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Q&A

How does a firstborn know to wash the kohen's hands?

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Mishna B'rura 128:22 says that if no Levi is around to wash a kohen's hands for the latter's blessing, a firstborn-to-his-mother should do so. Although Kaf Hachayim :40 notes that he hasn't seen this done, I'm guessing some communities must have this custom. My question is how this works in practice. At musaf, no big deal: it's easy to see during the Torah reading (which precedes musaf) that there's no Levi. But in places that have the kohen's blessing at shacharis also, how does a firstborn know to go wash the kohen's hands?

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Wouldn't a gabbai keep track and announce? (2 comments)

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I have seen this a few times. Really quite simple. Just like the Gabbai will, unless he knows everyone, ask "Is there a Cohen?" or "Is there a Levi?" when it comes to Layning, he will do the same, if needed, for Duchening. Either "Is there a Cohen?" to find out if there will be any Duchening, or "Is there a Levi?" to wash the Cohen/Cohanim hands. And if the answer is "no" for "Is there a Levi?" then, unless he is himself a Bechor, ask "Is there a Bechor?"

I know at least one person who is a Bechor (and not a Levi) who jumped at the chance to do this Mitzvah when he had the rare opportunity to do so.

(And for those who are wondering, I am a sometimes Gabbai, but despite being a Katz, I am not a Cohen.)

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Interesting. I've never seen this done afair. But maybe I've never been in a minyan that had shachari... (3 comments)

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