Tens of Thousands Attend Priestly Blessing at Western Wall

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Jewish men draped in prayer shawls perform the annual Birkat Hakohan (Priestly Blessing) during Sukkot, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, October 12, 2014.Credit: AFP

About 80,000 people from Israel and the Diaspora attended the traditional Priestly Blessing at the Western Wall on Sunday morning. During the ceremony, hundreds of kohanim – males descended from the line of Aaron the High Priest – lifted their hands under their prayer shawls and blessed the crowd. Chief Rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau were in attendance, as was the government administrator in charge of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich. Also present were Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel and many Jews from the Diaspora who had come to celebrate the Sukkot festival in Jerusalem.

The Priestly Blessing, which was established by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gafner of Jerusalem during the War of Attrition in 1970, is based on a tradition from Rabbi Eleazar ben Judah of Worms (c. 1176–1238), the Talmudist and mystic, that attributes mystical significance to the utterance of the Priestly Blessing by 300 kohanim close to the location where the Temple once stood.

A special prayer was also recited for the welfare of the soldiers and security troops of the Israeli army.

When the blessing was over, Chief Rabbis Yosef and Lau, together with Rabbi Rabinovich, received guests in the sukkah that had been built in the Western Wall plaza.

Decorated sukkot for the general public, a gift from Rabbi Elly and Brochie Kleinman of the United States, have been erected in the Western Wall plaza.

Rabinovich, who oversees the Western Wall and the holy sites, said that the wonderful sight of crowds of Jews filling the Western Wall plaza from one end to the other was reminiscent of ancient times and more a memorial of the Temple than of its destruction. Their presence was impressive and awe-inspiring evidence of the nation of Israel and its link with the remnant of the Temple, as crowds of people came to lean on the sacred stones of the Western Wall. One could not help but be deeply moved by the power of such sights, which show the true power of the nation of Israel.

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