For the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of worshippers participated in the traditional Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Monday morning.
Last year, the Birkat Kohenim was given virtually but this time people were allowed to come to the Western Wall itself.
“We have been privileged now to be blessed with many people in attendance, as it says ‘The King's glory is in a multitude of people,’” said a press release from the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
Israel’s chief rabbis attended the event as well as the Minister of Religious Affairs, Rabbi Yaakov Avitan, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon and Deputy Interior Minister MK Yoav Ben Zur.
“Birkat Kohanim written in the Torah contains a promise to protect from harm and for peace on Israel,” said Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites.
“In these difficult times, we need this blessing more than ever – a prayer for peace in the Jewish nation and for health for everyone in the world,” said Rabinowitz.
In the Book of Numbers, God commands Moses and Aaron to bless the Children of Israel:
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
This Aaronic Benediction or blessing is a daily part of Jewish prayers. Normally, the priestly blessing takes place two times a year at Passover and Sukkoth at the Western Wall so people can come and be blessed.
At the end of the service, Rabinowitz also prayed a special thanksgiving prayer for diminishing the coronavirus pandemic in Israel and prayed for the pandemic to end in the entire world.
This year, marks 50 years since the reinstitution of the Birkat Kohanim event.
In order to prevent overcrowding at the Western Wall and give another opportunity for more people to be blessed, rabbis will hold a second Birkat Kohanim event again on Tuesday that will be broadcast live on the Kotel (Western Wall) website and on YouTube.