ideal qualifications for ordination included an understanding of the
law, general knowledge, integrity, wisdom, humility, maturity, and an
ability to lead and make decisions (Ex 18:21 ff; M. San 1,4; 17a; 88b;
M. Avot 5.22; Nid 24b; Sab 92a). The age of the ordinee was left to
the discretion of the teacher (M. Hag 1.4). If the ordinee failed to
perform, ordination could be withdrawn (San 30b).
concept of ordination accompanied the rise of rabbinic Judaism. Jewish
leadership needed legitimate ties with the past in order to have claim
to authority. This was accomplished by seeing ordination with roots
in the days of Moses, who conferred it upon Joshua (Num. 27:18; Deut.
34:9). The uninterrupted chain of tradition was described in Pirqe Avot.
Ordination was given either by three people (according to the Mishnaic
tradition of San 1.3 as interpreted by the Talmud San 13a ff) or by
a single teacher (M. San 1.2; 13b ff). The first ordinee with the title
of Rabban was Gamaliel the Elder. Ordination provided the right to participate
in a Bet Din. Its decisions were not limited to ritual matters, but
included every aspect of life, and included major changes in the halakhah
. The power to ordain was in the hands of a few individuals in each
generation, and given to a small number whom they believed to be qualified
(San 13b ff). This resulted in a cohesive body that made the ultimate
decisions for Jewish life.
may search the combined HUC-JIR library catalog for other works on ordination,
manuals for rabbis, and books on the work (or office) of Rabbis
Rabbis have been a favorite subject of popular culture, fine art, and scholarly pursuits.
They have appeared in novels …
political cartoons …
as the subject of biographies and studies.
Some websites with articles about Rabbis or the rabbinate:
If you have any further questions about finding information on this, or any other topic, ask your local HUC-JIR librarian or email us using the form on the homepage.