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    A strange reluctance – Naso

    duchaningIn a number of British orthodox synagogues there was for many years no duchaning – public recital of the priestly blessing – by the kohanim on festivals. In most cases this “anti-custom” was only abandoned after a long period of protest by kohanim and members of the congregation.

    At the Hampstead Synagogue in London (as I point out in my 75th anniversary history of the congregation) it took a ruling by Chief Rabbi Israel Brodie to ensure that any kohen who wished to duchan had to be allowed to do so. The “anti” argument was that the kohanim were not so froom – many were not Shom’rei Shabbat – and it would be hypocritical of them to purport to bless the congregation.

    It was a strange argument since none of the kohanim concerned showed any reluctance to be called to the Torah as kohanim. It was illogical too since the Torah explicitly says in this week’s parashah that though the kohanim pronounce the words, it is God who blesses the congregation –and if He considers them fit to say the words who are they to complain?

    The fact is that when the community relies on a person to assume a duty they can be as humble as they like, but if they proffer strange excuses for opting out it brings them, the community and the Almighty no credit.

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