Question: May a kohen perform Birkas Kohanim by standing in the place where his father normally stands during Birkas Kohanim?

 Short Answer: A kohen should not perform Birkas Kohanim by standing in his father’s set place. However, the kohen may stand next to his father, but his father should ideally stand in the middle of the platform with the son at his side.


I. Forbidden Standing

The Gemara in Kiddushin (31b) lists ways that a child should “fear” a parent, including by “not standing or sitting in the parent’s place.” Rashi expounds that a child should not stand in the same place that his father regularly confers with other elders in the community.

The Tur (Yoreh Dei’ah 240:2) and the Beis Yosef (ibid) list numerous explanations. First, simply standing in the place of your father is forbidden, as the son makes it appear as if he is equal to his father, i.e., he is equally worthy of conferring with this important group of people. Second, only sitting in your father’s designated spot is problematic; but sitting in your father’s spot is forbidden even in your father’s house.

The Shulchan Aruch (ibid) rules like the first explanation – that even standing in your father’s place is inappropriate. The Shulchan Aruch adds that this prohibition even applies to standing for davening in your father’s set davening place.

The Bach extends the ruling of Rashi to prohibit any standing or sitting in any designated place of your father, regardless of whether it is for davening, Torah, or any other purpose. Indeed, the Bach adds that any public place, such as a shul, is worse than in a private place, such as a private home.

II. Standing for Birkas Kohanim

The Mishnas Yosef (5:27:3), based on the above-cited Bach, rules that if the father has a set place where he stands for Birkas Kohanim, the son is forbidden to stand in that place (even if the father is not in shul at that time). The Mishnas Yosef explains that this ruling is logical, as there is no difference between standing to confer with others in the community and standing to perform Birkas Kohanim – both are disrespectful for the father, as the son equates himself to the father by standing in the father’s set place.

III. Another Stringency

There is another stringency mentioned by the Beis Yosef (ibid., Bedek HaBayis) in the name of the Orchos Chayim. The Orchos Chayim cites Rashi in Shmuel Alef (20:25) who explains that Yonasan stood up – and did not recline – at the meal of his father King Shaul until Avner came and sat in between Yonasan and Shaul. Rashi elaborates that it is disrespectful for a son to sit next to his father and recline together with his father at a meal unless there is another individual reclining in between them.

Accordingly, the Mishnas Yosef suggests that perhaps a son should not stand directly next to his father when performing Birkas Kohanim.

  1. Room To Be Lenient

Yet, the Mishnas Yosef rules that there is room to be lenient in this situation. Because the platform where the kohanim stand is often narrow, there really is no option for the son and father to perform Birkas Kohanim without standing next to each other. Thus, unless the son has the option to stand on a lower step than his father, the father and son may stand together on the same step.

Alternatively, the Mishnas Yosef rules that if the father and son must stand next to each other, the father should stand in the middle of the platform, with his son (or sons) by his side. It is more respectful for the father to stand in the middle based on the Gemara (Yoma 43b) that the kohen gadol on Yom Kippur ascends and descends the Mizbei’ach in the middle.

The Mishnas Yosef thus concludes that the son may be lenient in this halachah and stand near his father.

 Next Week’s Topic: Should the kohanim answer “Baruch hu u’varuch sh’mo” at the end of the brachah of l’cha na’eh l’hodos immediately before Birkas Kohanim?

Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq. is Associate Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and a practicing litigation attorney. Questions? Comments? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..