Gender and the Priestly Blessing
Parshat Naso 5780

Ethan Tucker

This week, I would like to explore birkat kohanim, the priestly blessing traditionally offered by the kohanim in the context of the public Amidah. It is clearly possible to find ways to evade birkat kohanim altogether, by picking up on and expanding the Ashkenazi, Diasporic tradition that sharply limits its performance and sees no real obligation to hold the blessing at any given time in particular. One can also toe the line on the essential maleness of this ritual, even as it may become more and more of an anomaly in the context of gender-blind leadership and participation. We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of such approaches last week. Instead, I would like to explore options for including benot kohanim in this ritual, thus allowing it to retain a role, perhaps even a central one in our public prayer life, while still firmly anchoring it in the kehunah, and eliminating at least the optics of some of the patriarchal hierarchy that lies at the heart of the historic Jewish priesthood. My hope is that this will not only be a potentially practically useful conversation, but that it will also illuminate some of what is at stake in these sorts of discussions, even in communities that are unlikely to take this sort of step any time soon.

Gender and the Priestly Blessing: Parshat Naso 5780
(audio/mpeg, 12.16MB)