Oct 19, 2015

Interesting Psak: blessing after killing a terrorist

The halacha states that a kohein who kills someone cannot continue to "duchin" - to bless the people with the daily birkat hakohanim. Such a person, a murderer, whose hands spilled blood, cannot be one to transmit the blessings of Hashem via his hands.

There is even a dispute about a kohein who murdered and then repented, whether after his repentance if he can give the blessings or not.

Someone, because of this halacha, and in light of the current wave of terror taking place in Israel, with civilians sometimes being the one to take down the terrorist, asked the Chief Rabi of Israel, Rav Yitzchak Yosef, whether a kohein who killed a terrorist can duchin or not.

The question asked was not just theoretical, but was asked by someone, a kohein soldier, who killed a terrorist recently in Jerusalem.

Once a soldier is asking this question, I must wonder if this question has already been asked regarding kohein IDF soldiers who kill while in battle, if they can duchin later. I am sure it must have been, though I have not seen the discussion on it.

Back to the question at hand... Rav Yosef responded that one who kills a terrorist would be considered as one acting in self-defense, and is even performing a mitzvah, and can definitely continue to raise his hands in blessings afterwards.
source; INN

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  1. Rav Ovadya ztz"l has a teshuva about this - he paskens the same as his son.

  2. Anecdotal, but connected: One year in the late 80s, I learned a shiur gemara in the Old City with Rav Shabtai Sabato (Rav Haim Sabato's brother). I would catch a tramp home with him. On his way back to Beit El he would pass our neighborhood. I always carried my pistol; but I noticed he was traveling unarmed. I questioned him on this, and he answered 'kohen she'harag et hanefesh'; referring to the halacha in question in your post. I argued in response that if he had to shoot/kill someone defending himself, especially killing a terrorist in Israel (in which case he is defending himself personally, but also defending Israel), that falls under the heading of milhemet mitzvah as we had learned it from Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook. He seemed to agree; and sure enough I noticed after that he was traveling armed. We didn't discuss specifically nesiat kapayim/birkat kohanim. He seemed to be thinking more of serving in the rebuilt Mikdash. But that's the story.

  3. Joe in AustraliaOctober 20, 2015 4:52 AM

    When I read the title I thought you meant the usual sort of beracha and I wondered what it could be. Maybe some form of "Asher yatzar et ha'adam" ...


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