Aaronic blessing

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Blessing hands of a Kohen, depicted on the tombstone of Chief Rabbi and Kohen Meschullam Kohn (1739–1819)

The Aaronic Blessing ( Hebrew בִּרְכַּת כֹּהֲנִים birkat kohanim , Num 6.24–26  EU ) is a blessing of the Torah . In Orthodox Jewish worship today it is recited by Kohanim in a form that is reminiscent of the worship in the Jerusalem temple . As the closing blessing of the mass, the Aaronic blessing was introduced by Martin Luther . This blessing is a hallmark of Protestant church services, but also a connecting element with church services of liberal Jewish communities.

According to Num 6:24  EU , God revealed the text to Moses . Aaron , the elder brother of Moses, and his sons, the ancestors of all Israelite priests and high priests , are to be given blessings for the whole people of Israel . According to the context, it was closely related to the sacrificial cult at the Jerusalem Temple , but it may also have been known beforehand independently of it.


Hebrew Bible (translation: Buber / Rosenzweig, The Scriptures ) Septuagint Luther Bible (2017)
יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ jewarechecha Adonai vejischmerecha Bless you and keep you, Εὐλογήσαι σε κύριος καὶ φυλάξαι σε,

Eulogḗsai se kýrios kaì phyláxai se,

The lord bless you and take care of you;
יָאֵר יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ ja'er Adonai panaw elecha wichuneka HE light up his face to you and be favorable to you, ἐπιφάναι κύριος τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ σὲ καὶ ἐλεήσαι σε,

epiphánai kýrios tò prósopon autoũ epì sè kaì eleḗsai se,

The LORD make his face shine on you, and be gracious to you;
יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם jissa adonai panaw elecha wejasem lecha shalom He lift his face to you and make you peace. ἐπάραι κύριος τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ σὲ καὶ δῴη σοι εἰρήνην.

epárai kýrios tò prósōpon autoũ epì se kaì dṓē soi eirḗnēn.

The Lord lift up his face upon you, and give you peace.

Linguistically formulated as jussive , this speech act is to be defined as a "request". “This precisely limits human competence to dispense divine blessings. Priests and pastors serve as mediators. Your behavior cannot perform the healing act itself, but rather forms ... the basis for divine action. "( Manfred Josuttis )

In a frequently used variation, the last line reads "The Lord lift his face upon you ..."


Jerusalem temple

Blessing amulet 2 from Ketef Hinnom: “… [Evil] se. May Yhwh bless you, he will protect you. Let J [h] wh shine his face [above] you, and he will set you peace… ”( Israel Museum )

An archaeological find from the greater Jerusalem area made it possible to gain insight into the prehistory of the Aaronic Blessing:

In 1979, Gabriel Barkay's team found two amulets made of rolled silver sheet in a chamber of burial cave 24 of Ketef Hinnom near Jerusalem, which contained the text of the Aaronic blessing. The grave cave was built from the Iron Age II (C) to the 1st century BC. Used; Most of the more than 1000 finds were made between the 7th and 5th centuries BC. BC, which makes a dating of the silver scrolls to the Hellenistic or Hasmonean times unlikely. Whether the two silver scrolls belong to the time shortly before the Babylonian exile (late 7th / early 6th century) or to the early post-exile period (5th century) is unclear, but also irrelevant for their interpretation. The spacious grave complex and the rich finds indicate that the 95 individuals buried here belonged to a noble Jerusalem family. The cylindrical silver scrolls served as apotropaic amulets: a hole was drilled in the middle so that a thread could be pulled through and the objects could be worn around the neck as pendants. "They were obviously supposed to avert evil and bring about blessings by means of the carved words, ... were therefore used magically." Secondly, both amulets were used as grave goods, as is illustrated by the discovery of one of the silver cylinders in situ under a funeral parlor. This action shows that YHWH (unlike in earlier stages of the Israelite religion) was believed not only as Lord of life but also of death.

The masoretic text of the blessing is extended compared to the older text of the silver amulets by Ketef Hinnom in v. 25b.26a: YHWH “be gracious to you” and “lift his face above you”. Both extensions, which the later canonized Bible text contains beyond the wording of the amulets of Ketef Hinnom, emphasize God's merciful, direct devotion. Thus this blessing takes the form of a three step in the Hebrew Bible: Protection - Grace - Peace. Through the context of Num 6: 22-27, it is clear that YHWH gave the wording of the blessing to the priests of Aaron's descendants, and that YHWH himself is the giver of the blessing.

Sir 50,20  LUT describes how the high priest Simon II blesses the people in the temple with the name of God. Jesus Sirach thus testifies for the 2nd century BC That the Aaronic blessing in the mouth of the high priest was a highlight of the temple worship.

In the Herodian Temple , the priestly blessing was an integral part of the daily sacrifice, but was also given in the synagogues with some modifications: the holy name of God was not pronounced there, the blessing was divided into three sentences and the arms were only raised to shoulder height. According to the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth and the early church regularly visited the temple and took part in the synagogue service. It can therefore be assumed that they knew the Aaronic Blessing. However, the New Testament nowhere refers to this text, and there is no early Christian statement on it.


In the liturgy of the Qumran parish rule, the Aaronic blessing had its place in a modified form. In a ritual with which new members were accepted annually at the weekly festival ( Shavuot ), the priests uttered individual blessings that are derived from the text of the Torah, but have the form of requests for living knowledge / life knowledge. The Levites, on the other hand, uttered the curses, which are formulated as counterparts to the requests for blessings:

Blessing (1 QA II 2–4) Curse (1 QA II 5–9)
He blesses you with all good and protects you from all evil. You are cursed in all the crimes of your debt! God give you horror through all who seek vengeance, and ordain destruction through all who repay retribution.
He enlighten your heart with the understanding of life and grace you with eternal knowledge and Cursed are you without mercy according to the darkness of your works, and damned you are in the darkness of eternal fire. God do not have mercy when you call on him, and He does not give you to atone for your offense.
May he lift his gracious countenance upon you to eternal peace. He lift up His angry face in vengeance on you and no peace be in the mouth of all advocates!

The model for such a ritual, which documents the dualistic worldview of the group, was God's covenant with Israel, as presented in the Torah (Lev 26 and Deut 32).

Christian Middle Ages and Reformation Era

Aaronic blessing, tau sign and addition: Dominus benedicat f. leo te "The Lord bless Br. Leo you". ( Autograph , kept in the reliquary chapel of the Church of San Francesco in Assisi)

The Ancient Church did not use the Aaronic Blessing, and it only appeared sporadically in regional liturgies in the Middle Ages. Francis of Assisi used the formula in his "Blessing for Brother Leo."

It was Martin Luther who recommended this blessing and established it in Protestant worship. To this end, he was inspired by allegory of the mass liturgy, as it was widespread in the Middle Ages and which established a relationship between the final blessing of the mass and Jesus Christ's departure from his disciples on his ascension to heaven. In the Formula missae (1523) Luther suggested using the Aaronic blessing or the blessing request of Psalm 67 and explained: “In this way, I believe, Christ also kept when he ascended to heaven and blessed his disciples. “In Luther's German Mass (1526) only the Aaronic blessing is provided as the final blessing.

When Martin Luther introduced the blessing to Protestant worship in 1525, Ulrich Zwingli and Johannes Calvin also adopted it .

Today's liturgical use


Kohanim donate the Aaronic Blessing in the Synagogue of Ofra (2011)
Priest's blessing, Cantor Gershon Sirota (Warsaw, 1908)

In Orthodox Judaism, the blessing of the church service community with the priestly blessing is a religious duty ( mitzvah ) that is valid for men from priestly families even after the destruction of the temple. In some congregations in the land of Israel the priestly blessing takes place during the daily morning and Mussaf prayer, in others only during the Mussaf prayer on the Sabbath, new moon and public holidays. Since 1970 it has been spoken by hundreds of Kohanim on the holidays of Passover and Sukkot and broadcast over loudspeakers to the Western Wall .

The process is as follows:

  • The cantor repeats the eighteen prayers aloud . The Levites assist the Kohanim in the ritual washing of hands ( Netilat Jadajim ). The Kohanim then take off their shoes. Both rituals are a reminder of their service in the temple.
  • At the words of the cantor: "God, the Lord, want your people Israel ..." the priests go up the steps to the Bima , their gaze directed towards the Torah shrine .
  • When the cantor shouts “Priest!”, They say the blessing: “Praise be to you, haSchem , our God, King of the world, who sanctified us with Aaron's holiness and commanded us to bless his people Israel in love.”
  • You now turn to the congregation and have covered your head with the tallit , raised your arms to shoulder height and spread your fingers in a special way. (For hand and finger positions when exercising the blessing, see Kohanim .)
  • The cantor recites the verses of the priest's blessing and the priests repeat word for word. At the end of each verse the church replies, "Amen!"

In Liberal Judaism , the priestly blessing was abolished as a privilege, along with the other privileges of the priestly caste. It is the same with most conservatives .

The Aaronic blessing also has an important place in the domestic Sabbath celebration , in which it is spoken by the father about every child.


The Aaronic blessing is a characteristic of the main Sunday service in Protestant churches. According to the Evangelical Lutheran Agende I , it was reserved for the ordained ministers to speak the Aaronic blessing with a gesture of blessing (ie with raised arms) at the end of the service. Non-ordained persons ended the service as a prayer for the blessing without this gesture of blessing: "Lord, bless us and keep us ..."

The Evangelical Worship Book provides the Aaronic blessing as a rule, the Trinitarian blessing as a further possibility and differentiates between a form with the sign of the cross and (for churches of the Reformed tradition) without the sign of the cross. “According to the biblical example, the blessing awarded includes spreading one's arms and, since the early days of the Church, the sign of the cross. Recently, the more detailed blessing sequence that concludes the service has also been combined with other signing actions (gestures, movements). "

After the Second Vatican Council , the Aaronic Blessing was newly introduced in the Roman Mass and has since been one of five selection texts for the final blessing on Sundays in the annual cycle . It is always associated with the Trinitarian formula and the sign of the cross and in this way has a clear Christian influence. While the Editio typica divides the blessing into three parts, to which the parish responds with an amen, the missal only provides a single amen for the dioceses of the German-speaking area.

See also


  • Bernd-Jörg Diebner : The so-called "Aaronic blessing" (Num 6,24-26) . In: Heinrich Riehm (ed.): Joy in worship . Festschrift for Frieder Schulz , Dreisam-Verlag, Heidelberg 1988, pp. 201–218.
  • Klaus Seybold : The blessing and other liturgical words from the Hebrew Bible . TVZ, Zurich 2004, ISBN 3-290-17320-8 .
  • Martin Leuenberger : Blessing and blessing theologies in ancient Israel: Investigations into their religious and theological historical constellations and transformations . TVZ, Zurich 2008, ISBN 978-3-290-17452-1

Web links

Commons : Aaronic Blessing  - Collection of images, videos, and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Hanna Liss: Tanach - Textbook of the Jewish Bible , University Press C. Winter, 3rd Edition, 2011, p. 394.
  2. Manfred Josuttis: The way into life. An introduction to worship based on behavioral science . Chr. Kaiser, Munich 1991, p. 310.
  3. ^ Liturgy I in: Evangelisches Gottesdienstbuch, Agende for the Evangelical Church of the Union and for the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, 5th edition, Berlin: Verlagsgemeinschaft Evangelisches Gottesdienstbuch, 2012,  ISBN 978-3-7858-0513-8 , p 85, 132
  4. ^ Translation from: Martin Leuenberger: Blessing and blessing theologies in old Israel , Zurich 2008, p. 156 f.
  5. Martin Leuenberger: Blessing and blessing theologies in old Israel , Zurich 2008, p. 165 f.
  6. Martin Leuenberger: Blessing and blessing theologies in old Israel , Zurich 2008, p. 163 f.
  7. Martin Leuenberger: Blessing and blessing theologies in old Israel , Zurich 2008, p. 164.
  8. Martin Leuenberger: Blessing and blessing theologies in old Israel , Zurich 2008, p. 174.
  9. Martin Leuenberger: Blessing and blessing theologies in old Israel , Zurich 2008, p. 166 f.
  10. Martin Leuenberger: Blessing and blessing theologies in old Israel , Zurich 2008, p. 167.
  11. ^ Klaus Seybold: The blessing and other liturgical words from the Hebrew Bible , Zurich 2004, p. 17.
  12. ^ Klaus Seybold: The blessing and other liturgical words from the Hebrew Bible , Zurich 2004, p. 16.
  13. ^ Klaus Seybold: The blessing and other liturgical words from the Hebrew Bible , Zurich 2004, p. 17.
  14. ^ Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra: Qumran. The Dead Sea texts and ancient Judaism (= Jewish studies . Volume 3). Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2016, p. 286 f.
  15. Peter Fobes: Letter and blessing to brother Leo . German Franciscan Province.
  16. a b Andreas Heinz: Aaron III. Aaronic blessing . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 1 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1993, Sp. 7 .
  17. Quoted here from: Klaus Seybold: The blessing and other liturgical words from the Hebrew Bible , Zurich 2004, p. 15, note 7.
  18. Israel Meir Lau : How Jews Live: Faith, Everyday Life, Festivals . Translated from the Hebrew by Miriam Magall. Gütersloh 1988, p. 44.
  19. Aaronic blessing on the western wall. In: Israelnetz .de. October 16, 2019, accessed October 22, 2019 .
  20. Israel Meir Lau: How Jews Live: Faith, Everyday Life, Festivals . Translated from the Hebrew by Miriam Magall. Gütersloh 1988, p. 45.
  21. Sara E. Karesh, Mitchell M. Hurvitz: Encyclopedia of Judaism . Facts on File, New York 2005, ISBN 0-8160-5457-6 , p. 406 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  22. Bernd-Jörg Diebner: The so-called "Aaronic Blessing" (Num 6,24-26) , Heidelberg 1988, p. 203 f.
  23. Evangelisches Gottesdienstbuch, p. 34, 675.