A Priestly Humm

Question: This year, we expect to have two Kohanim with us for Rosh Hashonoh at Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun. During previous Yomim Tovim, I do not recall having a Kohein chant the special "nigun" during birkas Kohanim. Either we didn't have a kohein (e.g. Pesach) or it just wasn't said due to Shabbos. I spoke with one of the kohanim in our kehilla about it, and he said to check with the Rav. So, I would like to find out if there is a problem doing this, or can I advise the Kohanim to prepare to chant the nigun during Birkas Kohanim?


The Ramo refers to a custom in which the Kohanim would tarry singing the last syllable of the berocho.[1] The Biur Halocho presents the prevalent custom in his time, which is still practiced today.[2] The Shaliach tzibbur says the last word of the brocho and the kohanim wait or hum a tune while the tzibbur says the "ribbon", after which the kohanim repeat the last word of the brocho and the tzibbur responds with Amen.

The Biur Halocho explains that the change in custom may be attributed to a concern that the tzibbur pay attention to the brocho of the kohanim. The Chafetz Chayim points out, however, that the revised custom has its own shortcomings. It may be problematic since there is now a hefsek between the shaliach tzibbur and the kohanim's repetition of the berocho. The kohanim are to respond immediately after the shaliach tzibbur.[3] He therefore discourages the tzibbur from a lengthy recital of the ribbono shel olam.

In Chutz La'aretz where nesias kapayim is only said on Yomim Tovim, a "ribbon" is said three times, i.e., after each pasuk.

In Eretz Yisrael, some communities will have the kohanim singing during Yom Tov and the Yomim Noraim before the last word "shalom" so that the tzibbur can say the "ribbon" or "yehi ratzon". This way someone who had a dream that is disturbing to him can say the appropriate tefilla.

The Chazon Ish reportedly recommended that the kohanim do not sing or hum before the last word "shalom" even on Yomim Tovim and Yomim Noraim.[4]

It is a worthwhile endeavor trying to speculate why the Chazon Ish recommended no singing of the kohanim during the Yomim Noraim or Yom Tov and consequently no ribbono shel olam is to be said in Eretz Yisrael as was done in Chutz La'aretz.[5] However, it would not be responsible to base a ruling on such indirect evidence.

The Chazon Ish had many dreams that could be considered disturbing and other people would have felt compelled to do something to ward off an evil omen. He paid no attention to them. In a letter to someone concerned about a dream, he suggests saying the "ribbon" during birkas kohanim.[6]

Perhaps the Chazon Ish decided that since nesias kapayim is done regularly in Eretz Yisrael, if someone had a dream during the year he would have said the ribbono shel olam during the birkas kohanim shortly after the dream. Only in Chutz La'aretz where it is normally not said is it important to allow people time to say the ribbono shel olam since most people probably had some obscure dream since the last Yom Tov.[7]

There is a weakness in this argument.[8] Other possible explanations with even less basis can be presented.[9]

One of the advantages of the new, intimate and growing kehilla we are forming is the capability of those involved to help shape the nature of the shul. I recommend that the vaad, together with the existing Kohanim we have this year, vote on this issue. There are two acceptable possibilities.

  1. The Kohanim sing the well-known, traditional tune after the Chazon said shalom and before they repeat it. This affords the tzibbur some time to say the ribbono shel olam or yehi ratzon.[10] After veyishmerecha and vichuneka, the kohanim repeat those words immediately and the tzibbur responds with Amen.
  2. The Kohanim repeat shalom immediately after the shaliach tzibbur just as is done throughout the year.

May our tefillos be found acceptable to Hashem and included among the many tefillos of kellal yisrael. May we help bring the revelation of Hashem's sovereignty over all of His subjects.

BookID: 1 Chapter: 128, 130

[1] או''ח קכ''ח סמ''ה וע''ע במ''ב ס''ק קע''ב.

[2] סימן קכ''ח סמ''ה ד''ה ובשעה.

[3] סימן קכ''ח סי''ח.

[4] בספר אורחות רבינו בביהכ''נ לדרמן אין מנגנים ביו''ט והוא עפ''י החזו''א ובעל הקה''י.

[5] עמ''ב ק''ל סק''א. ובסק''ה כתב דהגר''א נהג לומר רבש''ע ג''פ ולא היהי רצון הנדפס בסידור.

[6] אגרות חזו''א ח''ב סימן קמ''ט וז''ל הרבה פעמים חלמתי כמו אלה ולא שמתי לב לזה. נכון שתאמר הרבש''ע בשעת נ''כ עכ''ל.

ואע''פ דבסימן קכ''ח סכ''ו איתא דבשעה שמברכין אין לומר שום פסוק אלא ישתקו ויכונו לברכה, והוא מדינא דגמ' (סוטה לט:) מ''מ נראה דרבש''ע לחלום כשחושש מפני הסכנה שרי. דהנה איתא בברכות נה: וכן נפסק באו''ח סימן ק''ל דמאן דחזי חלמא ולא ידע מאי חזא ניקום קמיה כהני בשעה שעולים לדוכן ונימא הכי רבש''ע וכו' עכ''ל. וי''ל דמה שעוסק בתפילתו באמצע הברכות ואינו מאזין אינו מגרע מגוף הברכה, ואפילו את''ל דמי שעוסק בדבר אחר באמצע ב''כ כמו בשמו''ת ואינו מאזין לברכות נגרע עי''ז מברכתו, שאני הכא דאינו מסיח דעת מן הברכה אלא אדרבה מפני חשיבות הברכה מכוון תפלתו על חלומו דוקא בעידן הברכות. אלא דאעפ''כ איכא איסור שלא להאזין לברכות מפני כבוד הברכה, מ''מ י''ל דאיסור זה התירו מפני הסכנה, (וע''ע בברכׂת הורי סימן י''א ס''ק מ''ז).

[7] עביה''ל סימן ק''ל ד''ה מאן דחזא דמי שלא חלם לו בלילה שלפניו לא יאמר. אבל במדינותינו (בחו''ל) שרק נו''כ ברגלים וא''א שלא חלם בין רגל לרגל, נוהגין כל הקהל לאומרו, ע''ש במ''ב סק''א. ולכן הביא בביאור הלכה דביו''ט שני אין לומר הרבש''ע מי שלא חלם לו בלילה שלפניו, דעל חלומות של כל השנה כבר אמר מאתמול עכ''ד.

[8] יש לדחות דאף בחו''ל אפשר לומר הרבש''ע בשים שלום כדאיתא ברמ''א סימן ק''ל ואפ''ה נהגו כולם לאומרו ברגלים.

[9] It is possible that the function of the "ribbono shel olam" is necessary only in certain types of dreams. Therefore, it may not be worthwhile to change from the daily practice of nesias kapayim that is done without any singing of the kohanim just during Yom Tov and Yomim Noraim in order to satisfy those people that would want the opportunity of saying the "ribbono shel olam".

The Shulchan Aruch states clearly that when one is unsure of the meaning of a dream one should stand in front of the kohanim when they perform nesias kapayim and say the "ribbono shel olam". (O.C. 130, see note 6)

The midrash indicates that when a person has a terrible dream he needs only to stand in front of the kohanim and the danger of the dream will be neutralized.

They may disagree or it may be possible to reconcile the two sources. Perhaps when one had a dream that clearly portends danger, the ribbon is not necessary. Only when one is unsure of the meaning of the dream is the "ribbono shel olam" required. Admittedly, this is counterintuitive and raised only speculatively.

עיין במדרש רבה פרשת נשא פי''א פ''ג כולם אחזי חרב מלומדי מלחמה איש חרבו על ירכו שאפילו אדם רואה בחלומו כאילו חרב מתחכות בירכו מה יעשה ישכים לביהכ''נ ויעמד לפני הכהנים וישמע ברכת כהנים ואין דבר רע מזיקו ע''כ. ובכה''ח סימן ק''ל ס''ק י''א הביאו וז''ל אם ראה חלום מסוכן בודאי, הגם דלא שייך לומר הרבון, שכל הלשון מורה שהוא מסופק בחלום מ''מ עמידתו לפני הכהנים בשעת נ''כ מהני לבטל החלום רע עכ''ל.

ומשמע דאין הדבר תלוי באמירה כל שהיא אלא העיקר שיעמדו לפני הכהנים וישמע ברכתם. ולכאורה המדרש חולק על ש''ס דילן המחייב אמירה של הרבון, אמנם מדברי כה''ח משמע דלא פליג, ואפשר דמחלק בין ודאי ראה חלום רע להיכא דאינו יודע מאי חזא, אם חלמא טבא או חלמא בישא, אבל מאי סברא איכא בדבר, וצ''ע.

[10] The Mishna Berura (130:5) indicates that the third tefilla of the tzibbur should be a repetition of the ribbono shel olam and not the yehi ratzon printed in the siddur. Reportedly, this was the practice of Rav Eliyahu Kramer (the Gra). The Chaye Adam (32:31) also indicates that this is preferred, especially if someone had a dream the previous night that was troubling.

Perhaps the preference for the ribbono shel olam is since the gemara mentions a tefilla for dreams and the yehi ratzon has no source in the gemara. Furthermore, the tefilla is kabbalistic in nature, invoking the power of a certain name of Hashem and the poskim discourage this type of tefilla in general. The Mishna Berura (98:1) mentions testimony said about the kabbalist, the Rash of Kinun, who said that after he studied the secrets of kabbala he prayed just as a young child would pray, i.e., focusing on the simple interpretation of the words. The Chafetz Chayim (98:1) quotes the Mogen Avrohom that one should not contemplate certain names of Hashem or yechudim unless he is holy enough to be certain he will not do more damage than good.

A halachic basis for refraining from reciting the yehi ratzon can also be found in the Mishna Berura (65:2). The Mishna Berura suggests that it is worthwhile to say the ribbono shel olam and not the yehi ratzon since the Kohanim are not allowed to be silent more than the time it takes to say the three berachos (excluding the ribbono shel olam or yehi ratzon said by the tzibbur). If the kohanim waited that long it may require the birkas kohanim to be repeated (other conditions also need to be met to invalidate the Birkas Kohanim, see the Biur Halocho for details). The Biur Halocho is unsure whether the amount of time the kohanim sing before the last words of the beracha should be included in the time frame.

עיין ביאור הלכה סימן ס''ה ד''ה קראה סרוגין, בסוף דבריו ובביאור הלכה סימן קכ''ח סמ''ה ד''ה ובשעה.

Since the ribbono shel olam is shorter than the yehi ratzon, it is preferable to say the ribbono shel olam since that way the Kohanim will not wait so long. Even if the Kohanim were to sing, it may be considered a hefsek since they have not actually started saying the word "shalom" (see Biur Halocho 128:45).

Should one feel that he is losing the opportunity to say a beautiful beracha for parnassa, health and other blessings for himself and his family, he can focus on the ribbono shel olam said during pesicha, which has a similar content. When the aron kodesh is opened for hotzoas sefer Torah it is also a propitious time for personal requests. In general, throughout the day and tefillos of Rosh Hashono (unless it is also Shabbos), one can pray for personal tefillos.

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