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Orthodox Rabbinic Ordination


Rabbi David Sperling

Tishrei 5, 5775
I have a few questions about Rabbinic smichah. 1) Do rabbis normally not give the source of their smichah? I.e. the particular Rav/Rabbis that gave them ordination. 2) What constitutes a valid ordination as an Orthodox rabbi? 4) What are the rules of how a rabbi can operate when he receives smichah? For example, is he required to hold by the same ideology as the rav/rabbis who gave him ordination? 5) How far can a rabbi deviate from the hashgafa of the rav/rabbis who gave him smichah? 6) Are there any special rules concerning geirim recieving rabbinic smichah?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. I am not exactly certain of the underling situation that has led you to send in your question – but it does seem like you have a certain case in mind. That being so, it is difficult to answer you properly without knowing about the case in hand. If you would like to send your question in again with more information about the situation you are referring to, I would be more than happy to try and answer you with a more detailed response. But, in general, - 1) Most Rabbis are not asked on a daily basis about their smicha (as too most lawyers do not start every day by outlining where their degree came from). But, in a case where it is warranted, such as a community who are thinking of employing a Rabbi etc, then the Rabbi would normally show a copy of his smicha, which is a certificate which includes the names of those who gave it, (and, usually, the name of the Yeshiva or organization that the Rabbi learned in). 2) A valid smicha is one that is given by an Orthodox rabbi. There are of course different standards of smicha (just as not every university degree has the same respect attached to it). So, for example, a smicha from the chief Rabbinate of Israel is highly respected, and indicates that the Rabbi has spent many years studying vast sections of Jewish law. Other institutions grant smicha for less vigorous study, and as such they are less respected in the rabbinic world. 3) – 4) Smicha gives the permission to rule on halachic issues. In today's world, it is also a form of Rabbinic degree that attests to the holders ability to lead a congregation. The holder of a smicha is not bound to the opinions of those who gave it to him – but he is bound (as is every Jew) to Torah law and values. For this reason certain rabbis have had their smicha revoked after they have acted in a way that, or expressed views that, go against Torah law and values. A "Rabbi" with smicha who "rules" that intermarriage is allowed, is no rabbi! On the other hand, a Rabbi with smicha from Chabad, who then becomes a Belz Chassid, is still a Rabbi. 5) As we wrote, smicha does not obligate holding a particular world view, and one may grow and change in their hashgafa and still retain their original smicha – as long as it is within the Torah halachic and moral boundaries. 6) In answer to your last question, I will copy for you an answer that already appears on our site – Question: I am a bit confused as to whether converts can become rabbis. In an answer given by R. Chaim Tabasky on the 12th of Av 5764, it would appear that a convert can become a rabbi. However, I was also reading someone else’s discussion on this (visit: ) where it seems that the Rambam answered no. Could you clarify as to what the limitations are, and respond to the statements in the link I’ve provided above? Answer: A convert may not be a king , or be appointed to a communal position that has the power to enforce decisions. A rabbi has no power of enforcement, so the restriction toes not apply. A convert may sit on arabbinic court for monetary rulings if that court has no power of enforcement according to almost all opinions. If the court has enforcement power, the convert should not be a dayan (judge) unless asked by the parties. (I suggest that since there is a commandment to love the convert, and one finds it difficult to love a judge who has not found in his favor, the limitation is reasonable) If the community elects the convert (i.e. he is not appointed) there are opinions that the convert may take on positions of authority, even if they entail enforcement. Blessings
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