semikhah
   HOME

TheInfoList



' (or or ; he, סמיכה) traditionally refers to the
ordination Ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service. The word ''consecration'' literally means "association with the sacred". Persons, places, or things can be cons ...

ordination
of a
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 such as the Talmud. The basic form of the rabbi developed in the Pharisees, Phar ...

rabbi
within
Judaism Judaism is an Abrahamic The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of Semitic-originated religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of de ...
. In recent times, some institutions grant ordination for the role of ''
hazzan Cantor-concert in the Vienna '' 300px A ''hazzan'' (; ) or ''chazzan'' ( he, חַזָּן , plural ; Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a High German languages, High German–derived language his ...
'' (cantor), extending the "investiture" granted there from the 1950s. Less commonly, since the 1990s, ordination is granted for the role of lay leader - sometimes titled '' darshan''. Ordination may then also be specifically termed , "rabbinical ordination", , "cantorial ordination", or , "
darshanim ordinationDarshanim ordination ( he, מַגִּיד), or Darshan ordination, is the Semikhah ' (or or ; he, סמיכה) refers traditionally to the ordination within Judaism of a rabbi. In recent times, some institutions grant ordination for the role of ...
". The original ''semikhah'' was the formal "transmission of authority" 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 Judaism ...

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 ' is "leaning f the hands.


Concept

In concept, ''semikhah'' represents a "bond" (''
masorah Masorah or Mesorah ('' he, מסורה'') refers either to the transmission of Jewish religious tradition, or to the tradition itself. Its etymology is discussed Masoretic Text#Etymology, here. It is also used in relation to the following subjects: ...
'') dating back to the time of
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 Judaism ...

Moses
(Moshe) and
Joshua Joshua () or Jehoshua ( he, יְהוֹשֻׁעַ ''Yəhôšuaʿ'') ''Yēšūʿ''; syr, ܝܫܘܥ ܒܪ ܢܘܢ ''Yəšūʿ bar Nōn''; el, Ἰησοῦς, ar , يُوشَعُ ٱبْنُ نُونٍ '' Yūšaʿ ibn Nūn''; la, Iosue was Moses ...

Joshua
(Yehoshua). It is held that ''
Hashem Hashem is a title used in Judaism to refer to God God, in monotheistic thought, is conceived of as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith Faith, derived from Latin ''fides'' and Old French ''feid'', is confidence or trust ...
'' taught the
Torah Torah (; he, תּוֹרָה, "Instruction", "Teaching" or "Law") has a range of meanings. It can most specifically mean the first five books (Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses) of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: ...

Torah
to Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) on
Mount Sinai ar, جَبَل مُوْسَى, Jabal Mūsā syc, ܛܘܪܐ ܕܣܝܢܝ , coordinates = , photo = Mount Moses.jpg , photo_caption = The summit of Mount Sinai , photo_size = , elevation_m = 2,285 , elevation_ref = , location = South 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 Torah teaching is thus believed by many to have continued for over 3,300 years, and continues to this day. 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. Classical ''semikhah'' was granted by a court of three judges, and it later required the participation of at least one who had attained this status, himself. 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 Rab ...

Maimonides
the other two need not be ''semukhim''. Today, ''semikha'' is generally through an institution, a ''
yeshiva 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 studyin ...
'' or specialized ''
kollel A kollel or colel ( he, כולל, , , a "gathering" or "collection" f scholars is an institute for full-time, advanced study of the Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the ...
'', but is often granted by an individual. The testing here''Catalog''
Rabbinical College of America The Rabbinical College of America is a Chabad Lubavitch Chabad, also known as Lubavitch, Habad and Chabad-Lubavitch (), is an Orthodox Judaism, Orthodox Jewish List of Hasidic dynasties, Hasidic dynasty. Chabad is one of the world's best-know ...
''Semikhah Requirements''
Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, (RIETS) founded in 1896, is the rabbinical seminary of Yeshiva University Yeshiva University is a private research university A research university is a university A university ( la, universita ...
''Catalog''
Rabbinical College Bobover
confirms one's ability to decide ("") a question in ''
halacha ''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 → ...
'' (Jewish law). The examination has a dual concern: firstly it confirms knowledge of the law as presented in ''
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
'', 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 ''
sugya The Gemara (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 → , Cyrillic → , Greek ...
s'', together with their development in the ''
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 ...
'', especially ; see .


Varieties of ordination

The Talmud lists three classes of ''semikhah'' issued: * ''Yoreh Yoreh'' (Hebrew: יורה יורה): The recipient of this ''semikhah'' demonstrated sufficient education and proper judgment to be able to render ''
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 ...
'' judgments on matters of religious law as it pertains to daily life, focusing on ''
kashrut ''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 ...
'' (referred to as ''"Issur v'Hetter"'') and ''
niddah Niddah (or nidah; he, נִדָּה), in traditional Judaism, describes a woman who has experienced a uterine discharge of blood (most commonly during menstruation), or a woman who has menstruated and not yet completed the associated requireme ...
'', and permissible or forbidden activities on
Shabbat Shabbat (, , or ; he, שַׁבָּת, Šabat, , ) or the Sabbath, also called Shabbos ( yi, שבת) by Ashkenazim Ashkenazi Jews ( are a Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people a ...

Shabbat
and Yom Tov. The holder of this ''Semikha'' is referred to also as a ''Moreh Hora'ah'' (מורה הוראה “one who teaches alachicdecisions”); the ordination itself is called ''Heter Hora’ah'' (היתר הוראה “permission to decide”).Hattarat hora’ah
jewishencyclopedia.com
* ''Yadin Yadin'' (Hebrew: ידין ידין, Ashkenazi pronunciation: ''Yoden Yoden''): 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 Nezikin, 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. See . While the first two classes are still issued today, the last one is not. Additional forms of ''semikhah'' issued in modern times include: * ''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 (as "rabbi" essentially means "teacher", not necessarily "halachic authority"). The testing here covers ''Orach Chaim'' extensively, usually 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 . * Jewish_religious_movements#Trans-_and_post-denominational_Judaism, Pluralistic and non-denominational movements grant an ordination titled "''Rav U-moreh/morah BeYisrael''" (Rabbi and Teacher in Israel). The curriculum here may emphasize "the other functions of a modern rabbi such as preaching, counselling, and pastoral work”, as opposed to ''Halacha''. See . 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, 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. Although apparently limited, the basis here is that, as mentioned, ''semikha'' is in fact a confirmation of the ability - and right - of the holder to ''pasken'' in general,Moshe Isserles
Yoreh De'ah 242:14
/ref> 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 ). A ''semikha'' focusing on the laws of ''
Shabbat Shabbat (, , or ; he, שַׁבָּת, Šabat, , ) or the Sabbath, also called Shabbos ( yi, שבת) by Ashkenazim Ashkenazi Jews ( are a Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people a ...

Shabbat
'' is sometimes granted, similarly. Often, ''niddah'' will require a separate specialized certification, as an element of ''shimush'' (apprenticeship) pertains to these ''halakhot''. It is not uncommon for a rabbi to hold several certificates, with each ''semikha'' covering a specific area of ''halakha''. Certification, with similar testing, is also required for one to qualify as a ''Shochet'', ''Mohel'', ''Sofer'', or Nikkur, ''Menakker''; these inhere a major practical element, and thus require significant ''shimush''.


Ordination ceremony

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 Rav Zeira, Rabbi Zeira, they sang a bridal song in his honor: "Even though she painted not her eyes with antimony, neither darkened her cheeks with Rouge (cosmetics), rouge, nor Braid (hairstyle), plaited her hair, she is still a graceful doe [of exceptional beauty]!" the analogy and implication being: just as a bride is inherently beautiful, so for ordination, one's Torah knowledge must be immediately apparent. They also sang at the ordination of Ammi b. Abba, Rabbi Ammi and Rav Assi, Rabbi Assi: "Just like these, just like these, ordain for us!" 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, "" generally refers to the
ordination Ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service. The word ''consecration'' literally means "association with the sacred". Persons, places, or things can be cons ...

ordination
of a rabbi within all modern Jewish religious movements from Reform Judaism, Reform to Orthodox Judaism, Orthodox. This "'" signifies the transmission of rabbinic authority to give advice or judgment in Halakha, 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. , ordination as a Hazzan, cantor, similarly signifies the transmission of authoritative knowledge about Jewish musical and Jewish prayer, liturgical traditions. This is granted within some denominations.


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 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 ...
and Responsa, added to knowledge 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
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. 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

Many cantorial institutions in the United States currently grant to their students. Some have historically used the term ''investiture'' to describe the conferral of cantorial authority onto their graduates. 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-Jewish Institute of Religion, Hebrew Union College (Reform Judaism, Reform) have recently begun to use the term "ordination" instead of "investiture." Other institutions that ordain cantors include Hebrew College (pluralistic), the Academy for Jewish Religion (New York), Academy for Jewish Religion (pluralistic), and Jewish Renewal#Ordination training, Aleph (Jewish Renewal, Renewal). As of 2021, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative Judaism, Conservative) will begin ordaining its cantors.


Modern Lay Leader Ordination

Beginning in the mid to late 1990's, the Reform, Renewal and Conservative Jewish movements have ordained lay leaders to positions such as spiritual director, darshan (chaplain), and pastor. Lay leaders within Judaism serve both in formal spaces like synagogues, independent minyan, in Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, hospitals and community centers. Several yeshivas and other academies now train and certify lay leaders, such as Darshanim ordination, Darshan Yeshiva, Jewish Renewal#Ordination training, ALEPH Pastor Program, the Union for Reform Judaism, and Academy for Jewish Religion (California), AJRCA's chaplaincy school


Classical ''semikhah''

Classical ''semikhah'' refers to a specific type of ordination that, according to traditional Jewish teaching, traces a line of authority back to
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 Judaism ...

Moses
, The Men of the Great Assembly, and the Great Sanhedrin. The line of classical ''semikhah'' is generally believed to have died out in the 4th or 5th century CE, but it is widely held that a line of Torah conferment remains unbroken.


Hebrew Bible

According to the Hebrew Bible,
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 Judaism ...

Moses
was the greatest prophet, and the one individual who received the
Torah Torah (; he, תּוֹרָה, "Instruction", "Teaching" or "Law") has a range of meanings. It can most specifically mean the first five books (Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses) of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: ...

Torah
from God. 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 rabbi"). Moses, before his death, ordained
Joshua Joshua () or Jehoshua ( he, יְהוֹשֻׁעַ ''Yəhôšuaʿ'') ''Yēšūʿ''; syr, ܝܫܘܥ ܒܪ ܢܘܢ ''Yəšūʿ bar Nōn''; el, Ἰησοῦς, ar , يُوشَعُ ٱبْنُ نُونٍ '' Yūšaʿ ibn Nūn''; la, Iosue was Moses ...

Joshua
as his successor by resting his hands on Joshua: :Moses spoke to God, saying, 'Let the Omnipotent God of all living souls appoint a man over the community. Let him come and go before them, and let him bring them forth and lead them. Let God's community not be like sheep that have no shepherd.' God said to Moses, 'Take Joshua son of Nun, a man of spirit, and lay your hands on him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before the entire community, and let them see you commission him. Invest him with some of your splendor so that the entire Israelite community will obey him. Let him stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall seek the decision of the Urim before God on his behalf. By this word, along with all the Israelites and the entire community shall he come and go.' Moses did as God had ordered him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and before the entire community. He then laid his hands on him and commissioned him as God had commanded Moses. This procedure caused the "spirit" in Moses to enter Joshua as well: :Joshua son of Nun was filled with a spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him. The Israelites therefore listened to him, doing as God had commanded Moses. Similarly, when Moses found the task of leadership too difficult, God caused the "spirit" in Moses to enter 70 additional elders (though no resting of hands is mentioned here). According to later tradition, the elders later ordained their successors in the same 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.


Mishnah and Talmud

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. 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. In the Mishnaic era it became the law that only someone who had ''semikhah'' could give religious and legal decisions. 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 Bar Kochba's revolt, revolution by Simon bar Kokhba, 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 Yehuda 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 ben Bava 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 Judah bar Ilai, Yehudah, Rabbi Jose ben Halafta, Yose and Rabbi Eleazar ben Shammua – escaped and became the next generation of Torah leadership. 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. However, Theodosius I forbade the Sanhedrin to assemble and declared Semicha, ordination illegal. (Roman law prescribed capital punishment for any rabbi who received ordination and complete destruction of the town where the ordination occurred). It seems to have continued until at least 425, when Theodosius II executed Gamaliel VI and suppressed the Nasi (Hebrew title), Patriarchate and Sanhedrin.


Post-Talmudic: The decline of classical ''semikhah''

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. 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. 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 (see Rabbi#Middle Ages).


Attempts to revive classical semikhah

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 Rab ...

Maimonides
ruled 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". 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 halakha, 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

In 1538 Rabbi Jacob Berab of Safed, Land of Israel, attempted to restore the traditional form of ''semikhah''. His goal was to unify the scattered Jewish communities through the re-establishment of the Sanhedrin. At his prompting, 25 rabbis from the land of Israel convened; they ordained Jacob Berab as their "chief rabbi". Berab then conferred ''semikhah'' through a laying on of hands to four rabbis, including Joseph Karo, who was later to become the author 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
'', widely viewed as the most important code of Jewish law from the 17th century onwards. In 1541, Karo succeeded Berab and he perpetuated the tradition by ordaining Moshe Alshich, Elisha Gallico and Jacob Berab II. In the 1590s, Alshich ordained Hayyim Vital, and between the years 1594 and 1599, Jacob Berab II ordained seven more scholars: Moses Galante, Elazar ben Moshe Azikri, Elazar Azikri, Moses Berab (Jacob's brother), Abraham Gabriel, Yom Tov Tzahalon, Hiyya Rofe and Jacob Abulafia. Berab made an error in not first obtaining the approval of the chief rabbis in Jerusalem, which led to an objection to having a Sanhedrin at that time. This was not an objection to the ''semikhah'', but to reinstituting a Sanhedrin. Levi Ibn Chaviv, Levi ibn Habib, the chief rabbi in Jerusalem, wrote that when the nascent Sanhedrin took the authority of a Sanhedrin upon itself, it had to fix the calendar immediately. However, by delaying in this matter, it invalidated itself. Rabbi David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra, David ibn abi Zimra (''Radvaz'') of Egypt was consulted, but when Berab died in 1542 the renewed form of ''semikhah'' gradually ground to a halt.


Attempt by Rabbi Yisroel Shklover, 1830

In the 1830s, Rav Yisroel of Shklov, one of the leading disciples of the Vilna Gaon who had settled in Jerusalem, made another attempt to restart ''semikhah''. Rav Yisroel was interested in organizing a Sanhedrin, but he accepted the ruling of Levi Ibn Chaviv, Levi ibn Habib and David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra, David ibn abi Zimra that we cannot create ''semikhah'' by ourselves. At the time the Turkish Empire was crumbling, and losing wars against Russia, Prussia, Austria and others. In attempt to modernize, the Turkish Empire opened itself up to more and more Western "advisors". For the first time the Arabian Peninsula and the Yemen was opened up to westerners. Scientists and Sociologists were convinced that in the Yemen lay communities that had been cut off and isolated from the western world for centuries. At the time, leading European scientific journals seriously considered that the remnants of the "Ten Tribes" would actually be found in the Yemen. Rav Yisroel of Shklov, influenced both by this rush of scientific thought and interested in utilizing a suggestion of the Radvaz of receiving ''semikhah'' from one of the "Ten Tribes", specifically Reuven and Gad. Rav Yisroel charted out where he thought the Bnei Reuven were probably located, and sent an emissary, Rav Pinchas Baruch, to locate them. Unfortunately, Rav Baruch did not succeed in locating the shevet of Reuven and he was either killed or died while attending to the medical needs of poor Yemenite villagers. An interesting point of Jewish Law arises in that Rav Yisroel raised the question how could the Tribe of Reuven have kept the ''semikhah'' alive, since they were outside the Land of Israel and the ''semikhah'' can be granted only in Land of Israel. He answered that since this tribe had been distant from the rest of the Jewish people before this ruling had been accepted, there is no reason to assume that they accepted this ruling, and there was a chance that they were still keeping the institution of ''semikhah'' alive.


Attempt by Rabbi Aharon Mendel haCohen, 1901

Rabbi Mendel collected the approval of approximately 500 leading rabbis in favor of the renewal of ''semikhah'' according to the view of
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 Rab ...

Maimonides
. His involvement in the founding of World Agudath Israel, Agudath Israel and the intervening of World War I distracted him from implementing this plan.


Attempt by Rabbi Zvi Kovsker, 1940

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

In 1948, with the establishment of the modern State of Israel, the idea of restoring the traditional form of ''semikhah'' and reestablishing a new "Sanhedrin" became popular among some within the Religious Zionism, religious Zionist community. Rabbi Yehuda Leib Maimon, Israel's first minister of religious affairs, promoted this idea in a series of articles in the Religious Zionist periodicals "Sinai" and "Hatzofeh," later gathered together in monograph form as "Renewing the Sanhedrin in our New State." A small number of religious Zionist rabbis of Modern Orthodox Judaism's Rabbinical Council of America voiced support for this idea; some rabbis within Conservative Judaism entertained the idea as a potentially positive development. However, most secular Jews, most Haredim, and most non-Orthodox Jews did not approve of this goal. Israel's Chief Ashkenazic rabbi at the time, Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, was hesitant to support this goal, and the idea eventually died away.


Attempt in Israel in 2004

On October 13, 2004, orthodox rabbis of various streams met as a group in Tiberias and declared themselves to be a re-established Sanhedrin. The basis for re-establishing ''semikhah'' had been made by Rabbi Jacob Berab's Sanhedrin, as recorded by Rabbi Yosef Karo (author of
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
). An election was held, as required by halakha. Seven hundred rabbis were reached either in person or by writing, and Rabbi Moshe Halberstam of the Edah Charedis was the first to "receive semikhah" after rabbis Ovadiah Yosef and Yosef Shalom Eliashiv found him fit, although he was too old to actually serve as a Dayan (rabbinic judge), judge. He then ordained Rabbi Dov Levanoni, who ordained more rabbis. This attempt was intended to improve upon Rabbi Jacob Berab's attempt by contacting seven hundred rabbis across Israel, as opposed to Jacob Berab's election by twenty-five rabbis of Safed. The current members mostly behave as place holders and have publicly expressed their intention to step aside when more worthy candidates join. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (the Nasi (Hebrew title), Nasi of this Sanhedrin) said, "I'd be happy if in another few years these chairs are filled by scholars who are greater than us [sic] and we can say: `I kept the chairs warm for you.'"Nadav Shragai
Now that there's a Sanhedrin, who needs the Supreme Court?
/ref> The current attempt to re-establish the Sanhedrin is the sixth in recent history.


See also

*Chief Rabbinate of Israel#Semikhah *List of rabbinical schools *Master of Rabbinic Studies *Rabbi#Ordination *Rabbinic Judaism *Posek#Formulating a ruling (psak din) *Yeshiva#Jewish law


Notes


Further reading

*{{cite EJ, author=Levitas, Isaac, Aaron Rothkoff, and Pamela Nadell, title=Semikhah, volume=18, pages=274-279 *Julius Newman: ''Semikhah (ordination). A study of its origin, history, and function in Rabbinic literature.'' Manchester University Press. Manchester 1950.


External links


Rabbi Yaakov Beirav's attempt to re-establish a Sanhedrin in 1538130 "Documented" "Generations" of Semicha
from Mt. Sinai to the present
Rabbi Judah Leib Maimon, "Renewing the Sanhedrin in our New State"
(English translation)
Curriculum for the Semikhah Tests of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel
Jewish law and rituals Jewish courts and civil law Rabbis Hebrew words and phrases in Jewish law