From the Desk - Kohanim's Shoes During the Priestly Blessing
Shalom Friends! We were privileged this year to celebrate an outstanding Rosh Hashana at Beth Ora. It was wonderful to be together with so many members and guests for our services which were led so beautifully by Rabbi Heshy Benshimon and his brothers, Levi and Yisroel. We look forward to an equally inspiring Yom Kippur and many more events which are being planned for the coming weeks at Beth Ora. The first of those events is The Sukkot Morning of Craft on Sunday September 23rd, from 10:00 -11:30 AM. Please come along with your children and grandchildren (2-10 year olds) to make posters, lanterns, fruit hanging baskets and paper trains. Older children will have the opportunity to plant their own mini-tree to take home. And let’s not forget about this Shabbat where we read a beautiful (very short) sedra called Vayeilech. You watch a very nice summary and lesson from the sedra from actress Mayim Bialik here.
Below is an outline of some of the laws of Yom Kippur which may be interesting and useful: Erev Yom Kippur Morning One mitzvah which we may find very easy to keep is the mitzvah of eating on the day before Yom Kippur! Eating on erev Yom Kippur is a Torah mitzvah. According to the Sages, whoever eats and drinks on erev Yom Kippur will be rewarded as if he fasted on that day. Seeking Forgiveness It is important that one receive forgiveness for any wrongdoing against other people. Ideally, one should specify what the wrongdoing was. However, if he thinks that doing so would upset the other person, he may ask in a general way. Erev Yom Kippur Afternoon There is a special meal that one eats before Yom Kippur. In addition to the usual Yom Tov candles, the custom is to light extra candles that should burn until the end of Yom Kippur. A bracha (blessing) is not recited over the extra candles. One who has lost a parent lights a memorial light and there is a custom for each married man to light a candle too. If one intends to made havdalla at home after Yom Kippur, one should light a third light for this purpose. When the Yom Tov candles are lit, two brachot are said: ‘asher kid’shanu brmitzvotav vetzivanu lehadlik ner shel Yom Hakippurim’ and the shehecheyanu bracha. These brachot must be said after lighting the candles. Women begin the fast from the time that they light the candles. The custom is to bless one’s children before one goes to shul. One should only recite the bracha on the tallit on Kol Nidrei night if one manages to put it on before sunset (6:59) Fasting on Yom Kippur There are five prohibitions on Yom Kippur (in addition to the forms of work): eating and drinking; bathing; applying oils; wearing shoes; marital relations. Healthy children from the age of nine should be trained to fast part of the day by giving them meals at a later time than usual. Below this age, children should eat as usual. Since children are exempt from fasting, there is no restriction to the quantity of food that they may eat. One may give them Yom Tov meals and treats in honour of the day. Viduy The viduy (confession) is a major part of the Yom Kippur service. Although all general sins are included in the standard viduy, it is correct to make special mention of personal wrongdoings that one has done. In this way, the confession will be more meaningful and heartfelt. The addition can be inserted at any convenient point. Yom Kippur Prayers It is permitted to add private requests at the end of the amidah. If a man took off his tallit during the day and then put it back on, he should only say a new bracha if he had taken his mind off the tallit and had not worn it for about two hours. After Yom Kippur If one makes havdalla, remember that a bracha may only be recited on motzai Yom Kippur on a flame that has been burning throughout Yom Kippur. If one is unable to obtain such a flame, the bracha should not be recited. Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom and a meaningful fast, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What's the Deal with... Kohanim Taking Off Their Shoes for the Priestly Blessing (and what's the deal with their socks)? I recently heard a story of a young man who traced his lineage back to his Kohanic roots after remembering that his great grandmother used to buy his great grandfather a new pair of socks before each festival. It turned out that he was a Kohen and she didn't want him to be embarrassed by wearing old socks! In any case, Steve Tabac asked what the deal is with the Kohanim and their shoes and socks. During Temple times, when the Kohanim would perform their priestly duties, they always did so barefooted. It could be that our contemporary conduct is in memory of that practice. In actual fact though, there are two other reasons given in the Talmud. One answer is that the shoes are removed out of respect for the congregation. The great Talmudic commentator Rashi explains that it is not respectful for dirty shoes to be worn by the Kohanim when blessing the congregation. Accordingly, the shoes should be placed out of sight so that the congregation won't be offended by seeing them. A second reason given is the concern that one of the Kohanim may step down to tie his shoelaces and, as a result, miss the Priestly Blessing. This might lead people to speculate as to whether he really is a Kohen. For this reason, even indoor shoes such as fabric slippers are forbidden if they have laces. This shows the extent to which our Sages were concerned about being sensitive to people's feelings. What about the socks? If the socks are normally worn outside (without shoes) and get dirty then they shouldn't be worn by the Kohanim. This is, of course, virtually never the case in our culture. In general, it is proper to wear socks for the Priestly Blessing.