HOME

TheInfoList




A rabbi () is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in
Judaism Judaism is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, monotheism, monotheistic, and ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people. It has its roots as an organized religion ...
. One becomes a rabbi by being ordained by another rabbi, following a course of study of Jewish texts such as the
Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of and the primary source of Jewish religious law (') and . Until the advent of , in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the centerpiece of and was foundation ...

Talmud
. The basic form of the rabbi developed in the Pharisaic and
Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of and the primary source of Jewish religious law (') and . Until the advent of , in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the centerpiece of and was foundation ...

Talmud
ic era, when learned teachers assembled to codify Judaism's written and oral laws. The title "rabbi" was first used in the first century CE. In more recent centuries, the duties of a rabbi became increasingly influenced by the duties of the Protestant Christian minister, hence the title "
pulpit A pulpit is a raised stand for preachers in a Christian church. The origin of the word is the Latin ''pulpitum'' (platform or staging). The traditional pulpit is raised well above the surrounding floor for audibility and visibility, accesse ...

pulpit
rabbis", and in 19th-century Germany and the United States rabbinic activities including
sermon A sermon is an or by a (who is usually a member of ). Sermons address a , , or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law, or behavior within both past and present contexts. Elements of the sermon often include exposition, , and ...

sermon
s, pastoral counseling, and representing the community to the outside, all increased in importance. Within the various
Jewish denominations Jewish religious movements, sometimes called " denominations", include different groups which have developed among Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are members of an ethnoreligious gr ...
, there are different requirements for rabbinic ordination, and differences in opinion regarding who is recognized as a rabbi. For example, only a minority of
Orthodox Jewish Orthodox Judaism is the collective term for the traditionalist branches of contemporary Judaism. Theologically, it is chiefly defined by regarding the Torah Torah (; he, תּוֹרָה, "Instruction", "Teaching" or "Law") has a range o ...
communities accept the ordaination of
women rabbis Women rabbis are individual Jewish women who have studied Jewish Law and received Semikhah, rabbinical ordination. Women rabbis are prominent in Progressive Judaism, Progressive Jewish denominations, however, the subject of women rabbis in Orthodox ...

women rabbis
.Israel-Cohen, Y. (2012). Chapter Five: Orthodox Women Rabbis?“It’s Only a Matter of Time”. In Between Feminism and Orthodox Judaism (pp. 69-78). Brill.Nadell, P. S. (2019). Paving the Road to Women Rabbis. Gender and Religious Leadership: Women Rabbis, Pastors, and Ministers, 89. Non-Orthodox movements have chosen to do so for what they view as
halakhic ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ; also transliterated as ''halacha'', ''halakhah'', ''halachah'', or ''halocho''; ) is the collective body of Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people ...
reasons (
Conservative Judaism Conservative Judaism (known as Masorti Judaism outside North America) is a Jewish religious movements, Jewish religious movement that regards the authority of Jewish law and tradition as emanating primarily from the assent of the people and th ...
) as well as ethical reasons (
Reform Reform ( lat, reformo) means the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, unsatisfactory, etc. The use of the word in this way emerges in the late 18th century and is believed to originate from Christopher Wyvill's Association movement ...
and
Reconstructionist Judaism Reconstructionist Judaism is a modern Jewish movement that views Judaism as a progressively evolving civilization A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society that is characterized by urban development, social stratificatio ...
).


Etymology and pronunciation

The word comes from the
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
' , meaning "my master", which is how a student would address a superior. It is the inflected possessive form of the Hebrew word ' , which literally means "master" or "great one". In Hebrew, ''rabi'' gained an irregular plural form: (' ). The word ''
rav ''Rav'' or ''Rab'' (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans a ...
'' itself is also used as a title for rabbis, as are ''rabeinu'' ("our master") and ''ha-rav''. The Hebrew root in turn derives from the
Semitic root The root (linguistics), roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages are characterized as a sequence of consonants or "wikt:radical, radicals" (hence the term consonantal root). Such abstract consonantal roots are used in the formation of ...
ר-ב-ב (R-B-B), which in
Biblical Aramaic Biblical Aramaic is the form of Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and l ...
means "great" in many senses, including "revered", but appears primarily as a prefix in construct forms. Although the usage ''rabim'' "many" (as 1 Kings 18:25, הָרַבִּים) "the majority, the multitude" occurs for the assembly of the community in the
Dead Sea Scrolls The Dead Sea Scrolls (also the Qumran Caves Scrolls) are and religious first found in 1947 at the in what was then , near in the , on the northern shore of the . Dating back to between the and the , the Dead Sea Scrolls are considered ...

Dead Sea Scrolls
, there is no evidence to support an association with the later title "rabbi". The root is
cognate In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Itali ...
to
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
ربّ ''rabb'', meaning "lord" (generally used when talking about God, but also about temporal lords), and to the
SyriacSyriac may refer to: *Syriac language, a dialect of Middle Aramaic * Syriac alphabet ** Syriac (Unicode block) ** Syriac Supplement * Neo-Aramaic languages also known as Syriac in most native vernaculars * Syriac Christianity, the churches using Syr ...

Syriac
word ''rabi''.
Sephardic Sephardi Jews, also known as Sephardic Jews, ''Sephardim'',, Modern Hebrew: ''Sefaraddim'', Tiberian: Səp̄āraddîm, also , ''Ye'hude Sepharad'', lit. "The Jews of Spain", es, Judíos sefardíes (or sefarditas), pt, Judeus sefarditas or His ...
and
Yemenite Jews Yemenite Jews or Yemeni Jews or Teimanim (from ''Yehudei Teman''; ar, اليهود اليمنيون) are those Jews who live, or once lived, in Yemen. Between June 1949 and September 1950, the overwhelming majority of Yemen's Jewish populati ...
have historically pronounced this word ''ribbī'' rather than "rabbi", and this pronunciation also appears in the
Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of and the primary source of Jewish religious law (') and . Until the advent of , in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the centerpiece of and was foundation ...

Talmud
and in
Ashkenazi Ashkenazi Jews ( are a Jews, Jewish Jewish diaspora, diaspora population who Coalescent theory, coalesced in the Holy Roman Empire around the end of the first millennium. The traditional diaspora language of Ashkenazi Jews is Yiddish (a Ger ...
texts prior to the late 18th century.''Siddur Azor Eliyahu'', p.18 (on "Ribbi Yishmael Omer" before Pesukei deZimra). Text with acronyms expanded according to its glossary (parentheses in original, square brackets added based on the glossary): רִבי ישמעאל. בחיריק - כך הוא בכל סידורים ישנים כוונה לסידורי אשכנז שנדפסו עד לסידור ר' שבתי סופר מפרעמישלא(כמו שקלאוו תקמ"ח, דיהרנפורט תקמ"ח, תקנ"ב, תקס"ב, זולצבאך תקנ"ג), כך הוא בהגדה של פסח על ביאור הגר"א שהדפיס רמ"מ משקלאוו בהוראדנא בשנת תקס"ה (וכן הוא בסידורי הספרדים והתימנים). והשינוי לרַבי בפתח הוא משינויי ויעתר יצחק (ספר הגהות על סידור אשכנז וסידור תפילה מאת יצחק סאטאנוב, ברלין תקמ"ד) ובעקבותיו ניקד כן גם ר' וואלף היידנהיים (ויעב"ץ ניקד רְבי בשווא והאריך בזה בלוח ארש). בגמרא מופיע בריבי מלא (מכות ה' ב' חולין פ"ד ב' קל"ז א' שבת קט"ו א' ערובין נ"ג א') וחסר (חולין י"א ב', כ"ח א') ומשמע מכך שאמרו רִבי בחיריק, וגם מפירוש רבינו חננאל (פסחים נ"ב ב' וסוכה מ"ה א') משמע כן. The modern Israeli pronunciation ''rabi'', and the English word "rabbi", are derived from an 18th-century innovation in
Ashkenazic Ashkenazi Jews ( are a Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO; ) is an international standard are technical standards developed by international organizations ...
prayer books, although this vocalization is also found in some ancient sources. Other variants are ''rəvī'' and, in
Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a West Germanic The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic languages, Germanic family of languages (the others being the ...

Yiddish
, ''rebbə''.


Historical overview

Rabbi is not an occupation found in the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites ...

Hebrew Bible
, and ancient generations did not employ related titles such as ''Rabban'', ''Rabbi'', or ''Rav'' to describe either the Babylonian sages or the sages in Israel. For example,
Hillel I Hillel ( he, הִלֵּל ''Hīllēl''; variously called ''Hillel HaGadol'', ''Hillel HaZaken'', ''Hillel HaBavli'' or ''HaBavli'', was born according to tradition in Babylon ''Bābili(m)'' * sux, 𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠 * arc, 𐡁𐡁𐡋 ''Babil ...
and
Shammai Shammai (50 BCE – 30 CE, he, שַׁמַּאי) was a Jewish scholar of the 1st century, and an important figure in Judaism's core work of rabbinic literature, the Mishnah. Shammai was the most eminent contemporary of Rabbi Hillel the Elder ...
(the religious leaders of the early first century) had no rabbinic title prefixed to their names. The titles "Rabban" and "Rabbi" are first mentioned in Jewish literature in the
Mishnah The Mishnah or the Mishna (; he, מִשְׁנָה, "study by repetition", from the verb ''shanah'' , or "to study and review", also "secondary") is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions which is known as the Oral Torah. ...
. ''Rabban'' was first used for Rabban Gamaliel the elder, Rabban Simeon his son, and Rabban
Yohanan ben Zakkai Yohanan ben Zakkai ( he, יוחנן בן זכאי, 1st century CE), sometimes abbreviated as Ribaz () for Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, was one of the Tannaim ''Tannaim'' ( arc, תנאים , singular , ''Tanna'' "repeaters", "teachers") were the ...
, all of whom were patriarchs or presidents of the
Sanhedrin The Sanhedrin (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and th ...

Sanhedrin
in the first century. Early recipients of the title ''rabbi'' include Rabbi Zadok and Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob, beginning in the time of the disciples of Rabban
Yohanan ben Zakkai Yohanan ben Zakkai ( he, יוחנן בן זכאי, 1st century CE), sometimes abbreviated as Ribaz () for Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, was one of the Tannaim ''Tannaim'' ( arc, תנאים , singular , ''Tanna'' "repeaters", "teachers") were the ...
. The title "Rabbi" occurs (in Greek transliteration ῥαββί ''rhabbi'') in the books of Matthew,
Mark Mark may refer to: Currency * Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark The Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark (Bosnian Bosnian may refer to: *Anything related to the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina or its inhabitants *Anything related to Bo ...
, and
John John is a common English name and surname: * John (given name) John is a common English name and surname: * John (given name) * John (surname), including a list of people who have the name John John may also refer to: New Testament Works ...
in the
New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachings and person of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus, as ...

New Testament
, where it is used in reference to "Scribes and
Pharisees The Pharisees (; Hebrew: ''Pərūšīm'') were a social movement and a school of thought in the Levant during the time of Second Temple Judaism. After the Siege of Jerusalem (AD 70), destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Pharisaic belie ...
" as well as to
Jesus Jesus, likely from he, יֵשׁוּעַ, translit=Yēšūaʿ, label=Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it ...

Jesus
.''Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament'' by Wigram, George V.; citing Matthew 26:25, Mark 9:5 and John 3:2 (among others) According to some, the title "rabbi" or "rabban" was first used after 70 CE to refer to Yochanan ben Zakkai and his students, and references in rabbinic texts and the New Testament to rabbis earlier in the 1st century are anachronisms or retroactive honorifics. Other scholars believe that the term "rabbi" was a well-known informal title by the beginning of the first century CE, and thus that the Jewish and Christian references to rabbis reflect the titles in fact used in this period. The governments of the kingdoms of
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...
and
Judah Judah may refer to: Historical ethnic, political and geographic terms The name was passed on, successively, from the biblical figure of Judah, to the Israelite tribe; its territorial allotment and the Israelite kingdom emerging from it, with the ...
were based on a system that included the Jewish kings, the Jewish prophets, the legal authority of the high court of Jerusalem, the Great
Sanhedrin The Sanhedrin (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and th ...

Sanhedrin
, and the ritual authority of the priesthood. Members of the Sanhedrin had to receive their ordination (''
semicha ' (or or ; he, סמיכה) traditionally refers to the ordination of a rabbi within Judaism. In recent times, some institutions grant ordination for the role of ''hazzan'' (cantor), extending the "investiture" granted there from the 1950s. L ...
'') in an uninterrupted line of transmission from
Moses Moses he, מֹשֶׁה, ''Mōše''; also known as Moshe Rabbenu ( he, מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ "Moshe our Teacher"); syr, ܡܘܫܐ, ''Mūše''; ar, موسى '; el, Mωϋσῆς, ' () is considered the most important prophet in Judais ...

Moses
, yet rather than being referred to as rabbis they were called priests or scribes, like Ezra, who is called in the Bible "Ezra, the priest, the scribe, a scribe of the words of God's commandments and of His statutes unto Israel." "Rabbi" as a title does not appear in the Hebrew Bible, though later rabbinic sources occasionally use it as a title for wise Biblical figures. With the destruction of the two
Temples in Jerusalem The Temple in Jerusalem was any of a series of structures which were located on the Temple Mount in the Old City (Jerusalem), Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. These successive temples stood at th ...
, the end of the Jewish monarchy, and the decline of the dual institutions of prophets and the priesthood, the focus of scholarly and spiritual leadership within the Jewish people shifted to the sages of the
Men of the Great AssemblyAccording to Judaism, Jewish tradition the Men of the Great Assembly ( he, כְּנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה) or Anshei Knesset HaGedolah (, "The Men of the Great Assembly"), also known as the Great Synagogue, or ''Synod'', was an assembly of 1 ...
(''Anshe Knesset HaGedolah''). This assembly was composed of the earliest group of "rabbis" in the more modern sense of the word, in large part because they began the formulation and explication of what became known as Judaism's "
Oral Law An oral law is a code of conduct A code of conduct is a set of rules outlining the norms Norm, the Norm or NORM may refer to: In academic disciplines * Norm (geology), an estimate of the idealised mineral content of a rock * Norm (philosophy ...
" (''Torah SheBe'al Peh''). This was eventually encoded and codified within the
Mishnah The Mishnah or the Mishna (; he, מִשְׁנָה, "study by repetition", from the verb ''shanah'' , or "to study and review", also "secondary") is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions which is known as the Oral Torah. ...
and
Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of and the primary source of Jewish religious law (') and . Until the advent of , in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the centerpiece of and was foundation ...

Talmud
and subsequent rabbinical scholarship, leading to what is known as
Rabbinic Judaism Rabbinic Judaism ( he, יהדות רבנית, Yahadut Rabanit), also called Rabbinism, Rabbinicism, or Judaism espoused by the Rabbanites, has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century Common era, CE, after the codification of ...
.


Talmudic period

From the 1st to 5th centuries, the title "Rabbi" was given to those sages of the
Land of Israel The Land of Israel () is the traditional Jewish name for an area of indefinite geographical extension in the Southern Levant The Southern Levant is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical ...

Land of Israel
who received formal ordination (''semicha''), while the lesser title "Rav" was given to sages who taught in the Babylonian academies, as ordination could not be performed outside the Land of Israel. (However, another opinion holds that "Rabbi" and "Rav" are the same title, pronounced differently due to variations in dialect.)
Sherira Gaon Sherira bar Hanina (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and ...
summarized the relationship between these titles as follows: "Rabbi is greater than Rav, Rabban is greater than Rabbi, one's name is greater than Rabban". After the suppression of the
Patriarchate Patriarchate ( Greek: , ''patriarcheîon'') is an ecclesiological term in Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of ...
and Sanhedrin by
Theodosius II Theodosius II ( grc-gre, Θεοδόσιος ; 10 April 401 – 28 July 450), commonly called Theodosius the Younger, was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial pe ...
in 425, there was no more formal ordination in the strict sense. A recognised scholar could be called ''Rav'' or ''Hacham'', like the Babylonian sages. The transmission of learning from master to disciple remained of tremendous importance, but there was no formal rabbinic qualification as such.


Middle Ages

In the early Middle Ages "rabbi" was not a formal title, but was used as a term of respect for Jews of great scholarship and reputation. After the emergence of
Karaism Karaite Judaism () or Karaism (, sometimes spelt Karaitism (; ; also spelt Qaraite Judaism, Qaraism or Qaraitism) is a Jewish religious movements, Jewish religious movement characterized by the recognition of the written Torah alone as its su ...
, Jews who still followed the Talmudic traditions became known as "rabbanites". Initially communities might have a religious judge appointed by the central geonate, often possessing a certification known as ''pitka dedayanuta'' or bearing the title '' chaver'' (short for ''chaver besanhedrin hagedolah'', used in Israel) or ''aluf'' (used in Babylonia). By the 11th century, as the geonate weakened it was common for Jewish communities to elect a local spiritual authority. In the 11-12th century, some local rabbinic authorities in Spain received formal certification known as ''ketav masmich'' or ''ketav minui'' in preparation for their leadership role.
Maimonides Moses ben Maimon ; (1138–1204), commonly known as Maimonides ( ) grc-gre, Μωυσής Μαϊμωνίδης ; la, Moses Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam ( he, רמב״ם),, for ''Rabbeinu Mōše bēn Maimun'', "Our Ra ...

Maimonides
ruled that every congregation is obliged to appoint a preacher and scholar to admonish the community and teach Torah, and the social institution he describes is the germ of the modern congregational rabbinate. Until the
Black Death The Black Death (also known as the Pestilence, the Great Mortality or the Plague) was a bubonic plague Bubonic plague is one of three types of plague caused by the plague bacterium Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bact ...

Black Death
, Ashkenazi communities typically made religious decisions by consensus of scholars on a council, rather than the decision of a single authority.Rosensweig, Bernard
THE EMERGENCE OF THE PROFESSIONAL RABBI IN ASHKENAZIC JEWRY
''Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought'', vol. 11, no. 3, 1970, pp. 22-30.
In the 14th century, the concept arose of a single person who served as religious authority for particular area (the ''mara de'atra''). Formal ordination is first recorded among Ashkenazim with Meir ben Baruch Halevi (late 14th century), who issued the formal title ''Moreinu'' (our teacher) to scholars, though it likely existed somewhat earlier. By the 15th century, this formal ordination (known as ''semicha'') became necessary in order to be recognized as a rabbi. Initially some Sephardic communities objected to such formal ordination, but over time the system became adopted by them too.


18th–19th centuries

A dramatic change in rabbinic functions occurred with Jewish emancipation. Tasks that were once the primary focus for rabbis, such as settling disputes by presiding over a Jewish court, became less prominent, while other tasks that were secondary, like delivering sermons, increased in importance. In 19th-century Germany and the United States, the duties of the rabbi in some respects became increasingly similar to the duties of other clergy, like the Protestant Christian minister, and the title "
pulpit A pulpit is a raised stand for preachers in a Christian church. The origin of the word is the Latin ''pulpitum'' (platform or staging). The traditional pulpit is raised well above the surrounding floor for audibility and visibility, accesse ...

pulpit
rabbis" appeared to describe this phenomenon.
Sermon A sermon is an or by a (who is usually a member of ). Sermons address a , , or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law, or behavior within both past and present contexts. Elements of the sermon often include exposition, , and ...

Sermon
s, pastoral counseling, representing the community to the outside, all increased in importance. Non-Orthodox rabbis, on a day-to-day business basis, now spend more time on these functions than they do teaching or answering questions on Jewish law and philosophy. Within the Modern
Orthodox Orthodox, Orthodoxy, or Orthodoxism may refer to: Religion * Orthodoxy, adherence to accepted norms, more specifically adherence to creeds, especially within Christianity and Judaism, but also less commonly in non-Abrahamic religions like Neo-paga ...
community, many rabbis still mainly deal with teaching and questions of Jewish law, but many are increasingly dealing with these same pastoral functions. Traditionally, rabbis have never been an intermediary between
God In monotheistic Monotheism is the belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the ...
and humans. This idea was traditionally considered outside the bounds of
Jewish theology Jewish philosophy () includes all philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind ...
. Unlike spiritual leaders in many other faiths, they are not considered to be imbued with special powers or abilities.


Functions

Rabbis serve the Jewish community. Hence their functions vary as the needs of the Jewish community vary over time and from place to place. ; Study and teaching: Rabbis have always been the main links in the chain of transmission (''masorah'') whereby knowledge of the Torah has been passed down through the generations. Learning from their teachers, adding new insights of their own (''hidushim''), and teaching the public have always been the primary functions of the rabbinate. Studying the Torah is a rabbi's lifelong undertaking that does not end with receiving ordination. A rabbi is expected to set aside time daily for study. A rabbi that does not constantly replenish his or her store of Torah learning will lack the knowledge, inspiration and mastery of Jewish law and traditions required to perform all other rabbinic functions. :Once acquired, Torah knowledge must be passed on, because it is the heritage of all Israel. Teaching by rabbis occurs in many venues—the schoolroom of course, elementary (''heder''), intermediate (''yeshivah'') and advanced (''kollel''), but also, especially in antiquity, in the vineyard, the marketplace and the disciple circle. In many
synagogue A synagogue, ', 'house of assembly', or ', "house of prayer"; Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a West Germanic The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches ...

synagogue
s, the rabbi will give a short daily class to those who attend morning or evening services. The sermon is another form of public education, often integrating Biblical passages with a contemporary ethical message, and no Jewish meal or celebration is complete without the rabbi's "''d'var Torah''"—a short explanation of Biblical verses related to the event. :Apart from face to face instruction, rabbis who are inclined to authorship have composed an extensive
rabbinic literature Rabbinic literature, in its broadest sense, is the entire spectrum of rabbi A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism. One becomes a rabbi by being ordained by another rabbi, following a course of study of Jewish texts ...
, dealing with all aspects of the Jewish tradition—Bible commentaries, codes of law, responsa, mystical and ethical tracts, and collections of sermons are examples of common genres of rabbinic literature. ; Judging: Prior to emancipation, rulers delegated discipline and dispute settlement within the Jewish community (''kahal'') to the Jewish community itself. If a dispute, domestic or commercial, a tort or a petty crime, involved only Jewish residents, then it could be settled in the town's Jewish court according to Jewish law. The town rabbi, with his extensive knowledge of Torah law (''halakhah''), was expected to preside as Head of the Court (''av beth din''), although lay assessors might join him in judgment. The judgments were enforced with fines and various degrees of communal excommunication when necessary. :After emancipation, Jews, as citizens of their countries, turned to civil courts for dispute resolution. Today rabbinical courts remain active under the auspices of each Jewish denomination for religious matters, such as conversion and divorce, and even, on a voluntary basis, for civil matters when the parties voluntarily elect to have the rabbinical judges serve as their arbitrators. In Israel there are rabbinical courts for matters of personal status. ; Legislating: During the centuries of Jewish self-government, some problems were considered regional or universal and could not be solved by a single rabbi acting alone. At these times rabbinical synods were convened for concerted action, calling together the prominent rabbis of the region to debate solutions and enact binding regulations ('' takkanot'') for their communities. The regulations involved matters as diverse as dowries and matrimonial law, relations with gentiles, utilizing civil courts, education of orphans, anti-counterfeiting measures, and the hiring of schoolteachers. The most famous of these ordinances is ascribed to Rabbeinu Gershom, and was probably enacted in a rabbinic synod he convened c. 1000 CE. The ordinance, still in effect today, prohibits polygamy among Jews in the West. :In the modern era rabbis have enacted ''takkanot'' in the State of Israel, and the major Jewish movements, such as Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist, enact ''takkanot'' for their members. Today most congregational rabbis are members of a national rabbinic organization related to their movement and also an association of local rabbis in their city. When these bodies debate local and national questions, they function in a manner that is similar to the rabbinic synods of the past. ; Religious supervision: The Jewish community requires a number of religious institutions for daily life, and it falls to rabbis, with their knowledge of Jewish law, to supervise them to ensure they operate in accordance with Jewish law. Examples would be Jewish slaughter (''shekhita''), Jewish dietary laws in shops and institutions (''kashrut''), the ritual bath (''mikveh''), the elementary school (''heder''), the Sabbath boundaries (''eruvin''), and the burial society (''hevra kadisha''). Traditionally this function fell to the town's rabbi. In the modern era, rabbis who specialize in this type of supervision will find full-time employment as a
Mashgiach A rabbi searching for scales on the skin of a swordfish in Tétouan, Morocco A mashgiach ( he, משגיח, "supervisor"; , ''mashgichim'') is a Jews, Jew who supervises the kashrut status of a kosher establishment. A mashgiach may supervise ...
(supervisor of ritual law), and some of these functions are now performed by national organizations, such as the Orthodox Union which offers kosher certification. ; Pastoral counseling: In addition to answering questions about Jewish law and rituals, a congregational rabbi may often be consulted for advice on personal matters. Much of a modern rabbi's time is devoted to pastoral work, including visiting the sick and officiating at life cycle occasions. In the pre-modern era, rabbis had no special training in counseling, relying instead on their personal qualities of empathy and caring. These factors continue to inform rabbinic advising in the modern era. However modern rabbinical seminaries have instituted courses in psychology and pastoral counseling as part of the required rabbinic curriculum and they offer internships in counseling and social services for their rabbinical students. Among Hasidic Jews, turning to the ''
rebbe A Rebbe ( he, רבי: ) or Admor ( he, אדמו״ר) is the spiritual leader in the Hasidic movement Hasidism, sometimes spelled Chassidism, and also known as Hasidic Judaism ( he, חסידות, Ḥăsīdut, ; originally, "piety"), is a subg ...

rebbe
'' for advice on personal matters is common. ; Leading prayer services: Traditionally rabbis did not lead prayer services in the modern sense. There is no requirement that a rabbi be present for public prayer. The Jewish liturgy is fixed and printed in prayer books (''siddurim''), the vocal portions are chanted by a cantor (''hazan'') and the Torah portion is read by a trained reader (''ba'al koreh''). If the rabbi was present, he would be seated in front near the Ark and as a matter of respect, the pace at which the rabbi recited his prayers might set the pace of the service. If halakhic questions arose about the prayer service, the rabbi would answer them. :In modern synagogues, the rabbi takes a more active role in leading prayer services. In some synagogues, it is permitted for the rabbi to select passages from the prayer book for public reading, to omit some passages for brevity and to add special prayers to the service. The rabbi may lead the congregation in responsive reading, announce page numbers and comment on the liturgy from time to time. At Sabbath and holiday services, the congregational rabbi will deliver a sermon either right before or right after the Torah is read. ; Celebrating life's events: Jewish law does not require the presence of a rabbi at a marriage, bar or bat mitzvah, circumcision, funeral, house of mourning, or unveiling of a monument at a cemetery. At the same time, Jewish law has prescribed requirements for each of these events and rituals. It therefore became customary for rabbis to be present and to lead the community in celebration and in mourning. In the modern era, it is virtually obligatory to have the rabbi's participation at these events, and ministering to the congregation in these settings has become a major aspect of the modern rabbinate. :Jewish divorce, which requires a rabbinical court (''beth din''), will always have rabbis in attendance. ; Charitable works: The synagogue has been a place where charity is collected every weekday after services and then distributed to the needy before Sabbaths and holidays. However, most synagogues now suggest that congregants support the synagogue via an annual dues payment, usually collected on a monthly basis. It was not the rabbi who collected these sums; that task was assigned to the sexton, wardens of charity and charitable associations. But it was the rabbi's task to teach that charity (''tzedakah'') is a core Jewish value. The rabbi did this by preaching, teaching and by example—hosting poor out of town yeshiva students at the home table and offering Jewish travelers a kosher meal.
Maimonides Moses ben Maimon ; (1138–1204), commonly known as Maimonides ( ) grc-gre, Μωυσής Μαϊμωνίδης ; la, Moses Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam ( he, רמב״ם),, for ''Rabbeinu Mōše bēn Maimun'', "Our Ra ...

Maimonides
formulated a ladder consisting of eight degrees of charity, starting with reluctant giving and ending with teaching someone a trade. Rabbi Israel Salanter (1809-1883) was once asked, "How do you provide for your spiritual needs?" He answered, "By providing for someone else's physical needs." :Today Jewish federations and foundations collect and distribute most charity within the Jewish community. However the rabbi retains the task of teaching the value of charity and often participates personally in appeals for the synagogue and for national and international causes. ; Role-modeling: The rabbi serves as a role model for the congregation by his or her conduct and deportment. Congregation members are keen observers of their rabbi's personality traits, family life, professional conduct, leisure activities and in general the way he or she treats others. Rabbis are aware of this and in the best case deliberately model their conduct so that it represents Jewish values to the community and to outsiders. :This aspect of the rabbinate, setting an example for the public, has a direct application in Jewish law. The way the greatest rabbis and Torah scholars conducted themselves can become a precedent in Jewish law, known as ''ma'aseh.'' For example, based on reports of what rabbis did in the Talmud,
Maimonides Moses ben Maimon ; (1138–1204), commonly known as Maimonides ( ) grc-gre, Μωυσής Μαϊμωνίδης ; la, Moses Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam ( he, רמב״ם),, for ''Rabbeinu Mōše bēn Maimun'', "Our Ra ...

Maimonides
ruled that one engaged in public affairs should not break off his duties to recite certain prayers. ; Outreach, also known as ''kiruv'' (bringing close): Some rabbis program and guide activities designed to reach Jews who are unaffiliated with Judaism or lapsed in their observances. These include "Beginners' Services" where the Jewish liturgy is shortened and explained, and Shabbatons, where unaffiliated Jews are hosted by an observant family during Sabbath to experience the day in a religious setting and to learn about its rituals and customs.
Chabad outreach Chabad Hasidic outreach is a Kiruv phenomena, whereby Chabad Chabad, also known as Lubavitch, Habad and Chabad-Lubavitch (), is an Orthodox Jewish Hasidic dynasty. Chabad is one of the world's best-known Hasidic movements, particularly for ...
sends many rabbis and their wives to be posted in Chabad Houses worldwide for the express purpose of reaching unaffiliated Jews. ; Conversions: Most rabbis will from time to time encounter someone who is not Jewish seeking information about Judaism or wishing to explore
conversion to Judaism Conversion to Judaism ( he, גיור, ''giyur'') is the process by which non-Jews adopt the Jewish religion and become members of the Jewish ethnoreligious community. It thus resembles both religious conversion, conversion to other religions ...
. This may happen when one member of a couple wishing to marry is seeking conversion or on other occasions when intermarriage is not involved. Based on the rabbi's training and assessment of the person's motivations and goals, the rabbi's approach may range from discouragement of the potential convert to mentoring and directing to a conversion class, in accordance with the policy on conversion of the rabbi's movement. One or three rabbis will serve on the ''beth din'' that performs a conversion. There are no rabbis serving as "Jewish missionaries" per se; there is no parallel in Judaism to the proselytizing of other faiths. ; Match-making: In periods when match-making was common, rabbis participated. Rabbis were well-acquainted with their community members and in particular with the young unmarried men attending their yeshivas. Parents did not hesitate to consult the rabbi for suitable matches. Today in Orthodox circles where socializing among the sexes is not common, this practice continues, and in all branches of Judaism, a rabbi who can help in this arena will not hesitate to do so. ; Synagogue administration: The modern synagogue is a non-profit religious corporation run by a Board of Directors elected by the members. However, on a day-to-day basis, board members are not present. In most synagogues, it is the rabbi's task to administer the synagogue, supervise personnel, manage the physical plant, review (if not write) the newsletter, and interact with the brotherhood, the sisterhood and the youth organizations. Very large synagogues may employ a separate administrator or assistant rabbi to perform some or all of these functions. ; Chaplaincy: Rabbis go into the field wherever members of the Jewish community may be found. This is most noticeable in the military services and on university campuses where some rabbis serve as Jewish chaplains on a full-time basis. All branches of the U. S. military have Jewish chaplains in their ranks and rabbis serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. The Hillel Foundation provides rabbis and Jewish services on 550 campuses while Chabad operates Jewish centers with a rabbi near 150 college campuses. Local rabbis perform other chaplaincy functions on a part-time basis in hospitals, senior homes and prisons. Worthy of mention are the rabbis who accompanied Jews to concentration camps during the Nazi era; in dire circumstances they continued to provide rabbinic services, such as ritual observance, advice and counseling, to the victims of Nazi persecution, whenever it was possible to do so. ; Public affairs: As leaders of the Jewish community, many rabbis devote a portion of their time to activities in the public arena, especially where Jewish interests are at stake. They dialogue with public officials and community groups, interact with school boards, advocate for and against legislation, engage in public debates, write newspaper columns, appear in the media and march in parades and demonstrations with others to show support for causes. The extent and tenor of these activities is dictated by the rabbi's own conscience and social and political leanings as informed by Jewish values. ; Defending the faith: Rabbis are often called upon to defend the Jewish faith. During the Middle Ages, the Church arranged a series of public
disputation In the scholasticism, scholastic system of education of the Middle Ages, disputations (in Latin: ''disputationes'', singular: ''disputatio'') offered a formalized method of debate designed to uncover and establish truths in theology and in scie ...

disputation
s between rabbis and priests that were intended to "disprove" the Jewish faith and condemn its religious texts, including the Talmud. The rabbis acquitted themselves well in debate with their superior understanding of Jewish texts and mass conversions to Christianity did not take place. However following these disputations local rulers at the Church's behest consigned cartloads of precious Hebrew manuscripts to the flames. Today rabbis are involved in countering the activities of missionaries aimed at converting Jews to other religions, explaining for example that one cannot be of the Jewish faith while believing in either the Christian God or the Christian messiah. ; Interfaith activities: Some rabbis engage in interfaith dialogues with clergy of other faiths. They may host student groups from the religious schools of other faiths and participate in interfaith services. They will view these activities as a means of deepening understanding and reducing misconceptions in a diverse society. Other rabbis, especially those affiliated with Orthodox Judaism, will generally not participate in interfaith dialogues about theology. They will however engage in discussions with the clergy of other faiths about matters of mutual social concern. ; Non-practicing rabbis: There is a segment of the rabbinate that does not engage in rabbinic functions on a daily basis, except perhaps to study. Because rabbinic ordination (
Semikhah ' (or or ; he, סמיכה) traditionally refers to the ordination Ordination is the process by which individuals are , that is, set apart and elevated from the class to the , who are thus then (usually by the composed of other clergy) t ...
) has the features of a post-graduate academic degree, some study to receive ordination but then follow a different career in secular business, education or the professions. These rabbis may be asked from time to time to perform a rabbinic function on an ad hoc and voluntary basis, e.g. to perform a marriage ceremony or answer a religious question. At other times, they act as regular members of the Jewish community. No negative attitudes attach to rabbis who do not practice the profession. They are likely admired in their communities for their decision to spend years engaged in advanced Torah study for its own sake.


Compensation

In antiquity those who performed rabbinic functions, such as judging a case or teaching Torah to students, did not receive compensation for their services. Being a rabbi was not a full-time profession and those who served had other occupations to support themselves and their families, such as woodchopper, sandal-maker, carpenter, water-carrier, farmer and tanner. A respected scholar, Rabbi
Zadok Zadok (or Zadok HaKohen, also spelled Ṣadok, Ṣadoc, Zadoq, Tzadok, or Tsadoq; he, צָדוֹק הַכֹּהֵן, meaning "Righteous, Justified") was a Kohen (priest), biblically recorded to be a descendant from Eleazar the son of Aaron (). He ...

Zadok
(1st cent. CE), had said "never to use the Torah as a spade for digging," and this was understood to mean never to use one's Torah knowledge for an inappropriate purpose, such as earning a fee. Still, as honored members of the community, Torah sages were allowed a series of privileges and exemptions that alleviated their financial burdens somewhat. These included such things as tax exemption from communal levies,''Bava Batra'' 7b-8a marketplace priority (first in, first out regarding their trade), receiving personal services from their students (''shimush talmedei hakhamim''), silent business partnerships with wealthy merchants, and a substitute fee to replace their lost earnings when they had to leave work to perform a rabbinic function (''sekhar battalah''). During the period of the
Geonim ''Geonim'' ( he, גאונים; ; also Romanization of Hebrew, transliterated Gaonim, singular Gaon) were the presidents of the two great Talmudic Academies in Babylonia, Babylonian Talmudic Academies of Sura (city), Sura and Pumbedita, in the Abb ...
(c. 650-1050 CE), opinions on compensation shifted. It was deemed inappropriate for the leaders of the Jewish community to appear in the marketplace as laborers or vendors of merchandise, and leading a Jewish community was becoming a full-time occupation. Under these conditions, the Geonim collected taxes and donations at home and abroad to fund their schools (''yeshivot'') and paid salaries to teachers, officials and judges of the Jewish community, whom they appointed.
Maimonides Moses ben Maimon ; (1138–1204), commonly known as Maimonides ( ) grc-gre, Μωυσής Μαϊμωνίδης ; la, Moses Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam ( he, רמב״ם),, for ''Rabbeinu Mōše bēn Maimun'', "Our Ra ...

Maimonides
(1135-1204), who supported himself as a physician, reasserted the traditional view of offering rabbinic service to the Jewish community without compensation. It remains the ideal. But circumstances had changed. Jewish communities required full-time rabbis, and the rabbis themselves preferred to spend their days studying and teaching Torah rather than working at a secular trade. By the fifteenth century it was the norm for Jewish communities to compensate their rabbis, although the rabbi's contract might well refer to a "suspension fee" (''sekhar battalah'') rather than a salary, as if he were relinquishing a salary from secular employment. The size of salaries varied, depending on the size of the community served, with rabbis in large cities being well-compensated while rabbis in small towns might receive a small stipend. Rabbis were able to supplement their rabbinic incomes by engaging in associated functions and accepting fees for them, like serving as the community's scribe, notary and archivist, teaching in the elementary school or yeshivah, publishing books, arbitrating civil litigations, or even serving as a matchmaker. With the formation of rabbinical seminaries starting in the nineteenth century, the rabbinate experienced a degree of professionalization that is still underway. At the present time, an ordained graduate of a rabbinical seminary that is affiliated with one of the modern branches of Judaism, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, or modern Orthodox, will find employment—whether as a congregational rabbi, teacher, chaplain, Hillel director, camp director, social worker or administrator—through the placement office of his or her seminary. Like any modern professional, he or she will negotiate the terms of employment with potential employers and sign a contract specifying duties, duration of service, salary, benefits, pension and the like. A rabbi's salary and benefits today tend to be similar to those of other modern professionals, such as lawyers and accountants, with similar levels of post-graduate education. It is also possible to engage in the rabbinate part-time, e.g. at a synagogue with a small membership; the rabbi's salary will be proportionate to the services rendered and he or she will likely have additional employment outside the synagogue.


Authority

The practical basis for rabbinic authority involves the acceptance of the rabbinic individual and their scholarly credentials. In practical terms, Jewish communities and individuals commonly proffer allegiance to the authority of the rabbi they have chosen. Such a rabbinic leader is sometimes called the "Master of the Locale" (''mara d'atra''). Jewish individuals may acknowledge the authority of others but will defer legal decisions to the ''mara d'atra''.Friedman, M. (2004). Halachic rabbinic authority in the modern open society. Jewish Religious Leadership, Image, and Reality, 2, 757-770. The rabbi derives authority from achievements within a meritocratic system. Rabbis' authority is neither nominal nor spiritual — it is based on credentials. Typically the rabbi receives an institutional stamp of approval. It is this authority that allows them to engage in the halakhic process and make legal prescriptions. The same pattern is true within broader communities, ranging from Hasidic communities to rabbinical or congregational organizations: there will be a formal or ''de facto'' structure of rabbinic authority that is responsible for the members of the community. However, Hasidic communities do not have a mere rabbi: they have a
Rebbe A Rebbe ( he, רבי: ) or Admor ( he, אדמו״ר) is the spiritual leader in the Hasidic movement Hasidism, sometimes spelled Chassidism, and also known as Hasidic Judaism ( he, חסידות, Ḥăsīdut, ; originally, "piety"), is a subg ...

Rebbe
, who plays a similar role but is thought to have a special connection to God. The Rebbes' authority, then, is based on a spiritual connection to God and so they are venerated in a different way from rabbis.


Honor

According to the Talmud, it is a commandment (''
mitzvah In its primary meaning, the Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Jud ...
'') to honor a rabbi and a Torah scholar, along with the elderly, as it is written in Leviticus 19:32, "Rise up before the elderly, and honor the aged." One should stand in their presence and address them with respect.
Kohanim Kohen ( he, כֹּהֵן' Cohen, "priest", pl. Cohanim, ' "priests") is the Hebrew word for "priest", used in reference to the Aaronic Priest#Judaism, priesthood, also called Aaronides. Levite, Levitical priests or ''kohanim'' are traditional ...
(priests) are required to honor rabbis and Torah scholars like the general public. However, if one is more learned than the rabbi or the scholar there is no need to stand. The spouse of a Torah scholar must also be shown deference. It is also a commandment for teachers and rabbis to honor their students. Rabbis and Torah scholars, in order to ensure discipline within the Jewish community, have the authority to place individuals who insult them under a ban of excommunication.


Ordination


Classical ordination

The first recorded examples of ordination are
Moses Moses he, מֹשֶׁה, ''Mōše''; also known as Moshe Rabbenu ( he, מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ "Moshe our Teacher"); syr, ܡܘܫܐ, ''Mūše''; ar, موسى '; el, Mωϋσῆς, ' () is considered the most important prophet in Judais ...

Moses
transmitting his authority to
Joshua Joshua () or Yehoshua ( he, יְהוֹשֻׁעַ ''Yəhōšūaʿ'') ''Yēšūʿ''; syr, ܝܫܘܥ ܒܪ ܢܘܢ ''Yəšūʿ bar Nōn''; el, Ἰησοῦς, ar , يُوشَعُ ٱبْنُ نُونٍ '' Yūšaʿ ibn Nūn''; la, Iosue functioned ...

Joshua
and the 70 elders. Similarly,
Elijah Elijah ( ; , meaning "My God In monotheism, monotheistic thought, God is conceived of as the supreme being, creator deity, creator, and principal object of Faith#Religious views, faith.Richard Swinburne, Swinburne, R.G. "God" in Ted Honde ...

Elijah
transmitted his authority to
Elisha Elisha (; , Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxim ...
. According to
Pirkei Avot Pirkei Avot ( he, פִּרְקֵי אָבוֹת; also transliterated as ''Pirkei Avoth'' or ''Pirkei Avos'' or ''Pirke Aboth''), which translates to English as Chapters of the Fathers, is a compilation of the ethics, ethical teachings and Maxim ( ...

Pirkei Avot
, ordination was transmitted without interruption from Moses to Joshua, to the elders, to the prophets, to the men of the
Great AssemblyAccording to Jewish tradition the Men of the Great Assembly ( he, כְּנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה) or Anshei Knesset HaGedolah (, "The Men of the Great Assembly"), also known as the Great Synagogue, or ''Synod'', was an assembly of 120 scrib ...
, to the
Zugot The ''Zugot'' ( he, הַזּוּגוֹת ''haz-zûghôth'', "the Pairs"), also called Zugoth or ''Zugos'' in the Ashkenazi pronunciationAshkenazi Hebrew ( he, הגייה אשכנזית, Hagiyya Ashkenazit, yi, אַשכּנזישע הבֿרה ...
, to the
Tannaim ''Tannaim'' ( arc, תנאים , singular , ''Tanna'' "repeaters", "teachers") were the rabbi A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism. One becomes a rabbi by being ordained by another rabbi, following a course of study ...
. The chain of ''semikhah'' was probably lost in the 4th or 5th century, though possibly as late as the 12th century. According to
Maimonides Moses ben Maimon ; (1138–1204), commonly known as Maimonides ( ) grc-gre, Μωυσής Μαϊμωνίδης ; la, Moses Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam ( he, רמב״ם),, for ''Rabbeinu Mōše bēn Maimun'', "Our Ra ...

Maimonides
(12th century), if it were possible to gather the greatest sages of the generation, a reconstituted court could confer classic semikhah or ordination.
Mishneh Torah The ''Mishneh Torah'' ( he, מִשְׁנֵה תּוֹרָה, "Repetition of the Torah"), also known as ''Sefer Yad ha-Hazaka'' (ספר יד החזקה "Book of the Strong Hand"), is a Legal code, code of Rabbinic Judaism, Rabbinic Jewish religio ...
, Hilchot Sanhedrin 4:11
Since then, a number of
modern attempts to revive the Sanhedrin Modern attempts to revive the Sanhedrin are the efforts from 1538 AD until the present day to renew the Sanhedrin which was dissolved in 358 AD by the edict of the Byzantine emperor. (Though 358 was the last formal meeting, there is no record of whe ...
have been made. So far, no such attempt has been accepted as valid among the consensus of rabbis, or persisted for longer than about a century.


Contemporary ordination

Since the end of classical ordination, other forms of ordination have developed which use much of the same terminology, but have a lesser significance in Jewish law. Nowadays, a rabbinical student is awarded ''semikhah'' (rabbinic ordination) after the completion of a learning program in a yeshiva or modern rabbinical seminary or under the guidance of an individual rabbi. The exact course of study varies by denomination, but most are in the range of 3–6 years. The programs all include study of Talmud, the codes of
Jewish law ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ), also transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script to another that involves swapping letters (thus '' trans-'' + '' liter-'') in predictable ways, such as Greek → ...
and
responsa ''Responsa'' (plural of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the ...
to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the branch of Judaism. In addition to rabbinical literature, modern seminaries offer courses in pastoral subjects such as counseling, education, comparative religion and delivering sermons. Most rabbinical students will complete their studies in their mid-20s. There is no hierarchy and no central authority in Judaism that either supervises rabbinic education or records ordinations; each branch of Judaism regulates the ordination of the rabbis affiliated with it. The most common formula used on a certificate of ''semikhah'' is ''Yore yore'' ("He may teach, he may teach", sometimes rendered as a question and answer, "May he teach? He may teach."). Most Rabbis hold this qualification; they are sometimes called a ''moreh hora'ah'' ("a teacher of rulings"). A more advanced form of ''semikhah'' is ''yadin yadin'' ("He may judge, he may judge" or "May he judge? He may judge."). This enables the recipient to serve as a judge on a rabbinical court and adjudicate cases of monetary law, among other responsibilities. The recipient of this ordination can be formally addressed as a ''dayan'' ("judge") and also retain the title of rabbi. Only a small percentage of rabbis earn the ''yadin yadin'' ordination. Although not strictly necessary, many Orthodox rabbis hold that a ''
beth din A beth din ( he, בית דין ''Bet Din'', "house of judgment" , Ashkenazic: ''beis din'') is a rabbinical Rabbinic Judaism ( he, יהדות רבנית, Yahadut Rabanit), also called Rabbinism, Rabbinicism, or Judaism espoused by the Rabbanite ...
'' (court of Jewish law) should be made up of ''dayanim'' with this ordination.


Orthodox and Modern Orthodox Judaism

An Orthodox ''semikhah'' requires the successful completion of a program encompassing Jewish law and responsa in keeping with longstanding tradition. Orthodox rabbinical students work to gain knowledge in
Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of and the primary source of Jewish religious law (') and . Until the advent of , in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the centerpiece of and was foundation ...

Talmud
,
Rishonim Rishonim (; he, ; sing. he, , ''Rishon'', "the first ones") were the leading rabbi A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism. One becomes a rabbi by being ordained by another rabbi, following a course of study of Jewis ...
and
Acharonim ''Acharonim'' (; he, אחרונים ''Aḥaronim''; sing. , ''Aḥaron''; lit. "last ones") in Halakha, Jewish law and history, are the leading rabbis and Posek, poskim (Jewish legal decisors) living from roughly the 16th century to the present, a ...
(early and late medieval commentators) and
Jewish law ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ), also transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script to another that involves swapping letters (thus '' trans-'' + '' liter-'') in predictable ways, such as Greek → ...
. They study sections of the
Shulchan Aruch The ''Shulchan Aruch'' ( he, שֻׁלְחָן עָרוּך , literally: "Set Table"), sometimes dubbed in English as the Code of Jewish Law, is the most widely consulted of the various Codification (law), legal codes in Judaism. It was authored in ...

Shulchan Aruch
(codified Jewish law) and its main commentaries that pertain to daily-life questions (such as the laws of keeping
kosher ''Kashrut'' (also ''kashruth'' or ''kashrus'', ) is a set of dietary laws Some people do not eat various specific foods and beverages in conformity with various religious, cultural, legal or other societal prohibitions. Many of these prohibition ...

kosher
,
Shabbat Shabbat (, , or ; he, שַׁבָּת, Šabat, , ) or the Sabbath, also called Shabbos ( yi, שבת) by , is 's day of rest on the seventh day of the —i.e., . On this day, religious remember the biblical stories describing the and the redem ...

Shabbat
, and the laws of
family purity Niddah (or nidah; he, נִדָּה), in traditional Judaism Judaism ( he, יהדות, ''Yahadut''; originally from Hebrew , ''Yehudah'', "Kingdom of Judah, Judah", via Ancient Greek, Greek ''Ioudaismos''; the term itself is of Anglo ...
). See: and ; ; ; and . Orthodox rabbis typically study at
yeshiva A yeshiva (; he, ישיבה, , sitting; pl. , or ) is a Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO; ) is an international standard are technical standards de ...
s, which are dedicated religious schools.
Modern Orthodox Modern may refer to: History * Modern history ** Early Modern period ** Late Modern period *** 18th century The 18th century lasted from January 1, 1701 ( MDCCI) to December 31, 1800 ( MDCCC). The term is often used to refer to the 1700s, ...
rabbinical students, such as those at
Yeshiva University Yeshiva University is a Private university, private research university with four campuses in New York City."About YU
on the Yeshiv ...
, study some elements of modern theology or philosophy, as well as the classical rabbinic works on such subjects (see ). The entrance requirements for an Orthodox yeshiva include a strong background within Jewish law, liturgy, Talmudic study, and attendant languages (e.g.,
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
,
Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac The Syriac language (; syc, / '), also known as Syriac Aramaic (''Syrian Aramaic'', ''Syro-Aramaic'') and Classical Syriac (in its literary and liturgical form), is an Aramaic Aramaic (Classical Syriac ...
and in some cases
Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a West Germanic The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic languages, Germanic family of languages (the others being the ...
). Specifically, students are expected to have acquired deep analytic skills, and breadth, in Talmud before commencing their rabbinic studies. At the same time, since rabbinical studies typically flow from other yeshiva studies, those who seek semichah are typically not required to have completed a university education. Exceptions exist, such as
Yeshiva University Yeshiva University is a Private university, private research university with four campuses in New York City."About YU
on the Yeshiv ...
, which requires all rabbinical students to complete an undergraduate degree before entering the program, and a Masters or equivalent before ordination. Historically, women could not become Orthodox rabbis. Starting in 2009, some Modern Orthodox institutions began ordaining women with the title of "
Maharat Yeshivat Maharat is a Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are members of an ethnoreligious group and a nation originating from the Israelites Israelite origins and kingdom: "The first a ...

Maharat
", and later with titles including "Rabbah" and "Rabbi". This is currently a contested issue for many Orthodox institutions, leading some to seek alternate clerical titles and roles for women (see ,
Toanot Rabniyot''Toanot Rabbaniyot'', or ''Toanot'' ( he, טוענות רבניות, "Women Rabbinical Advocates"), refer to women who serve as legal advocates and representatives within the traditional Jewish courts of law. ''Toanot'' typically argue cases on beh ...
, and Yoetzet Halacha). While some
Haredi Haredi Judaism ( he, יהדות חֲרֵדִית ', ; also spelled ''Charedi'' in English; plural ''Haredim'' or ''Charedim'') consists of groups within Orthodox Judaism Orthodox Judaism is the collective term for the traditionalist branche ...

Haredi
(including
Hasidic Hasidism, sometimes spelled Chassidism, and also known as Hasidic Judaism ( he, חסידות, Ḥăsīdut, ; originally, "piety"), is a subgroup of Haredi Judaism that arose as a spiritual revival movement in the territory of contemporary Wester ...
)
yeshiva A yeshiva (; he, ישיבה, , sitting; pl. , or ) is a Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO; ) is an international standard are technical standards de ...
s (also known as "Talmudical/Rabbinical schools or academies") do grant official ordination to many students wishing to become rabbis, most of the students within the yeshivas engage in learning Torah or
Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of and the primary source of Jewish religious law (') and . Until the advent of , in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the centerpiece of and was foundation ...

Talmud
without the goal of becoming rabbis or holding any official positions. The curriculum for obtaining ordination as rabbis for Haredi scholars is the same as described above for all Orthodox students wishing to obtain the official title of "Rabbi" and to be recognized as such. Within the Hasidic world, the positions of spiritual leadership are dynastically transmitted within established families, usually from fathers to sons, while a small number of students obtain official ordination to become dayanim ("judges") on religious courts,
poskim ''Posek'' ( he, פוסק , pl. ''poskim'', ) is the term in Jewish law ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ), also transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script to another that involves swapping let ...
("decisors" of
Jewish law ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ), also transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script to another that involves swapping letters (thus '' trans-'' + '' liter-'') in predictable ways, such as Greek → ...
), as well as teachers in the Hasidic schools. The same is true for the non-Hasidic Litvish yeshivas that are controlled by dynastically transmitted rosh yeshivas and the majority of students will not become rabbis, even after many years of post-graduate
kollel A kollel or colel ( he, כולל, , , a "gathering" or "collection" f scholars is an institute for full-time, advanced study Study or studies may refer to: General * Education **Higher education * Clinical trial * Experiment * Observational st ...
study. Some yeshivas, such as Yeshivas Chafetz Chaim and
Yeshivas Ner Yisroel Ner Israel Rabbinical College (ישיבת נר ישראל), also known as NIRC and Ner Yisroel, is a Haredi Haredi Judaism ( he, יהדות חֲרֵדִית ', ; also spelled ''Charedi'' in English; plural ''Haredim'' or ''Charedim'') consist ...
in
Baltimore Baltimore ( , locally: ) is the most populous city The United Nations uses three definitions for what constitutes a city, as not all cities in all jurisdictions are classified using the same criteria. Cities may be defined as the city prop ...

Baltimore
, Maryland, may encourage their students to obtain ''semichah'' and mostly serve as rabbis who teach in other yeshivas or Hebrew day schools. Other yeshivas, such as
Yeshiva Chaim Berlin A yeshiva (; he, ישיבה, , sitting; pl. , or ) is a Jewish education, Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and the Torah, and halacha (Jewish law). The studying ...
(
Brooklyn Brooklyn () is a borough A borough is an administrative division in various English language, English-speaking countries. In principle, the term ''borough'' designates a self-governing walled town, although in practice, official use of the te ...

Brooklyn
, New York) or the Mirrer Yeshiva (in
Brooklyn Brooklyn () is a borough A borough is an administrative division in various English language, English-speaking countries. In principle, the term ''borough'' designates a self-governing walled town, although in practice, official use of the te ...
and
Jerusalem Jerusalem (; he, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם ; ar, القُدس, ', , (combining the Biblical and common usage Arabic names); grc, Ἱερουσαλήμ/Ἰεροσόλυμα, Hierousalḗm/Hierosóluma; hy, Երուսաղեմ, Erusał ...
), do not have an official "semichah/rabbinical program" to train rabbis, but provide semichah on an "as needed" basis if and when one of their senior students is offered a rabbinical position but only with the approval of their ''rosh yeshivas''. Haredim will often prefer using
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
names for rabbinic titles based on older traditions, such as: ''Rav'' (denoting "rabbi"), ''HaRav'' ("the rabbi"), ''Moreinu HaRav'' ("our teacher the rabbi"), ''Moreinu'' ("our teacher"), ''Moreinu VeRabeinu HaRav'' ("our teacher and our rabbi/master the rabbi"), ''Moreinu VeRabeinu'' ("our teacher and our rabbi/master"), ''Rosh yeshiva'' ("[the] head [of the] yeshiva"), ''Rosh HaYeshiva'' ("head [of] the yeshiva"), "Mashgiach" (for Mashgiach ruchani) ("spiritual supervsor/guide"), ''Mara d'atra, Mora DeAsra'' ("teacher/decisor" [of] the/this place"), ''HaGaon'' ("the genius"), ''
Rebbe A Rebbe ( he, רבי: ) or Admor ( he, אדמו״ר) is the spiritual leader in the Hasidic movement Hasidism, sometimes spelled Chassidism, and also known as Hasidic Judaism ( he, חסידות, Ḥăsīdut, ; originally, "piety"), is a subg ...

Rebbe
'' ("[our/my] rabbi"), ''HaTzadik'' ("the righteous/saintly"), "ADMOR" ("Adoneinu Moreinu VeRabeinu") ("our master, our teacher and our rabbi/master") or often just plain ''Reb (Yiddish), Reb'' which is a shortened form of ''rebbe'' that can be used by, or applied to, any married Jewish male as the situation applies. Note: A ''rebbetzin'' (a
Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a West Germanic The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic languages, Germanic family of languages (the others being the ...

Yiddish
usage common among Ashkenazi Jews, Ashkenazim) or a ''rabbanit'' (in
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
and used among Sephardi Jews, Sephardim) is the official "title" used for, or by, the wife of any Orthodox, Haredi, or Hasidic rabbi. ''Rebbetzin'' may also be used as the equivalent of ''Reb'' and is sometimes abbreviated as such as well.


Non-Orthodox Judaism


Conservative Judaism

Conservative Judaism Conservative Judaism (known as Masorti Judaism outside North America) is a Jewish religious movements, Jewish religious movement that regards the authority of Jewish law and tradition as emanating primarily from the assent of the people and th ...
confers semikhah after the completion of a program in the codes of Jewish law and responsa in keeping with Jewish tradition. In addition to knowledge and mastery of the study of Talmud and halakhah, Conservative ''semikhah'' also requires that its rabbinical students receive intensive training in Tanakh, classical biblical commentaries, biblical criticism, Midrash, Kabbalah and Hasidic Judaism, Hasidut, the historical development of Judaism from antiquity to modernity, Jewish ethics, the halakhic methodology of Conservative responsa, classical and modern works of Jewish theology and philosophy, synagogue administration, pastoral care, chaplaincy, non-profit management, and navigating the modern world in a Jewish context. Entrance requirements to Conservative rabbinical study centers include a background within Jewish law and liturgy, familiarity with
rabbinic literature Rabbinic literature, in its broadest sense, is the entire spectrum of rabbi A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism. One becomes a rabbi by being ordained by another rabbi, following a course of study of Jewish texts ...
, Talmud, etc., ritual observance according to Conservative halakha, and the completion of an undergraduate university degree. In accordance with national collegiate accreditation requirements, Conservative rabbinical students earn a Master of Arts in Rabbinic Literature in addition to receiving ordination. See


Reform Judaism

In Reform Judaism rabbinic studies are mandated in pastoral care, the historical development of Judaism, academic biblical criticism, in addition to the study of traditional rabbinic texts. Rabbinical students also are required to gain practical rabbinic experience by working at a congregation as a rabbinic intern during each year of study from year one onwards. All Reform seminaries ordain women and openly LGBT people as rabbis and Hazzan, cantors. See


Seminaries unaffiliated with main denominations

There are several possibilities for receiving rabbinic ordination in addition to seminaries maintained by the large Jewish denominations; these are the Academy for Jewish Religion (New York), Academy for Jewish Religion in New York City, Academy for Jewish Religion (California), AJR in California, Hebrew College in Boston, and Hebrew Seminary in Illinois. The structure and curricula here are largely as at other non-Orthodox yeshivot. More recently established are several non-traditional, and nondenominational (also called "transdenominational" or "postdenominational") seminaries. These grant semicha with lesser requirements re time, and with a modified curriculum, generally focusing on leadership and pastoral roles. These are Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute, JSLI, Rabbinical Seminary International, RSI, and Pluralistic Rabbinical Seminary, PRS. The Mesifta Adath Wolkowisk, Wolkowisk Mesifta is aimed at community professionals with significant knowledge and experience, and provides a tailored curriculum to each candidate. Rimmon Rabbinical School, Rimmon, the most recently established, emphasizes halakha, halakhic decision making.


Interdenominational recognition

Historically and until the present, recognition of a rabbi relates to a community's perception of the rabbi's competence to interpret Jewish law and act as a teacher on central matters within Judaism. More broadly speaking, it is also an issue of being a worthy successor to a sacred legacy. As a result, there have always been greater or lesser disputes about the legitimacy and authority of rabbis. Historical examples include Samaritans and Karaite (Jewish sect), Karaites. The divisions between Jewish denominations may have their most pronounced manifestation on whether rabbis from one denomination recognize the legitimacy or authority of rabbis in another. As a general rule within Orthodoxy and among some in the Conservative movement, rabbis are reluctant to accept the authority of other rabbis whose Halakhic standards are not as strict as their own. In some cases, this leads to an outright rejection of even the legitimacy of other rabbis; in others, the more lenient rabbi may be recognized as a spiritual leader of a particular community but may not be accepted as a credible authority on Jewish law. *The Orthodox rabbinical establishment rejects the validity of Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis on the grounds that their movements' teachings are in violation of traditional Jewish tenets. Some
Modern Orthodox Modern may refer to: History * Modern history ** Early Modern period ** Late Modern period *** 18th century The 18th century lasted from January 1, 1701 ( MDCCI) to December 31, 1800 ( MDCCC). The term is often used to refer to the 1700s, ...
rabbis are respectful toward non-Orthodox rabbis and focus on commonalities even as they disagree on interpretation of some areas of Halakha (with Conservative rabbis) or the authority of Halakha (with Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis). *Conservative rabbis accept the legitimacy of Orthodox rabbis, though they are often critical of Orthodox positions. Although they would rarely look to Reform or Reconstructionist rabbis for Halakhic decisions, they accept the legitimacy of these rabbis' religious leadership. *Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis, on the premise that all the main movements are legitimate expressions of Judaism, will accept the legitimacy of other rabbis' leadership, though will not accept their views on Jewish law, since Reform and Reconstructionists reject Halakha as binding. These debates cause great problems for recognition of Jewish marriages, conversions, and other life decisions that are touched by Jewish law. Orthodox rabbis do not recognize conversions by non-Orthodox rabbis. Conservative rabbis recognise all conversions done according to Halakha. Finally, the North American Reform and Reconstructionists recognize patrilineality, under certain circumstances, as a valid claim towards Judaism, whereas Conservative and Orthodox maintain the position expressed in the
Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of and the primary source of Jewish religious law (') and . Until the advent of , in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the centerpiece of and was foundation ...

Talmud
and Codes that one can be a Jew only through matrilineality (born of a Jewish mother) or through
conversion to Judaism Conversion to Judaism ( he, גיור, ''giyur'') is the process by which non-Jews adopt the Jewish religion and become members of the Jewish ethnoreligious community. It thus resembles both religious conversion, conversion to other religions ...
.


Women rabbis

With few rare exceptions, Jewish women have historically been excluded from serving as rabbis. This changed in the 1970s, when due to the shift in American society under the influence of second-wave feminism, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion began ordaining women as rabbis.Blau, Eleanor
"1st Woman Rabbi in U.S. Ordained; She May Be Only the Second in History of Judaism"
''The New York Times'', June 4, 1972. Retrieved September 17, 2009. "Sally HJ. Priesand was ordained at the Isaac M. Wise Temple here today, becoming the first woman rabbi in this country and it is believed, the second in the history of Judaism."
Today, Jewish women serve as rabbis within all progressive branches of Judaism, while in Orthodox Judaism, it is a matter of debate, with most communities not accepting women rabbis, while others either ordain women as rabbis or have allowed alternate clerical roles for women (see: Yoetzet Halacha).


See also

* Chief Rabbinate of Israel * Hakham * List of rabbis * List of rabbinical schools * Rishamma#Notable rishamma, Mandaean rabbis * Mashpia * Posek * Rav muvhak * Talmid Chacham


Notes


References


Citations


Sources

* * Aaron Kirchenbaum, ''Mara de-Atra: A Brief Sketch,'' Tradition, Vol. 27, No. 4, 1993, pp. 35–40. * Aharon Lichtenstein, ''The Israeli Chief Rabbinate: A Current Halakhic Perspective,'' Tradition, Vol. 26, No. 4, 1992, pp. 26–38. * Jeffrey I. Roth, ''Inheriting the Crown in Jewish Law: The Struggle for Rabbinic Compensation, Tenure and Inheritance Rights,'' Univ. of South Carolina Press, 2006. * S. Schwarzfuchs, ''A Concise History of the Rabbinate'', Oxford, 1993.
Jewish Encyclopedia: Rabbi


External links

* {{Authority control Rabbis, Jewish religious occupations Orthodox rabbinic roles and titles, *