Nisan 17, 5770, 01 April 2010
by Hillel Fendel
Tens of thousands of people – Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger among them – came to the Western Wall on Thursday morning to receive the traditional holiday Priestly Blessing from hundreds of Kohanim.
The blessing is a regular part of morning prayers in most of Israel, as opposed to in the Diaspora, where it is recited only on holidays. After having their hands rinsed by Levites, Kohanim (descendants of Aharon the Priest) make their way to the front of the synagogue during the repetition of the Amidah prayer, place their tallit (prayer shawl) over their heads and outstretched hands, separate their fingers in the prescribed manner, turn towards the congregation, and recite the 15-word blessing (Numbers 6:24-26) word by word.
It is the position of some Rabbinic scholars that just as the Kohanim fulfill a Biblical command in reciting the blessing, those who are blessed similarly fulfill this commandment.
It has become a twice-yearly festive ritual to gather at the Western Wall on the second of the Intermediate Days of both Passover and Sukkot for the occasion. The Priestly Blessing for the Shacharit service was held at 9:30 a.m., and for Mussaf at 10:15 a.m.
The police closed off several roads near the Old City of Jerusalem this morning, causing heavy traffic tie-ups in the vicinity. Shuttle service was provided to the Western Wall.
Rabbis Metzger and Amar, together with Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, greeted worshipers and visitors to the Wall after the prayers at a special tent set up nearby for the occasion.
Hundreds Visit Joseph's Tomb
Some 700 people gathered for a midnight visit and prayers at Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem (Nablus). The IDF helped secure and arrange the visit. A yeshiva, Od Yosef Chai (Joseph Still Lives), was situated at the site for more than 20 years, and it was protected as a Jewish site under the Oslo Accords. However, following battles with Palestinian terrorists in 2000, the IDF retreated from the holy site, and the Muslims vandalized and burned it.
Jewish presence at Joseph’s Tomb over the past decade has been restricted to nearly clandestine visits, both official and unofficial, several times a year.