Ben-Gvir visits Temple Mount during priestly blessing ceremony

Ben-Gvir visits Temple Mount during priestly blessing ceremony

Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Thursday during the priestly blessing to mark the Passover holiday.

The semi-annual ceremony, which also takes place during Sukkot, is known in Hebrew as “Birkat Kohanim.” It is held on the intermediate days of the two Jewish festivals and draws tens of thousands of worshippers to the Western Wall, and increasingly in recent years to the Temple Mount itself.

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef blessed Ben-Gvir’s son at the Western Wall.

This year, a prayer was to be held for the return of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, for the safety of Israel Defense Forces soldiers and security forces and for the peace of the people of Israel.

There was heavy police presence at the entrances to the Old City and Western Wall, due to heightened tensions amid Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

The ceremony was led by the chief rabbis of Israel and the rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy sites.

The blessing is performed by kohanimmale Jews with priestly heritage who have a clear patrilineal tradition leading back to Aaron the high priest, brother of Moses. The priestly blessing is said daily during the year as part of the morning prayer service, and twice during Sabbath and holiday morning prayer services. Before saying the blessing, men from the tribe of Levi wash the hands of the kohanim. The ritual may only be performed by a kohen and only in the presence of a quorum of ten Jews. A kohen who is under the influence of alcohol or in mourning may not perform the blessing. Demographically, kohanim represent about five percent of the Jewish population. The Temple Institute instituted a registry for the priestly class to reinstate the Temple service.

The blessing is performed by the priests holding their hands up with the fingers spread in the manner made famous by Leonard Nimoy (a kohen) when he played Spock on the television series Star Trek. The fingers of both hands are separated so as to make five spaces between them; spaces are between the ring finger and middle finger of each hand, between the index finger and thumb of each hand, and the two thumbs touch each other at the knuckle.

The priests then recite Numbers 6:23-27:

May the LORD bless you and guard you,

May the LORD make His face shed light upon you and be gracious unto you,

May the LORD lift up His face unto you and give you peace.

The bi-annual priestly blessing is an impressive reminder of the glory of the Jewish people coming together as a nation to serve God, something that was entirely lacking until the Jews returned to Jerusalem in 1967.

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