'Birkat Hakohanim' extravaganza

The chief rabbis of Israel, several ministers and the mayor of Jerusalem, joined throngs of people at the Western Wall last week in to hear 'birkat hakohanim.'

Birkat Hakohanim at Kotel Succot 58 (photo credit: Courtesy Western Wall Heritage Fund)
Birkat Hakohanim at Kotel Succot 58
(photo credit: Courtesy Western Wall Heritage Fund)
This past Sunday, more than 70,000 people gathered at the Western Wall so they could hear and take part in the priestly blessing, known in Hebrew as birkat hakohanim.
In attendance at the event were the chief rabbis of Israel, the mayor of Jerusalem and of course hundreds of priests.
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For the past 40 years, during the intermediary days of Succot and Pessah, it has been tradition for hundreds of priests from around the world to stand before the Kotel and recite the ancient blessing to the Jewish nation.
“Holding their lulavs [palm fronds] and etrogs [citrons] in hand, the priests are shrouded in prayer shawls,” said Jerusalem Post reporter Deborah Danan. “It is said that during the times of the Temple, any Israelite who would look upon the face of a priest while he was giving the blessing would damage his eyes due to the awesomeness of God’s power.”
One such priest was Roy Barns, who came from England to join his fellow priests in giving the benediction.
“It makes me feel very humble because I am amongst many other kohanim [priests] and, irrespective of whether one is religious or not, it really doesn’t matter because we have a decree from Hashem [God],” said Barnes. “If you are a kohen, it is a great commandment to bless. The blessing comes from Hashem, through the kohanim.”
The next gathering of the priests at the Kotel will be on Passover during the spring of 2012.