Ordination (Semihah)

How does a rabbi become a rabbi?

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Since these were abolished, in any event, in early Rabbinic times, the distinction, nowadays, has no significance. Modern seminaries train their students in many disciplines other than that of pure Jewish law, so that ordination in these seminaries is a mailer of attesting to the proficiency of the graduates to carry out all the other functions of a modern rabbi such as preaching, counselling, and pastoral work, and there is often a service of ordination and a celebration with pomp and ceremony, rather like a university graduation ceremony, from which, in fact, it seems to have been copied.

In the year 1538, Rabbi Jacob Berav, on the basis of a passage in Maimonides' Code, sought to reintroduce the full ordination, but his efforts were frustrated by the Rabbi of Jerusalem, Levi Ibn Habib. This is the famous semikhah controversy about which much has been written, Voices have occasionally been raised to reintroduce the full semikhah and re-establish the Sanhedrin but these have not been heeded by practically all Orthodox rabbis, who believe that such an attempt can only meet with success with the coming of the Messiah.

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Rabbi Louis Jacobs

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.