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 such as the Talmud.
The basic form of the rabbi developed in the Pharisaic and Talmudic 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 rabbis", and in 19th-century Germany and the United States rabbinic activities including sermons, pastoral counseling, and representing the community to the outside, all increased in importance.
Within the various Jewish denominations there are different requirements for rabbinic ordination, and differences in opinion regarding who is recognized as a rabbi. For example, Orthodox Judaism does not ordain women as rabbis. Non-Orthodox movements have chosen to do so for what they view as halakhic reasons as well as ethical reasons.
Etymology and pronunciationThe Hebrew word rav,, which literally means "great one" or "master", :he:רב|is the original Hebrew form of the title. The form of the title in English and many other languages derives from the possessive form in Hebrew of rav: rabbi, meaning "My Master", which is the way a student would address a master of Torah. The word rav in turn derives from the Semitic root ר-ב-ב, which in Biblical Aramaic means "great" in many senses, including "revered", but appears primarily as a prefix in construct forms. Although the usage rabbim "many" "the majority, the multitude" occurs for the assembly of the community in the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is no evidence to support an association with the later title "rabbi". The root is cognate to Arabic ربّ rabb, meaning "lord", and to the Syriac word ܪܒܝ rabi. As a sign of great respect, some great rabbis are simply called "The Rav".
In ancient Hebrew, rabbi was a proper term of address while speaking to a superior, in the second person, similar to a vocative case. While speaking about a superior, in the third person one could say ha-rav or rabbo. Later, the term evolved into a formal title for members of the Patriarchate. Thus, the title gained an irregular plural form: rabbanim, and not rabbay.
Sephardic and Yemenite Jews have historically pronounced this word ribbī rather than "rabbi", and this pronunciation also appears in the Talmud and in Ashkenazi texts prior to the late 18th century. The modern Israeli pronunciation rabi, and the English word "rabbi", are derived from an 18th-century innovation in Ashkenazic prayer books, although this vocalization is also found in some ancient sources. Other variants are rəvī and, in Yiddish, rebbə.
Historical overviewA rabbi is not an occupation found in the 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 and Shammai in the books of Matthew, Mark, and John in the New Testament, where it is used in reference to "Scribes and Pharisees" as well as to Jesus.
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 and Judah 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, and the ritual authority of the priesthood. Members of the Sanhedrin had to receive their ordination in an uninterrupted line of transmission from 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 religious title does not appear in the Hebrew Bible.
All of the above personalities would have been expected to be steeped in the wisdom of the Torah and the commandments, which would have made them "rabbis" in the modern sense of the word. This is illustrated by a 2000-year-old teaching in the Mishnah, which observed about King David,
With the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem, 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 Assembly. 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". This was eventually encoded and codified within the Mishnah and Talmud and subsequent rabbinical scholarship, leading to what is known as Rabbinic Judaism.
SagesThe title "Rabbi" was borne by the sages of ancient Israel, who were ordained by the Sanhedrin in accordance with the custom handed down by the elders. They were titled Ribbi and received authority to judge penal cases. Rab was the title of the Babylonian sages who taught in the Babylonian academies.
After the suppression of the Patriarchate and Sanhedrin by Theodosius II in 425, there was no more formal ordination in the strict sense. A recognised scholar could be called Rab 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 Agesruled 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. In the fifteenth century in Central Europe, the custom grew up of licensing scholars with a diploma entitling them to be called Mori. At the time this was objected to as hukkat ha-goy, as it was felt to resemble the conferring of doctorates in Christian universities. However, the system spread, and it is this diploma that is referred to as semicha at the present day.
18th–19th centuriesIn 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 rabbis" appeared to describe this phenomenon. Sermons, 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 community, many rabbis still mainly deal with teaching and questions of Jewish law, but many are increasingly dealing with these same pastoral functions. Orthodox Judaism's National Council of Young Israel and Modern Orthodox Judaism's Rabbinical Council of America have set up supplemental pastoral training programs for their rabbis.
Traditionally, rabbis have never been an intermediary between God and humans. This idea was traditionally considered outside the bounds of Jewish theology. Unlike spiritual leaders in many other faiths, they are not considered to be imbued with special powers or abilities.
FunctionsRabbis serve the Jewish community. Hence their functions vary as the needs of the Jewish community vary over time and from place to place.
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.
; Study and teaching: Rabbis have always been the main links in the chain of transmission whereby knowledge of the Torah has been passed down through the generations. Learning from their teachers, adding new insights of their own, 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.
; Judging: Prior to emancipation, rulers delegated discipline and dispute settlement within the Jewish community 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, was expected to preside as Head of the Court, although lay assessors might join him in judgment. The judgments were enforced with fines and various degrees of communal excommunication when necessary.
; 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 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 Rabbenu Gershom of Mainz, but 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.
; 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, Jewish dietary laws in shops and institutions, the ritual bath, the elementary school, the Sabbath boundaries, and the burial society. 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, and some of these functions are now performed by national organizations, such as the Orthodox Union which offers kosher certification.
; Pastoral counseling: All rabbis will answer questions about Jewish law and Jewish rituals from their congregants. In addition, members of the Jewish community have always turned to rabbis for advice on personal matters. This is conducted in private on a one-to-one basis. In the pre-modern era, rabbis had no special training in counseling. Instead they relied on their personal qualities of empathy and caring as well as their knowledge of halakhic requirements. 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 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, the vocal portions are chanted by a cantor and the Torah portion is read by a trained reader. 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.
; 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.
; 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. 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 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. Moses Maimonides formulated a ladder consisting of eight degrees of charity, starting with reluctant giving and ending with teaching someone a trade. Rabbi Israel Salanter was once asked, "How do you provide for your spiritual needs?" He answered, "By providing for someone else's physical needs."
; 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.
; Outreach, also known as kiruv : 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 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. 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 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 disputations 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 Semikhah 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.
CompensationIn 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, 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, marketplace priority, receiving personal services from their students, 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.
During the period of the Geonim, 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 and paid salaries to teachers, officials and judges of the Jewish community, whom they appointed. Moses Maimonides, 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" 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.
AuthorityAcceptance of rabbinic credentials involves both issues of practicality and principle. As a practical matter, communities and individuals typically tend to follow the authority of the rabbi they have chosen as their leader on issues of Jewish law. They may recognize that other rabbis have the same authority elsewhere, but for decisions and opinions important to them they will work through their own rabbi.
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, 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.
HonorAccording to the Talmud, it is a commandment 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 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.
OrdinationA rabbinical student is awarded semikhah 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 and responsa 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. Most Rabbis hold this qualification; they are sometimes called a moreh hora'ah. A more advanced form of semikhah is yadin yadin. 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 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 should be made up of dayanim with this ordination.
Receiving ordination has been a festive occasion accompanied by celebration since Talmudic times. According to the Talmud, when the rabbis ordained Rabbi Zera, they sang a bridal song in his honor: "No mascara, and no rouge, and no dyeing -- and a graceful gazelle." They also sang at the ordination of Rabbi Ammi and Rabbi Assi: "Just like these, just like these, ordain for us!" 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.
Orthodox and Modern Orthodox JudaismAn 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, Rishonim and Acharonim and Jewish law. They study sections of the Shulchan Aruch and its main commentaries that pertain to daily-life questions.
See: Yeshiva#Talmud study and #Jewish law.
Orthodox rabbis typically study at yeshivas, which are dedicated religious schools. Modern Orthodox rabbinical students, such as those at Yeshiva University, study some elements of modern theology or philosophy, as well as the classical rabbinic works on such subjects.
The entrance requirements for an Orthodox yeshiva include a strong background within Jewish law, liturgy, Talmudic study, and attendant languages. 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, 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", and later with titles including "Rabbah" and "Rabbi". This has met with opposition from many other Orthodox institutions.
While some Haredi yeshivas do grant official ordination to many students wishing to become rabbis, most of the students within the yeshivas engage in learning Torah or 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 on religious courts, poskim, 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 study.
Some yeshivas, such as Yeshivas Chafetz Chaim and Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in 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 or the Mirrer Yeshiva, 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 names for rabbinic titles based on older traditions, such as: Rav, HaRav, Moreinu HaRav, Moreinu, Moreinu VeRabeinu HaRav, Moreinu VeRabeinu, Rosh yeshiva, Rosh HaYeshiva, "Mashgiach" , Mora DeAsra, HaGaon, Rebbe, HaTzadik, "ADMOR" or often just plain 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 or a rabbanit 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 Judaismhalakhah, Conservative semikhah also requires that its rabbinical students receive intensive training in Tanakh, classical biblical commentaries, biblical criticism, Midrash, Kabbalah and 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, 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. Ordination is granted at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles, the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, the Budapest University of Jewish Studies, the Zacharias Frankel College in Potsdam, and the Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano in Buenos Aires. Most Conservative seminaries ordain women and openly LGBT people as rabbis and cantors.
All Reform seminaries ordain women and openly LGBT people as rabbis and cantors.
The seminary of Reform Judaism in the United States is Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. It has campuses in Cincinnati, New York City, Los Angeles, and in Jerusalem.
In the United Kingdom the Reform and Liberal movements maintain Leo Baeck College for the training and ordination of rabbis, and in Germany the progressive Abraham Geiger College trains and ordains candidates for the rabbinate.
In Latin America, the Reform Movement maintains the Instituto Iberoamericano de Formación Rabinica Reformista, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The IIFRR serves the Latin American Reform communities and has had online teaching as part of its curriculum, counting as teachers and supporting lecturers rabbis from the Reform communities throughout Latin America, North America, Israel and Europe.Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, which is located in Pennsylvania and ordains women as well as men as rabbis and cantors. In 2015 the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College voted to accept rabbinical students in interfaith relationships, making Reconstructionist Judaism the first type of Judaism to officially allow rabbis in relationships with non-Jewish partners.
Non-orthodox seminaries unaffiliated with main denominationsThere are several possibilities for receiving rabbinic ordination in addition to seminaries maintained by the large Jewish denominations. These include seminaries maintained by smaller denominational movements, and nondenominational Jewish seminaries.
- Pluralistic Rabbinical Seminary offers a two-year online rabbinical ordination program. It trains men and women. Rabbinic educators are Conservative, Reform and Orthodox rabbis, but the semicha is postdenominational.
- Humanistic Judaism has the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, which currently has two centers of activity: one in Jerusalem and the other in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Both places ordain women as well as men as rabbis, and do not ordain cantors. Both, ordain openly LGBT people.
- Jewish Renewal has an ordination program, ALEPH, but no central campus. ALEPH ordains women as well as men as rabbis and cantors. It also ordains openly LGBT people.
- The Academy for Jewish Religion, in New York City, since 1956, and the unrelated Academy for Jewish Religion-California, in Los Angeles, since 2000, have been rabbinic seminaries unaffiliated with any denomination or movement. Hebrew College, near Boston, includes a similarly unaffiliated rabbinic school, opened in the Fall of 2003. These seminaries are accepted by all non-Orthodox rabbis as valid rabbinical seminaries, and they all ordain women as well as men as rabbis and cantors. Orthodox Jews do not consider these ordinations valid, because these seminaries do not consider Orthodox halacha to be binding.
- The Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute offers a training program, meets in weekly online classes via the Internet and ordains women as well as men as unaffiliated rabbis to meet the needs of unaffiliated Jews as well as interfaith couples and their families. It subscribes to Jewish Universalism, promoting religious tolerance and asserting that there are many paths to 'the One.' JSLI ordained its first class of rabbis in August 2011. It does ordain openly LGBT people.
- The Rabbinical Seminary International is a rabbinical seminary in New York, which ordains women as well as men as rabbis; it does not ordain cantors. It is a transdenominational rabbinical seminary in the Neo-Hasidic tradition.
- The Union for Traditional Judaism, an offshoot of the left-wing of Orthodoxy and the right-wing of Conservative Judaism, has a non-denominational seminary in New Jersey; the seminary is accepted by all non-Orthodox rabbis as a valid, traditional rabbinical seminary. The vast majority of Orthodox Jews do not recognize ordination from UTJ. However, it bridges Conservative and Orthodox Judaism, and Modern Orthodox synagogues have hired UTJ rabbis. Though the more mainstream body of Modern Orthodox Judaism, such as the Rabbinical Council of America, does not recognize ordination from UTJ. UTJ only ordains men as rabbis and cantors, and does not ordain openly LGBT men.
- The Hebrew Seminary of the Deaf is a non-denominational rabbinical seminary in Illinois, which ordains women as well as men as rabbis, and does not ordain cantors of either sex.
As a result, there have always been greater or lesser disputes about the legitimacy and authority of rabbis. Historical examples include Samaritans and Karaites.
The divisions between the various religious branches within Judaism may have their most pronounced manifestation on whether rabbis from one movement recognize the legitimacy or the 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 rabbis are respectful toward non-Orthodox rabbis and focus on commonalities even as they disagree on interpretation of some areas of Halakha or the authority of Halakha.
- 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.