Question: 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?
Short Answer: Because the kohanim are in the midst of reciting a Y’hi Ratzon, they should not answer “Baruch hu u’varuch sh’mo” at the end of the brachah of L’cha na’eh l’hodos.
I. Saying Y’hi Ratzon
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:9) writes that the kohanim should recite the following Y’hi Ratzon prayer when they ascend to the platform to perform Birkas Kohanim: “Y’hi Ratzon...she’t’hei brachah zo she’tzivisanu l’vareich es amcha Yisrael brachah shleimah v’lo y’hei bah michshol v’avon mei’atah v’ad olam.” This Y’hi Ratzon asks Hashem that the Birkas Kohanim that is about to be recited should be without error and sin.
The Shulchan Aruch continues that the kohanim should stretch out their recitation of this Y’hi Ratzon until the chazan finishes the brachah of L’cha na’eh l’hodos. The Mishnah B’rurah (31) explains that the kohanim stretch out the Y’hi Ratzon to allow the congregation to answer one Amein on both the chazan’s brachah of L’cha na’eh l’hodos and on their Y’hi Ratzon. Indeed, even the kohanim may (and should) answer Amein on the brachah of the chazan.
However, it is unclear from the Shulchan Aruch and/or the Mishnah B’rurah whether the kohanim should answer “Baruch hu u’varuch sh’mo” (“BHUS”) on the brachah of L’cha na’eh l’hodos. Does reciting BHUS in the middle of their Y’hi Ratzon mess up the Y’hi Ratzon?
II. BHUS Generally
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 124:5) writes that one should say BHUS when hearing any brachah. The Mishnas Yosef (5:27:5), however, cites the Kaf HaChayim (124:28) who clarifies that BHUS is not as crucial as reciting Amein. Thus, if the chazan is davening quickly and, by your reciting BHUS you will not hear the remainder of the brachah, it is preferable not to recite BHUS. Indeed, because of this concern, it is recorded that the Vilna Gaon (Sh’moneh Esrei 3) generally did not recite BHUS, as it is more important that the listener hear the entire brachah than to say BHUS.
Moreover, the Mishnah B’rurah (124:22) provides additional reasons why, in general, BHUS should not be recited. First, because BHUS breaks up the chazan’s brachah (i.e., he needs to pause after reciting Hashem’s name in order for the congregation to recite BHUS), the congregation will not remember to which brachah they are reciting Amein when they eventually recite Amein at the conclusion of the brachah. Second, reciting BHUS could lead to a delayed recitation of Amein and will thus cause an improper Amein.
The Mishnah B’rurah (124:21) also writes that one should not recite BHUS if he hears a brachah while in the middle of P’sukei D’Zimrah or Birchos K’rias Sh’ma. It is better not to “talk” in the middle of those t’filos than to recite BHUS.
III. BHUS by Birkas Kohanim
But what about the kohanim before Birkas Kohanim? Should they recite BHUS before L’cha na’eh l’hodos?
Based on the above, the Mishnas Yosef suggests that the kohanim should not recite BHUS before L’cha na’eh l’hodos. Since BHUS is not a necessity, and many poskim hold that it should not be recited by any brachah, it is preferable that the kohanim not “talk” (i.e., recite BHUS) in the midst of saying Y’hi Ratzon.
Nevertheless, the Mishnas Yosef posits that the kohanim should recite Amein at the end of the brachah of L’cha na’eh l’hodos. Even if there is only one kohen, he should say Amein, as we are not concerned that his saying Amein will confuse his subsequent Birkas Kohanim.
Next Week’s Topic: If there is no adult Levi to wash the kohen’s hands for Birkas Kohanim, is it preferable that the kohen’s hands be washed by a Levi child or an adult b’chor (firstborn) Yisrael?