Can or should an Avel perform Bircas Cohanim (Part 4)


Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Minhag Chassidim in general, and Minhag Chabad in particular.

Dayan Telsner, who is a good Yedid of mine, wrote a number of articles where he responded to my points in the local Chabad publications הערות התמימים ואנ’’ש

I am not challenging his right to pasken according to the minhag brought by the Ramoh, which he conflates as some universal practice throughout the Ashkenazic world, and for which he uses the ultra-strong words of מנהג עוקר הלכה,I believe out of context.

I will just post this excerpt from Chabad’s own התקשרות magazine, which is referred to religiously by Rabbonim and Chassidim in respect of how to behave על פי מנהג חב’’ד.

My translation follows:

It is written in the Shulchan Aruch HoRav (Ba’al Hatanya), “in our regions, where mourning extends until 12 months on a mother of father, and 30 days after another relative, the Cohen [Avel] does not Duchen, even if he is the only Cohen, and even on Yom Yov…”

But, in practice [despite the listing of the Ramoh by the Shulchan Oruch HoRav] I heard from many [important] Poskim in Chabad, and these include The Gaon and Chosid, R Osher Lemil HaCohen, of Beitar, and the Gaon and Chosid R’ Yisrael Yosef Hendel of Migdal Haemek, they they never saw [in Chabad] even outside Israel that an Avel would avoid Duchening.

They referred to the Nitei Gavriel [of R’ Gavriel Tzinner, who is the Rav HaMachshir of the Melbourne Eruv], who wrote that that the Custom of Chassidim is in accord with the Shulchan Aruch [and not the Ramoh] according to the practice of the Sephardim. He brings as support the view of the Kaf HaChaim, that according to mystical [kabbalistic] line of Judaic practice, one must Duchen even if he is a mourner. An in the responsa Mishnas Shlomo [R’ Shlomoeleh Vilna, the Dayan of Vilna] he brings that according to the Ari Zal, we are especially careful not to show any mourning on Shabbos and Yom Tov, and certainly no Cohen should refrain from Duchening because they are an Avel.

The Kaf HaChaim also quotes the [famous] Mekubal R’ Shalom Sharabi, that Duchening is from the “Great Lights”, and just like an Avel is permitted to wear the Tefillin of Rabenu Tam, which is also permitted because of the same concept as the “Great lights—מוחין דאבא’ a Cohen who is a mourner must also Duchen. He goes on further to write that that one should not even cause Duchening to be displaced during the Shiva itself, because Duchening is an integral part of Davening to the extent that if there is no Cohen, we use a different Nusach as said by the Shaliach Tzibbur.

Notwithstanding this opinion, during Shiva itself, Chassidim do not follow the practice of Duchening of an Avel, and neither do the Sephardim [despite the Kabalistic justification]

It is possible that the reason we do Duchen as an Avel, even in Chutz La’aretz, is because it becomes a very clear expression of public mourning if/when a Cohen who is an Avel purposefully avoids doing so. This is especially so in Chutz La’aratez where it is most noticeable because they (Ashkenazim) only duchen on Yom Tov.

I spoke about this with Dayan Telsner’s brother-in-law, Rav Sholom Ber Groner, and he told me that he would be lenient himself based on this Nitei Gavriel. Interestingly, on a number of issues where I mentioned to Rav Sholom Ber, that his father had a seemingly different opinion, that did not seem to worry him to the extent that he was ossified. He said, in fact, that some of his own opinions changed according to time and circumstance, and that was the way to Pasken.

I will close with two words which are ubiquitous in halacha נתפשט המנהג—the Minhag spread (or became established). These simple words imply as everyone know that despite the fact that there may well be competing MINHAGIM on a RANGE of item, an equilibrium often [but not always] emerges as the “prevalent minhag”.

I’m not here to change anything. I didn’t Duchen once Rabbi Telsner paskened that way in his Shule. I mention it one last time, because I disagree completely with the concept of ossification of quoted ancient minhagim when those are known not to be universally adopted!

Finally, if someone can actually point me to MINHAG CHABAD on this, I’d be obliged. I do not think it exists formally in the sense that it was ever enunciated. This lends more credence to my argument, I’d suggest!

Let me also note to anyone who had observed my exchanges with Rabbi Telsner, that this was ריתחה דאורייתא and God forbid that anyone should think that “bad blood” or “beleidung” would ever enter my head over such matters. I can’t think of a better way to spend time that talking and shouting Torah!

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

4 thoughts on “Can or should an Avel perform Bircas Cohanim (Part 4)”

  1. It also the minhag within Chabad ( and it may be so by others as well )not to be unnecessarily machmir in matters of aveilus.
    I heard this a number of times from Rabbi YD Groner as well as other respectable rabbonim.


  2. There is a difference if he said ” ess is nisht keday” or “ess is osur”.
    And He paskened this as a lubavitcher Rov for a Lubavitcher in a Lubavitcher shul.
    I am not sure that he would have done the same for a non chabad mispallel.
    He would have been likely to have said ” do as your heart feels” , but then again, maybe not.


    1. The Psak was for the Shule, as what is appropriate for mispallelim in the Shule and it was clear that the Shule would follow Minhag HoRamo as quoted in Shulchan Aruch HoRav. Whether he would have said anything if I had not asked after noting disapproval is something you’d need to ask him, however, his Tshuvo in the matter allowed for no halachic difference as to the MISPALLEL. It was a Psak for the Shule as Dayan of the Shule


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