Tens of thousands of Jews from Israel and around the world gathered at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem Wednesday morning for the traditional mass Priestly Blessing (Birkat Kohanim) during the Sukkot festival.
Roughly 40,000 people are estimated to have joined the morning mass prayer service at the Western Wall, which included appearances by the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Rabbi David Lau and Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, along with Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall Plaza.
Rabbi Rabinovitch hailed the mass-prayer event as a “tangible” testament to the connection between the Jewish people and the site of the ancient Temples.
“The coming together of tens of thousands of people to be blessed by thousands of Kohanim at the Western Wall Plaza every year is a tangible testament to the connection between the Jewish people and the Torah, our faith, and the remnants of the Temple.”
The traditional Priestly Blessing ceremony includes hundreds of priests, descendants of the Kohanim, or priests, from the tribe of Levi. The priests cover themselves in prayer shawls as they bless the Jewish people in the holiest place for the Jewish people, and thousands are expected to attend.
The commandment to bless the Jewish people and the words of the blessing are found in the Bible (Numbers 6: 22-27).
The blessing, is recited by kohanim every day in Israeli synagogues, while in the Diaspora it is said only on festivals. On Sukkot and Passover, when there are intermediate days that allow for driving and microphones, the tradition of having a mass blessing with a large number of kohanim at the Kotel (Western Wall) was instituted.
The words of the biblical blessing read: “May the Lord bless you and keep you, May He shine His face upon you and grant you grace, May He turn His face to you and grant you peace”.