ובאג”ק הנ”ל כתב שכדאי לראות אם רא”ח נאה העיר משהו בזה לגבי מנהג אנ”ש בפועל.

(2) כן נהגו במשפחת כאהן ממאסקווא ע”פ מה ששמענו מהרה”ח ר’ ברוך שלום שיחי’ מניו הייבן ובהחלטיות כתב לנו “שכן הוא המנהג חב”ד בזה”. וכמו״כ נמסר לנו ממשפחת הרה”ח ר’ זעליג הכהן כצמן והרה”ח ר’ יוסף הכהן בורנשטיין ע”ה. וכ”ה ע”פ סידור היעב”ץ. וכתבו המלקטים שדרך זו נפוצה.

(3) כן נהגו במשפחת הרה”ח מנחם מאיר הכהן בלוי ע”ה, ובמשפחת הרה”ח ר’ יצחק מאיר הכהן סוסובר ע”ה. ובצורה זו הביא בדפוס שוע”ר באנגלית, ונכתב שם שכן נהגו כמה מאנ”ש.




  1. See Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch.
  2. Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch 128:17.
  3. Siddur, Sha’ar Hakollel 10:3.
  4. Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch 128:20,23.
  5. Mishna Berura 128:52.
  6. See sources quoted in Piskei Tshuvos notes 174-175.
  7. Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch 128:15,25.
  8. Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch 128:20.
  9. Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch 128:20.
  10. See Igros Kodesh Vol 1 pg. 26.
  11. Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch 128:20.
  12. See Nesias Kapayim KeHilchasah, pp. 274-279.
  13. K’tzos Hashulchan 23:9.