How does one become a Rabbi


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I've been reading so many books on Judaism and notice that there are several terms related to spiritual facilitators (for lack of a better term) such a 'rabbi', 'rev', etc. Can someone tell me what some of these terms mean and is there a process by which one becomes a "rabbi" .... in some religions a spiritual facilitator must be ordained through a rather elaborate process of training and ritual, is this the same in Judaism ..... this question probably reflects my lack of understanding but I am confused .... any help would be appreciated .... me ke aloha pumehana, pohaikawahine
it really depends on what sort of rabbi the person wants to be. for example, in the US one can go on the rabbinic ordination programmes at yeshiva university in NY (modern orthodox) or the jewish theological seminary (conservative) or hebrew union college (reform) and so on and so on. more orthodox rabbis tend to get their semicha (rabbinical seal of approval) from their main teacher at yeshiva. it really depends. "reb" is a ashkenazi term which, i think, is used as a general honorific, denoting a person of learning.


I've always understood rabbi similar to sensei. "my master", like in starwars. I think it might be a reference to discipleship but I'm not sure. I've heard it understood as being a master "of Torah" but I would think that the proper word then would be baal. Not sure. And there are probably other explanations of the word as well. There is standardized schooling and ordination to become a rabbi. I think all of the liberal movements besides maybe only Aleph and a couple other independants have a standard 5 years in seminary followed by ordination. I'm not sure if the time is quite identical within the Orthodox world. For someone who wasn't up to speed enough, an additional intro year might be required.

In the liberal movements a person usually goes to a seminary of one of the movements, but now independant seminaries are popping up and different people are offering personal smicha, like Arthur Green and Mordechai Gafni.

I went to a smicha, an ordination ceremony, this summer at Elat Chayyim. Besides leaning on with the hands to continue the chain of rabbi-to-rabbi, which I'm not sure if it is done anymore usually outside of Renewal, there was an interesting custom that I know doesn't exist outside of renewal to wrap the person in a Torah. It was quite beautiful.

Rav is master. Rabbi is my master. Rebbe is another form of rabbi, although it takes on a different meaning within hasidism and a different meaning within neo-hasidism that actually brings it back closer to rabbi.

what dauer said.

i've always wanted to go to elat chayyim. it sounds really cool. quite a few of my mates have been, they always raved about it (no pun intended).

i like the "sensei" explanation. one might also look for hindu or muslim terms. "shaykh" is not a million miles off.



There was a traditional week this past summer, but the numbers weren't high enough. All of the Orthodox and observant Conservative folk seem to just come whenever any particular teacher is teaching, regardless of what week it is. However, a traditional weekend is now being planned with a progressive mechitza minyan. Reb David Ingber, the rabbi in residence, also comes from a traditional background originally and has been making some changes, like no phones or computers in public areas on Shabbos. His next major change is going to be creating more of a shabbosdik celebration of shabbos instead of the drumming circle, dancing, etc. And he did manage to do that when Reb Dov Ber Pinson came, which was very sweet that he managed that. But to keep this on topic...

A rebbe is hasidic tradition, Poh, is sorta like a guru. He's assumed to have some elevated connection with the Divine, and through their connection with him, all of his people, his hasidim, are elevated. He may do some sort of one-on-one spiritual counseling with his hasidim, and his hasidim very likely tell stories about how great he is, about little amazing things, and these stories may or may not actually be true. Some of them may border or go beyond the boundaries of the fantastic. His hasidim may travel for miles once or twice a year just to see him speak. You know, there's quite a bit of variation. But I think guru works well.

A neo-hasidic rebbe is a rebbe in practice only. When the rebbe is rebbeing you, the rebbe is the rebbe, and that only means that for the sake of that interaction, the rebbe assumes the rebbe role so that s/he can let flow down that divine wisdom and guidance. . But when the giving is over, rebbe Joe is Joe again, and maybe someone else will rebbe Joe, just like speakers and listeners often switch places. And unlike hasidism, in neo-hasidism there is nothing that binds a person to a particular neo-rebbe besides their own need for what that person is able to flow down. The rebbe is also never assumed to have any super-human, elevated status, nor any mystique. The rebbe model is only a model.

So I think that answers it from all angles.

mahalo (thank you) bananabrain and dauer .... the answers were very helpful .... I'm still a little confused, but hopefully with time this will clear up .... but the answers helped tremendously .... pohaikawahine