Question: Is the kohen allowed to start preparing for Birkas Kohanim before the chazan recites HaKeil HaKadosh during Chazaras HaShatz?
Short Answer: The Mishnas Yosef rules that the kohen may start walking to wash his hands before HaKeil HaKadosh if he otherwise would not have time to wash his hands before Birkas Kohanim.
I. Waiting Until HaKeil HaKadosh
The Elya Rabbah (Orach Chayim 95:7) writes that one should keep his feet together during K’dushah until after the chazan recites HaKeil HaKadosh. This opinion is cited approvingly by the Kaf HaChayim (95:16).
The Mishnas Yosef (5:27:16-17) discusses a case where a person happens to walk by a shul when they are saying K’dushah (and thus stops to join them as is required) but he cannot hear the chazan. In other words, he is only stopped and answering based upon the congregants, whom he knows are up to K’dushah. The Mishnas Yosef queries whether such a person needs to wait until the chazan finishes HaKeil HaKadosh to continue on his way, or whether he may continue on his way immediately after K’dushah (“Yimloch...”) is finished.
The Mishnas Yosef explains that this question really depends on the nature of the brachah of HaKeil HaKadosh: Is it an extension of K’dushah, such that if you must stop for K’dushah, you must also stop for HaKeil HaKadosh, even if you don’t actually hear it being recited? Or is it a separate obligation to stop for HaKeil HaKadosh, but this obligation only exists if you actually hear HaKeil HaKadosh?
The former option, that HaKeil HaKadosh is part of K’dushah, is more correct, writes the Mishnas Yosef. Accordingly, the Mishnas Yosef himself would stop until after HaKeil HaKadosh is completed.
II. Another Application
There is another application of the above query. A person in the middle of Sh’moneh Esrei must stop and be silent during K’dushah (assuming he is not toward the end of Sh’moneh Esrei). But must he remain silent – and continue to pause his own Sh’moneh Esrei – even while the chazan is reciting HaKeil HaKadosh?
The Mishnas Yosef notes that, according to the first opinion, that HaKeil HaKadosh is part of K’dushah, the person should truly be silent until after HaKeil HaKadosh. Indeed, the Rama (Orach Chayim 109:2) writes that he should be silent until “after K’dushah and HaKeil HaKadosh.”
III. Birkas Kohanim
Based upon the above, that the Rama holds that HaKeil HaKadosh is part of K’dushah, should the kohen remain with his feet together until HaKeil HaKadosh, even if this means that he risks not being able to properly wash his hands before Birkas Kohanim?
The Mishnas Yosef says, no, it is certainly better for the kohen to start walking to wash his hands while HaKeil HaKadosh is still being recited if he otherwise risks not washing his hands. Indeed, the language of the Elyah Rabbah is that it is “good” to remain standing with your feet together until after HaKeil HaKadosh. Washing your hands before Birkas Kohanim, as discussed in previous articles, is obligatory (see the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 128:6). While you may rely upon n’tilas yadayim in the morning in some instances, it is certainly better to wash right before Birkas Kohanim, even if that means that the kohanim need to start walking to the sink before the end of HaKeil HaKadosh.
Next Week’s Topic: May a kohen recite Birkas Kohanim during his year of aveilus?