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Semikhah (or Semicha or Smicha; Hebrew: סמיכה‎) is the ordination of a rabbi within Judaism. It may also be called (סמיכה לרבנות‎, "rabbinical ordination", or סמיכה לחזנות‎, "cantorial ordination" when given specifically to a hazzan (cantor). The original semikhah was the formal "transmission of authority" from Moses through the generations. This form of semikhah ceased between 360 and 425 CE. Since then semikhah has continued in a less formal way. Throughout history there have been several attempts to reestablish the classical semikhah.

The word semikhah derives from a Hebrew root סמכ (smk) that means to "rely on", in the sense of "lean on", or "to be authorized"; the literal meaning of Semikhah is "leaning [of the hands]".

Concept

Example semikhah certificate, Yadin Yadin, of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan awarded by Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel. The wording, as is typical, states that the holder is learned in Shas (ש״ס) – i.e. has wide knowledge of Talmud – as well as in Rishonim and Acharonim – i.e. has deep knowledge of Halakha; the phrase "כל מן דין סמוכו לנא"[1] is often included, and translates "one of this [caliber] may be ordained for us".

In concept, semikhah represents an "unbroken chain" of tradition and authority (mesorah) dating back to the time of Moses (Moshe) and Joshua (Yehoshua).[2] It is held that Hashem taught the Torah to Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) on Mount Sinai in 1312 BCE and that since that time, the knowledge of Torah has been passed from generation to generation by the conferment of semikhah, rabbinic ordination, or the unbroken transmission of authority dating back to that time. This unbroken chain of tradition is thus believed by many to have continued for over 3,300 years and continues to this day.[3][4]

The ancient formula for semikhah was "Yoreh Yoreh. Yadin Yadin". ("May he decide? He may decide! May he judge? He may judge!"); and in the early days of rabbinical Judaism any ordained teacher could ordain his students.[citation needed] Classical semikhah was granted by a court of three judges,[5] and it later required the participation of at least one who had attained this status, himself. According to Maimonides the other two need not be semukhim.[6] Today,[7][8][9][10] semikha is generally through an institution, a yeshiva or specialized kollel, but is often granted by an individual.

The testing confirms one's ability to decide a question in halacha (Jewish law)[11] – in Yiddish, pasken. The examination has a dual concern: firstly it confirms knowledge of the law as presented in Shulchan Aruch, the standard code of law (with more recent applications from relevant teshuvot, or responsa); secondly, it also confirms an understanding of the underlying principles, by testing the relevant Talmudic sugyas, together with their development in the Rishonim and Acharonim, especially the Tur.

The Talmud lists three classes of semikhah issued:[12]

  • Yoreh Yoreh: The recipient of this semikhah demonstrated sufficient education and proper judgment to be able to render halakhic judgments on matters of religious law as it pertains to daily life, focusing on kashrut (referred to as "Issur v'Hetter") and niddah, and permissible or forbidden activities on Shabbos or Yom Tov; the former draw on the Yoreh Deah section of Shulchan Aruch, the latter on Orach Chaim. The holder of this Semikha is referred to also as a Moreh Hora'ah.
  • Yadin Yadin: The recipient of this semikhah demonstrated sufficient education and proper judgment to be able to render halakhic judgments on matters of religious law as it pertains to monetary and property disputes; the basis here is the Choshen Mishpat section; this semikhah is usually required for a rabbi to act as a Dayan (rabbinic judge), and, typically, is granted only to those already holding Yoreh Yoreh.
  • Yatir Bechorot Yatir: The recipient of this semikhah demonstrated sufficient education and proper judgment to determine the ritual status of firstborn animals that have developed a blemish. This degree required extensive veterinary knowledge.

While the first two classes are still issued today, the last one is not. A recent form of semikhah is Rav U'Manhig, "[pulpit] Rabbi and [community] leader". This essentially testifies that the recipient has sufficient Torah knowledge to serve in a position of leadership [13] (as "rabbi" essentially means "teacher", not necessarily "halachic authority"). The testing here covers Orach Chaim extensively, often with less emphasis on the underlying sugyas. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel confers a semikhah known as Rav Ir, "[Chief] Rabbi of a City", covering relevant topics from all sections of Shulchan Aruch, such as gerut; as for Dayanut, Yoreh Yoreh is a prerequisite; see Chief Rabbinate of Israel § Semikhah. Certification, with similar testing, is also required for one to become a Shochet, Mohel, Sofer, or Menakker. These include, also, an element of shimush, or apprenticeship.

Many Yoreh Yoreh programs, for example the Chief Rabbinate's and RIETS, include testing in Avelut (Laws of mourning; Yoreh Deah) and / or Jewish marital law (Even Ha'ezer section). Traditionally – and on the other hand – Yoreh Yoreh covered kashrut only, and this is still often the case. The philosophy here is that, as mentioned, Semikha is in fact a confirmation of the ability (and right) of the holder to pasken in general,[11] and that, as required, the rabbi can correctly apply his Talmudic and Halakhic knowledge to other areas (and where necessary refer complex cases to a posek, a more qualified authority; see Responsa #In Judaism). A semikha focusing on the laws of Shabbat is sometimes granted, similarly. Often, niddah will require a separate specialized certification, as an element of shimush pertains to these halakhot. It is not uncommon for a rabbi to hold several certificates, with each semikha covering a specific area of halakha.

The ceremony where ordination is conferred is known as Chag HaSemikhah, the festival of ordination. Today in most branches of Judaism, there is no laying on of hands; ordination is conferred as an academic degree with a diploma, signed by the officiating rabbis, often hand-written on parchment. In fact, receiving ordination has been a festive occasion accompanied by celebration since Talmudic times. According to the Talmud, when the rabbis ordained Rabbi Zeira, they sang a bridal song in his honor: "No mascara, and no rouge, and no dyeing [of the hair] – and [yet] a graceful gazelle;" the analogy and implication: just as a bride is inherently beautiful, so for ordination, one's Torah knowledge must be immediately apparent.[14] They also sang at the ordination of Rabbi Ammi and Rabbi Assi: "Just like these, just like these, ordain for us!"[15] This wording (כל מן דין סמוכו לנא) as per the certificate displayed, is still often included on semikhah diplomas.

Contemporary usage

In the prevailing sense, "smicha" generally refers to the ordination of a rabbi or cantor, within all modern Jewish religious movements from Reform to Orthodox.[16]

This "Smicha lerabbanut" signifies the transmission of rabbinic authority to give advice or judgment in Jewish law, thus overlapping to some extent with the classical usage, per #Concept above; see also Rabbi #Orthodox and Modern Orthodox Judaism. In this context, "Rav Muvhak" is sometimes used to refer to a student's primary teacher.

Smicha lehazzanut, similarly, signifies the transmission of authoritative knowledge about Jewish musical and liturgical traditions.

Status of current rabbis

Although presently most functioning synagogue (i.e. "pulpit") rabbis hold semikhah, this was until quite recently not always required, and in fact many Haredi rabbis may possibly not be required to hold a "formal" semikhah even though they may occupy important rabbinical and leadership positions. The reasons being that what is prized in the communities they serve and lead is most of all a supreme mastery of the Talmud with a vast knowledge of the commentaries of the Rishonim and Acharonim and Responsa, added to knowledge of the Shulchan Aruch and Halakha ("Jewish Law"). In the UK, a communal minister who does not have semikhah has the title "Reverend" rather than "rabbi".

Many Hasidic rebbes and Rosh yeshivas of major Orthodox yeshivas are not required to "prove" to their flocks that they do or do not hold formal semikhah because their reputations as Torah-scholars and sages is unquestioned and esteemed based on the recommendations of trusted sages, and the experiences and interactions that many knowledgeable Torah-observant Jews have with them, which thus gives practical testimony based on experience that these great rabbis are indeed worthy to be called as such.

For example, according to some reports Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (known as the Chafetz Chayim) did not officially receive semikhah until late in life, when a formal rabbinic qualification was necessary for him to call himself "rabbi" on an immigration application.[17] Most current poskim, however, do have semikhah.

Just as a debate exists about who is a Jew, there is little consensus as to who is a rabbi. The Reform movement in a Responsa states that for their Temples, pulpit rabbis need to attend and complete their academic program at the Reform movement's rabbinic schools. But they further state that this does not negate other sects of Judaism from accepting the time-honored semikhah of one-on-one. Nor do they deal with the issue of rabbis who are not pulpit rabbis but teach, study, and do research. They do say that the need for three rabbis is unneeded as the two additional rabbis are just witnesses and cannot attest to the new rabbi's knowledge.

Ordination of cantors

Some cantorial institutions in the United States currently grant smicha lehazzanut to their students, while others use the term investiture to describe the conferral of cantorial authority onto their graduates.[16]

The term investiture was originally intended to make a distinction between the ordination of rabbis and that of cantors. However, in response to the increased responsibility of the cantor in contemporary American synagogues, some institutions such as Hebrew Union College (Reform) have recently begun to use the term "ordination" instead of "investiture."[16] Other institutions that ordain cantors include Hebrew College (pluralistic), the Academy for Jewish Religion (pluralistic), and Aleph (Renewal).[18][19][20] The Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative) currently invests its cantors.[21]

Classical semikhah

Classical semikhah refers to a specific type of ordination that, according to traditional Jewish teaching, traces a line of authority back to Moshe ben Amram, The Men of the Great Assembly, and the Great Sanhedrin. The line of classical semikhah died out in the 4th or 5th century CE but it is widely held that a line of Torah conferment remains unbroken.

Some believe evidence existed that classical semikhah was existent during the 12th century when semuchim from Lebanon and Syria were traveling to Israel in order to pass on Torah conferment to their students.[22]The word semikhah derives from a Hebrew root סמכ (smk) that means to "rely on", in the sense of "lean on", or "to be authorized"; the literal meaning of Semikhah is "leaning [of the hands]".

In concept, semikhah represents an "unbroken chain" of tradition and authority (mesorah) dating back to the time of Moses (Moshe) and Joshua (Yehoshua).[2] It is held that Hashem taught the Torah to Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) on Mount Sinai in 1312 BCE and that since that time, the knowledge of Torah has been passed from generation to generation by the conferment of semikhah, rabbinic ordination, or the unbroken transmission of authority dating back to that time. This unbroken chain of tradition is thus believed by many to have continued for over 3,300 years and continues to this day.[3][4]

The ancient formula for semikhah was "Yoreh Yoreh. Yadin Yadin". ("May he decide? He may decide! May he judge? He may judge!"); and in the early days of rabbinical Judaism any ordained teacher could ordain his students.[citation needed] Classical semikhah was granted by a court of three judges,[5] and it later required the participation of at least one who had attained this status, himself. According to Maimonides the other two need not be semukhim.[6] Today,[7][8][9][10] semikha is generally through an institution, a yeshiva or specialized kollel, but is often granted by an individual.

The testing confirms one's ability to decide a question in halacha (Jewish law)[11] – in Yiddish, pasken. The examination has a dual concern: firstly it confirms knowledge of the law as presented in Shulchan Aruch, the standard code of law (with more recent applications from relevant teshuvot, or responsa); secondly, it also confirms an understanding of the underlying principles, by testing the relevant Talmudic sugyas, together with their development in the Rishonim and Acharonim, especially the Tur.

The Talmud lists three classes of semikhah issued:[12]

  • Yoreh Yoreh: The recipient of this semikhah demonstrated sufficient education and proper judgment to be able to render halakhic judgments on matters of religious law as it pertains to daily life, focusing on kashrut (referred to as "Issur v'Hetter") and niddah, and permissible or forbidden activities on Shabbos or Yom Tov; the former draw on the Yoreh Deah section of Shulchan Aruch, the latter on Orach Chaim. The holder of this Semikha is referred to also as a Moreh Hora'ah.
  • Yadin Yadin: The recipient of this semikhah demonstrated sufficient education and proper judgment to be able to render halakhic judgments on matters of religious law as it pertains to monetary and property disputes; the basis here is the Choshen Mishpat section; this semikhah is usually required for a rabbi to act as a Dayan (rabbinic judge), and, typically, is granted only to those already holding Yoreh Yoreh.
  • Yatir Bechorot Yatir: The recipient of this semikhah demonstrated sufficient education and proper judgment to determine the ritual status of firstborn animals that have developed a blemish. This degree required extensive veterinary knowledge.

While the first two classes are still issued today, the last one is not. A recent form of semikhah is Rav U'Manhig, "[pulpit] Rabbi and [community] leader". This essentially testifies that the recipient has sufficient Torah knowledge to serve in a position of leadership [13] (as "rabbi" essentially means "teacher", not necessarily "halachic authority"). The testing here covers Orach Chaim extensively, often with less emphasis on the underlying sugyas. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel confers a semikhah known as Rav Ir, "[Chief] Rabbi

The ancient formula for semikhah was "Yoreh Yoreh. Yadin Yadin". ("May he decide? He may decide! May he judge? He may judge!"); and in the early days of rabbinical Judaism any ordained teacher could ordain his students.[citation needed] Classical semikhah was granted by a court of three judges,[5] and it later required the participation of at least one who had attained this status, himself. According to Maimonides the other two need not be semukhim.[6] Today,[7][8][9][10] semikha is generally through an institution, a yeshiva or specialized kollel, but is often granted by an individual.

The testing confirms one's ability to decide a question in halacha (Jewish law)[11] – in Yiddish, pasken. The examination has a dual concern: firstly it confirms knowledge of the law as presented in Shulchan Aruch, the standard code of law (with more recent applications from relevant teshuvot, or responsa); secondly, it also confirms an understanding of the underlying principles, by testing the relevant Talmudic sugyas, together with their development in the Rishonim and Acharonim, especially the Tur.

The Talmud lists three classes of semikhah issued:[12]

While the first two classes are still issued today, the last one is not. A recent form of semikhah is Rav U'Manhig, "[pulpit] Rabbi and [community] leader". This essentially testifies that the recipient has sufficient Torah knowledge to serve in a position of leadership [13] (as "rabbi" essentially means "teacher", not necessarily "halachic authority"). The testing here covers Orach Chaim extensively, often with less emphasis on the underlying sugyas. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel confers a semikhah known as Rav Ir, "[Chief] Rabbi of a City", covering relevant topics from all sections of Shulchan Aruch, such as gerut; as for Dayanut, Yoreh Yoreh is a prerequisite; see Chief Rabbinate of Israel § Semikhah. Certification, with similar testing, is also required for one to become a Shochet, Mohel, Sofer, or Menakker. These include, also, an element of shimush, or apprenticeship.

Many Yoreh Yoreh programs, for example the Chief Rabbinate's and RIETS, include testing in Avelut (Laws of mourning; Yoreh Deah) and / or Jewish marital law (Even Ha'ezer section). Traditionally – and on the other hand – Yoreh Yoreh covered kashrut only, and this is still often the case. The philosophy here is that, as mentioned, Semikha is in fact a confirmation of the ability (and right) of the holder to pasken in general,[11] and that, as required, the rabbi can correctly apply his Talmudic and Halakhic knowledge to other areas (and where necessary refer complex cases to a posek, a more qualified authority; see Responsa #In Judaism). A semikha focusing on the laws of Shabbat is sometimes granted, similarly. Often, niddah will require a separate specialized certification, as an element of shimush pertains to these halakhot. It is not uncommon for a rabbi to hold several certificates, with each semikha covering a specific area of halakha.

The ceremony where ordination is conferred is known as Chag HaSemikhah, the festival of ordination. Today in most branches of Judaism, there is no laying on of hands; ordination is conferred as an academic degree with a diploma, signed by the officiating rabbis, often hand-written on parchment. In fact, receiving ordination has been a festive occasion accompanied by celebration since Talmudic times. Accor

Many Yoreh Yoreh programs, for example the Chief Rabbinate's and RIETS, include testing in Avelut (Laws of mourning; Yoreh Deah) and / or Jewish marital law (Even Ha'ezer section). Traditionally – and on the other hand – Yoreh Yoreh covered kashrut only, and this is still often the case. The philosophy here is that, as mentioned, Semikha is in fact a confirmation of the ability (and right) of the holder to pasken in general,[11] and that, as required, the rabbi can correctly apply his Talmudic and Halakhic knowledge to other areas (and where necessary refer complex cases to a posek, a more qualified authority; see Responsa #In Judaism). A semikha focusing on the laws of Shabbat is sometimes granted, similarly. Often, niddah will require a separate specialized certification, as an element of shimush pertains to these halakhot. It is not uncommon for a rabbi to hold several certificates, with each semikha covering a specific area of halakha.

The ceremony where ordination is conferred is known as Chag HaSemikhah, the festival of ordination. Today in most branches of Judaism, there is no laying on of hands; ordination is conferred as an academic degree with a diploma, signed by the officiating rabbis, often hand-written on parchment. In fact, receiving ordination has been a festive occasion accompanied by celebration since Talmudic times. According to the Talmud, when the rabbis ordained Rabbi Zeira, they sang a bridal song in his honor: "No mascara, and no rouge, and no dyeing [of the hair] – and [yet] a graceful gazelle;" the analogy and implication: just as a bride is inherently beautiful, so for ordination, one's Torah knowledge must be immediately apparent.[14] They also sang at the ordination of Rabbi Ammi and Rabbi Assi: "Just like these, just like these, ordain for us!"[15] This wording (כל מן דין סמוכו לנא) as per the certificate displayed, is still often included on semikhah diplomas.

In the prevailing sense, "smicha" generally refers to the ordination of a rabbi or cantor, within all modern Jewish religious movements from Reform to Orthodox.[16]

This "Smicha lerabbanut" signifies the transmission of rabbinic authority to give advice or judgment in Jewish law, thus overlapping to some extent with the classical usage, per #Concept above; see als

This "Smicha lerabbanut" signifies the transmission of rabbinic authority to give advice or judgment in Jewish law, thus overlapping to some extent with the classical usage, per #Concept above; see also Rabbi #Orthodox and Modern Orthodox Judaism. In this context, "Rav Muvhak" is sometimes used to refer to a student's primary teacher.

Smicha lehazzanut, similarly, signifies the transmission of authoritative knowledge about Jewish musical and liturgical traditions.

Although presently most functioning synagogue (i.e. "pulpit") rabbis hold semikhah, this was until quite recently not always required, and in fact many Haredi rabbis may possibly not be required to hold a "formal" semikhah even though they may occupy important rabbinical and leadership positions. The reasons being that what is prized in the communities they serve and lead is most of all a supreme mastery of the Talmud with a vast knowledge of the commentaries of the Rishonim and Acharonim and Responsa, added to knowledge of the Shulchan Aruch and Halakha ("Jewish Law"). In the UK, a communal minister who does not have semikhah has the title "Reverend" rather than "rabbi".

Many Hasidic rebbes and Rosh yeshivas of major Orthodox yeshivas are not required to "prove" to their flocks that they d

Many Hasidic rebbes and Rosh yeshivas of major Orthodox yeshivas are not required to "prove" to their flocks that they do or do not hold formal semikhah because their reputations as Torah-scholars and sages is unquestioned and esteemed based on the recommendations of trusted sages, and the experiences and interactions that many knowledgeable Torah-observant Jews have with them, which thus gives practical testimony based on experience that these great rabbis are indeed worthy to be called as such.

For example, according to some reports Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (known as the Chafetz Chayim) did not officially receive semikhah until late in life, when a formal rabbinic qualification was necessary for him to call himself "rabbi" on an immigration application.[17] Most current poskim, however, do have semikhah.

Just as a debate exists about who is a Jew, there is little consensus as to who is a rabbi. The Reform movement in a Responsa states that for their Temples, pulpit rabbis need to attend and complete their academic program at the Reform movement's rabbinic schools. But they further state that this does not negate other sects of Judaism from accepting the time-honored semikhah of one-on-one. Nor do they deal with the issue of rabbis who are not pulpit rabbis but teach, study, and do research. They do say that the need for three rabbis is unneeded as the two additional rabbis are just witnesses and cannot attest to the new rabbi's knowledge.

Some cantorial institutions in the United States currently grant smicha lehazzanut to their students, while others use the term investiture to describe the conferral of cantorial authority onto their graduates.[16]

The term investiture was originally intended to make a distinction between the ordination of rabbis and that of cantors. However, in response to the increased responsibility of the cantor in contemporary American synagogues, some institutions such as Hebrew Union College (Reform) have recently begun to use the term "ordination" instead of "investiture."[16] Other institutions that ordain cantors include Hebrew College (pluralistic), the Academy for Jewish Religion (pluralistic), and Aleph (Renewal).[18][19][20] The Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative) currently invests its cantors.[21]

Classical semikhah refers to a specific type of ordination that, according to traditional Jewish teaching, traces a line of authority back to Moshe ben Amram, The Men of the Great Assembly, and the Great Sanhedrin. The line of classical semikhah died out in the 4th or 5th century CE but it is widely held that a line of Torah conferment remains unbroken.

Some believe evidence existed that classical semikhah was existent during the 12th century when semuchim from Lebanon and Syria were traveling to Israel in order to pass on Torah conferment to their students.semuchim from Lebanon and Syria were traveling to Israel in order to pass on Torah conferment to their students.[22] Others, such as Rav Yisroel of Shklov (1770–1839), believed semikhah may not have been broken at all but that it continued outside of the land of Israel.

Today many believe in the existence of an unbroken chain of rabbinical tradition dating back to the time of Moshe ben Amram ("Moses") and Yehoshua ben Nun ("Joshua")[3][4]

According to the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, Moses ordained Joshua through semikhah. (Num 27:15–23, Deut 34:9). Moses also ordained the 70 elders (Num 11:16–25). The elders later ordained their successors in this way. Their successors in turn ordained others. This chain of hands-on semikhah continued through the time of the Second Temple, to an undetermined time.[original research?][citation needed]

Traditionally Moses is also assumed to be the "first rabbi" of the Israelites. He is still known to most Jews as Moshe Rabbeinu ("Moses our Teacher"). Moses was also a prophet, and it is a Israelites. He is still known to most Jews as Moshe Rabbeinu ("Moses our Teacher"). Moses was also a prophet, and it is a fundamental Jewish belief that he was the greatest of all the Torah's prophets. Moses passed his leadership on to Joshua as commanded by God in the Book of Numbers where the subject of semikhah ("laying [of hands]" or "ordination") is first mentioned in the Torah:

Despite the name, the classical semikhah did not actually require a literal laying on of hands; the operative part of the ceremony consisted of a court of three, at least one of whom himself had semikhah, conferring the authority on the recipient.[23] Both the givers and the recipient had to be in the Land of Israel, but they did not have to be in the same place.[24] In the Mishnaic era it became the law that only someone who had semikhah could give religious and legal decisions.[12]

The title ribbi (or "rabbi") was reserved for those with semikhah. The sages of the Babylonian Jewish community had a similar religious education, but without the semikhah ceremony they were called rav. The Talmud also relates that one can obtain the title of rabbi by those to whom he teaches or counsels.

After the failed revolution by Bar Kokhba in 132–135 CE, the Romans put down the revolt, and the emperor Hadrian tried to put a permanent end to the Sanhedrin. According to the Talmud, Hadrian decreed that anyone who gave or accepted semikhah would be killed, any city in which the ceremony took place would be razed, and all crops within a mile of the ceremony's site would be destroyed. The line of succession was saved by Rabbi Judah ben Bava, who took five students of the recently martyred Rabbi Akiva to a mountain pass far from any settlement or farm, and ordained all five students. When the Romans attacked them, Rabbi Yehuda blocked the pass with his body allowing the others to escape, and became one of Judaism's ten Rabbinic Martyrs himself by being speared 300 times. The five new rabbis – Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Shimon, Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yose and Rabbi semikhah. The sages of the Babylonian Jewish community had a similar religious education, but without the semikhah ceremony they were called rav. The Talmud also relates that one can obtain the title of rabbi by those to whom he teaches or counsels.

After the failed revolution by Bar Kokhba in 132–135 CE, the Romans put down the revolt, and the emperor Hadrian tried to put a permanent end to the Sanhedrin. According to the Talmud, Hadrian decreed that anyone who gave or accepted semikhah would be killed, any city in which the ceremony took place would be razed, and all crops within a mile of the ceremony's site would be destroyed. The line of succession was saved by Rabbi Judah ben Bava, who took five students of the recently martyred Rabbi Akiva to a mountain pass far from any settlement or farm, and ordained all five students. When the Romans attacked them, Rabbi Yehuda blocked the pass with his body allowing the others to escape, and became one of Judaism's ten Rabbinic Martyrs himself by being speared 300 times. The five new rabbis – Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Shimon, Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yose and Rabbi Eleazar ben Shammua – escaped and became the next generation of Torah leadership.[25]

The exact date that the original semikhah succession ended is not certain. Many medieval authorities believed that this occurred during the reign of Hillel II, around the year 360 CE.[26] However, Theodosius I forbade the Sanhedrin to assemble and declared ordination illegal. (Roman law prescribed capital punishment for any rabbi who received ordination and complete destruction of the town where the ordination occurred).[27] It seems to have continued until at least 425, when Theodosius II executed Gamaliel VI and suppressed the Patriarchate and Sanhedrin.[citation needed]

The original line of succession seems to have died out in the 4th or 5th centuries. The Geonim, early medieval Jewish sages of Babylon, did not possess semikhah, and did not use the title "rabbi". They were formally known as "rav" and were entrusted with authority to make legal and religious decisions.

Some believe that classical semikhah may have even survived until the 12th century when semuchim from Lebanon and Syria were traveling to Israel in order to pass on semicha to their students.[22]

Sometime after the Black Death struck Europe, the Jewis

Some believe that classical semikhah may have even survived until the 12th century when semuchim from Lebanon and Syria were traveling to Israel in order to pass on semicha to their students.[22]

Sometime after the Black Death struck Europe, the Jewish community was influenced by the formal issuing of diplomas conferred by European Christian universities. In the areas today known as France and Germany, Ashkenazi Jews began using the term semikhah again, this time using it to refer to a formal "diploma" conferred by a teacher on his pupil, entitling the pupil to be called Mori (my teacher). This practice was at first frowned upon by Sephardi Jews,[citation needed] who viewed the practice as "presumptuous and arrogant",[citation needed] and an imitation of gentile customs (in this case, the university doctorate); eventually however this practice was adopted by the Sephardic Jewish community as well.

Maimonides, rules that "if all the sages In Israel would unanimously agree to appoint and ordain judges, then these new ordinants would possess the full authority of the original ordained judges".[28] His code of law was accepted as normative by the majority of Jewish scholars since that time, though this section was mainly viewed as theoretical, especially because he concludes that "the matter needs deciding". The Sanhedrin of Rabbi Jacob Berab purported to enact this into practical law, changing minor details. However, since the legal existence of this Sanhedrin depends on the validity of Maimonides' view, the question is circular.

Attempt by Rabbi Jacob Berab, 1538

Rabbi Zvi Kovsker came to the Holy Land from Soviet Russia. Seeing the condition of Jews in the years leading up to World War II, he undertook an effort to contact and work with many rabbinic leaders in the Holy Land towards getting their approval for the renewal of semikhah, and the reestablishment of a Sanhedrin, as an authentic government for the Jewish people (this was before the establishment of the State of Israel).

Attempt by Rabbi Yehudah Leib Maimon, 1949