from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Rabbi studying the Talmud
A rabbi taking a religion class, 2004

A rabbi is a functionary in the Jewish religion . Its main role is to teach the Torah . The basic form of the rabbi developed in the Pharisee and Talmud era when learned teachers gathered to codify the written and oral laws of Judaism. The first sage for whom the Mishnah took the title of rabbi ( Hebrew רַבִּי rábbî ) was Jochanan ben Sakkai , a 1st century scholar.

There are different requirements for the rabbinic semichah ( Hebrew סְמִיכָה The laying on of hands (the laying on of hands) and violent disagreements over who is recognized as a rabbi. There are no female rabbis in Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Judaism . The Conservative Judaism , however, can women halachic reasons rabbis to that Reform Judaism for ethical reasons.



The term rabbi is derived from Hebrew רב Rav , pluralרבנים Exit Rabbanim . Ashkenazi Hebrew and Yiddish is the name Row, plural Rabbonim , or Aramaic Rabbuni "master, teacher". This religious title goes to the common Semitic root ( Hebrew רבה raba , German for ' to be great' ) back. Rebbezin is called the rabbi's wife.


For Sephardic rabbis, the designation ( Hebrew חכם Chacham , German 'wise man' ) common, for example Chacham Baschi , among the Jewish Karaimen Chassan .


As a rabbi ( Hebrew רַבִּי my teacher, my master ) since ancient times, from the age of the Mishnah to the Middle Ages, Jewish scholars who have interpreted the precepts of the Torah are called . In the plural, two forms are used, rabbis or rabbis . Usually no article is used. An article is only used if "Rabbi" is in a certain quality, at a certain point in time or period as a subject or object in the sentence.

Rabbi was also an honorary title for special Torah scholarship. ( Jesus of Nazareth is also often referred to as a rabbi in the Greek New Testament ).

The Yiddish terms Rebbe and Reb are related to the word rabbi . Rebbe refers to the leader of a Hasidic community. The title is passed on from father to son.

With Reb , a man is honored to be called to read the Torah. In everyday life it is quite common to address every devout Jew with Reb.

The rabbi in Jewish tradition

Moses Isserles ' tombstone in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Krakow , with the inscription: "From Moses to Moses there was no one like Moses"

Rabbis ( called scribes since Luther in most German Bibles ) are biblically mentioned as a special status for the first time in the period after the Babylonian exile in Ezra 7: 6.11, where the priest Ezra is mentioned as a scholar of the Scriptures experienced with the law of Moses . According to Jewish tradition, Ezra has the Mosaic Law, which was introduced when Jerusalem fell in 586 BC. Chr. Should be burned and was only passed on orally, rewritten. The tasks of the scholars in his tradition were the interpretation of the Torah and the concrete practical relevance of Jewish teaching in everyday life. From this later emerged the Pharisee movement , which eventually founded rabbinic Judaism . Women also received rabbinical titles. Asenath Barzani (1590–1670) from Mosul in the Ottoman Empire was one of the first women to receive the title of Tanna'it (teacher, master). The three daughters of Rashi were also considered and worked as rabbinical teachers and Talmud commentators, see also Tosefta .

Duties of a rabbi

Rabbi conducts a Jewish wedding ceremony, France, circa 1905

Until the Middle Ages , rabbis were not allowed to earn an income with the Torah, which is why they worked on a voluntary basis in Europe. For example, the well-known Torah commentator Rashi (1040–1105) had a job: he owned a vineyard. Maimonides ( Rambam , 1138-1204) was a doctor. It was not until the 14th century that this was finally given up after the requirements were constantly expanded. Even after that, many rabbis apparently worked primarily as prayer leaders . Religious teaching is one of the duties of a rabbi today , and as a Talmudic expert he is responsible for making decisions on religious questions.

In Orthodox congregations, the prayer leader ( Hebrew שליח ציבור, Schliach Tzibur, Hebrew חַזָּן, Chasan ) always to the Torah shrine ( Hebrew אָרוֹן הָקׄדֶש Aron ha-Kodesch, the holy shrine), d. H. In the direction of Jerusalem with the Western Wall , as equals among equals before HaSchem - just like in the Christian Eastern Churches and in Islam , he therefore turns his back on the community. In contrast, reform rabbis in liberal congregations often lead sharply abbreviated Shabbat and festive services, with these often facing the congregation, such as the priest or pastor of Western Christianity, in worship.

Every Jewish community maintains a number of religious institutions to enable a life according to Jewish law. It is up to the rabbis to ensure that these institutions operate in accordance with Jewish law. Examples would be the Jewish slaughter ( Shekhita , ( Hebrew שחט šacḥaṭ , German for slaughter )) and the Jewish dietary laws ( kashrut , Hebrew כַּשְרוּת) in shops and restaurants. They oversee the ritual bath ( mikveh , Hebrew מִקְוֶה), elementary school ( cheder , Hebrew חֶדֶר), the Sabbath lines ( Eruv , Hebrew עירוב) and the funeral home ( Chewra Kadisha , Hebrew חֶבְרָא קַדִישָא). Today, rabbis who specialize in this type of supervision are known as Mashgiach ( Hebrew משגיח) used.

An Orthodox rabbi is not a priest who alone has special religious duties. Therefore, basically every qualified member of a Jewish community can lead the service , pray, read from the Torah , etc. In some communities, however, only rabbis have the necessary knowledge. The job of a rabbi is also to look after and care for the parishioners and people who are in contact with the parish, such as those seeking conversion , Hebrew גר Ger (male), or Hebrew גיורת Gijoret (female).

In the diaspora , the rabbi is always the judge for his community in civil matters. The Jewish community was - and is in a certain sense to this day - prohibited from bringing internal disputes before a secular court under threat of excommunication . This is what rabbinical courts ( Beth Din , Hebrew בית דין Court of Justice ), a halachic (Jewish legal) instance, which consists of at least three rabbinical judges. At a time when judges were still based exclusively on Jewish law in Israel, the composition could grow to 71 judges, depending on the case. Today a Beth Din fulfills the following tasks in particular:

  • Gittin ( Hebrew גיטין) - Conducting religious divorces
  • Gijur ( Hebrew גיור) - Implementation of conversions to Judaism
  • Din Torah ( Hebrew דין תורה) - Handling Jewish legal cases
  • Birur Jahadut ( Hebrew בירור יהדות) - Clarification of the Jewish status in case of doubt

In most communities, because of his role model role, a rabbi is expected to be married and have children.

In many countries, military rabbis provide religious services to Jewish soldiers. Field rabbi was the earlier name for rabbis in military chaplaincy . Field rabbis were used, among other things, in the armed forces of Austria-Hungary and the German Empire . Military rabbis are responsible for conducting or coordinating church services, monitoring the kosher kitchen, and maintaining the synagogue .

In Israel , they also conduct marriage ceremonies ( Hebrew חוּפָּה Chuppah ) and the Brit Milah ( Hebrew ברית מילה Covenant of circumcision ). The military rabbinate oversees the legal and religious confirmation of marriages and divorces of soldiers during their military service. It is also responsible for the burial of soldiers' bodies in accordance with religious regulations.


Although Judaism has no central authority, a tendency has developed in its orthodox current to recognize the chief rabbi of a country or a community as the highest religious authority. As a legacy of the British mandate, for example, there is a Grand Rabbinate for the State of Israel . Today it consists of two members:


The traditional training of rabbis usually takes place within the framework of a Talmud college, a yeshiva , an Orthodox rabbinical seminary or a course of study.

Morenu is a religious title of Talmudic origin that has been in use since the mid-14th century for a male parishioner with a high religious education. The title is generally regarded as a prerequisite for fulfilling the office of rabbi.

In the course of the Enlightenment , around the time of the 19th century, reform rabbis are trained in their own rabbinical seminars.

In Reform Judaism with its branches, liberal Judaism and conservative Judaism , women have been active as Reform Rabbis since the 1930s.

A bachelor's degree serves as the basis for prospective rabbis. It includes a scientific education in religion , culture and literature of Judaism in history and the presence and in the history of the Jewish people . There is also language training in Hebrew . Methods are taught that enable independent research and problem solving as well as working with Hebrew-language sources, in particular the Torah and Talmud . In the subsequent master’s degree , knowledge is deepened, particularly in Jewish religious practice and legal scholarship . Overall, the training usually lasts five to seven years.

The formal appointment as rabbi takes place through the semichah . The Semicha grants the right to make valid decisions on questions of the religious law, the Halacha .

History of the rabbis in Germany

Orthodox rabbi

Up until 1939 there were two scientifically oriented orthodox training centers in Berlin with the rabbinical seminar in Berlin founded by Esriel Hildesheimer in 1873 and in Breslau with the Jewish theological seminar . In 2009, the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation established the rabbinical seminar in Berlin as part of its yeshiva there , which aims to resume the tradition of orthodox rabbi training in Berlin. The first graduates - Avraham Radbil and Zsolt Balla - were in Munich on 2 June 2009 synagogue Ohel Jakob ordained . The University for Jewish Studies Heidelberg has a course for the rabbinate that is to be “internally differentiated” oriented towards different Jewish denominations .

Reform rabbi

Until 1939 there was the reformed, scientifically oriented university for the science of Judaism in Berlin . Germany's only humanities oriented Reform rabbinical seminary is now the for progressive Judaism belonging Abraham Geiger College at the University of Potsdam . It started work in the 2001/2002 winter semester . On September 14, 2006, the first reform graduates were ordained in the New Synagogue in Dresden .

In the German Reich , Regina Jonas was ordained the world's first reform rabbi in 1935

The first female rabbi to be ordained was the long-forgotten Berliner Regina Jonas , who was ordained in 1935 by the reform rabbi Max Dienemann from Offenbach .

Women as rabbis

The first French rabbanite ordained Floriane Chinsky with tefillin and tallit in Belgium in 2005 .

With a few rare exceptions, women did not serve as rabbis until the 1970s. As a result of the emancipation movements, the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion ordained female rabbis for the first time. Today female rabbis are ordained in all branches of progressive Judaism, while in Orthodox Judaism women cannot become rabbis. Orthodox Jewish tradition holds that the rabbinate is a male privilege. The increasing demand to admit women as rabbinic students in Orthodox yeshivas has led to widespread opposition from the Orthodox rabbinates. In the past twenty years, however, Orthodox Judaism has begun developing roles for women as halachic court counselors and community officers.

The grammatically correct, Hebrew female parallel to the masculine title Rabbi is Rabbanit ( Hebrew רבנית). Sometimes a feminized form of Rav ( Hebrew רב) as the title Rabba ( Hebrew רבה) is used. Some use another variant, rabet , for a female rabbi. (A Rebbetzin (used by Ashkenazim ) or a Rabbanit (used by Sephardim ) is the official "title" for the wife of an Orthodox rabbi).

The first female rabbi in the United States was Sally Jane Priesand , who was ordained at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati in 1972 . In 1985, Rabbi Julie Schwartz became the first full-time Jewish military rabbi in the US Navy .

Since the 1990s, some women in the USA have also received an equivalent modern Orthodox ordination without, however, being able to perform the corresponding functions in Orthodox Jewish communities. In early 2009 Sara Hurwitz from modern Orthodox Rabbi Avi Weiss , the founder of the "Open Orthodoxy" (Open Orthodoxy) , as Maharat in New York ordained. She works as a rabbi in the modern Orthodox community “Hebrew Institute of Riverdale”. Her title Maharat is an otherwise uncommon Hebrew acronym of manhiga hilchatit ruchanit toranit (German: halachic , spiritual and Torah head). Since February 2010 she has been the first modern Orthodox rabbi to bear the title of Rabba , which has provoked fierce criticism within Jewish Orthodoxy and Ultra-Orthodoxy .

In 2010, Alina Treiger was the first woman in Germany to be ordained a rabbi by the Abraham Geiger College after Regina Jonas, who was murdered in 1944 .

List of selected female rabbis

Rabbinical Conferences


Before the emergence of reform rabbis in the 19th and reform female rabbis in the 20th century, there were only Orthodox rabbis. The reforms seem to pay tribute to representatives of Orthodoxy more to the modern western industrial lifestyle of non-Jewish societies and mostly adapted to the behavior of the Christian environment than to the ancient tradition of Judaism, which is why the modern reform rabbis are not recognized by the orthodox rabbis. For example, reform rabbis allow driving to the synagogue on Shabbat , whereas Orthodox Judaism forbids this, as igniting the engine is considered - forbidden - "lighting up" in the engine compartment. Orthodox Judaism recommends that Jews who live far from the synagogue pray at home and meet friends in the synagogue on Sundays when they can drive again.


Orthodox rabbis on the one hand and reform rabbis on the other hand are brought together in Germany in the German Rabbinical Conference. Under this umbrella, two state-recognized associations of rabbis work inherently largely independently of each other: the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference Germany and the reformed General Rabbinical Conference of Germany .

See also


  • Rabbinical reports on the compatibility of free research with the rabbinical office. Two volumes. Freund, Breslau 1842–1843.
  • Moses Braunschweiger: The teachers of the Mischnah. Your life and work. Edited from the sources for school and home. Kauffmann, Frankfurt am Main 1890 (3rd revised edition. Morascha, Basel / Zurich 1993).
  • Simon Black Fox : Etudes sur l'origine et le développement du rabbinat au Moyen Age. (= Memoires de la Société des Études Juives. 2, ISSN  0560-5296 ). Durlacher, Paris 1957.
  • Gerd A. Wewers: Secret and secrecy in rabbinic Judaism. (= Religious historical experiments and preparatory work. 35) de Gruyter, Berlin and others. 1975, ISBN 3-11-005858-8 (At the same time dissertation at the University of Göttingen 1974.)
  • Walter Homolka : The modern rabbi. A changing role model. Hentrich & Hentrich, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-942271-62-2 .
  • Simon Schwarzfuchs: A Concise History of the Rabbinate. Blackwell, Oxford et al. 1993, ISBN 0-631-16132-5 .
  • Julius Carlebach (Ed.): The Ashkenazi Rabbinate. Studies of Faith and Fate. Metropol, Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-926893-52-4 .
  • Adin Steinsaltz : Personalities from the Talmud. Morascha, Basel / Zurich 1996, DNB 948021454 .
  • Andreas Brämer : Rabbi and board member. On the history of the Jewish community in Germany and Austria 1808–1871. (= Ashkenazi . Supplement 5). Böhlau, Vienna and others 1999, ISBN 3-205-99112-5 .
  • Carsten L. Wilke : "The Talmud and the Kant". Rabbi training on the threshold of modernity. (= Netiva 4). Olms, Hildesheim and others 2003, ISBN 3-487-11950-1 .
  • Julius Carlebach, Michael Brocke (ed.): The rabbis of the emancipation period in the German, Bohemian and Greater Poland countries 1781–1871 (= Biographical Handbook of Rabbis 1). Edited by Carsten Wilke. Volume 1: Aach - Juspa. Volume 2: Kaempf - Zuckermann. Saur, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-598-24871-7 .
  • Julius Carlebach, Michael Brocke (ed.): The Rabbis in the German Empire 1871–1945. (= Biographical Handbook of Rabbis 2). Edited by Katrin Nele Jansen, Jörg H. Fehrs, Valentina Wiedner. KG Saur, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-598-24874-0 .
  • Antje Yael Deusel, Rocco Thiede (ed.): Regina's heirs. Rabbis in Germany. Hentrich & Hentrich, Leipzig 2021, ISBN 978-3-95565-427-6 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Rabbis  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Rabbis  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  1. Chacham is also generally in Judaism a word of honor for scholars, v. a. of the Talmud (see Isaak Bernays ). There in Arabicالرب / ar-Rabb  / 'the Lord' is one of the honorary titles of Allah, Sephardim in predominantly Islamic countries almost only use the term Chacham.

Individual evidence

  1. Mishnah, treatise Kelim 17:16.
  2. The Beit Din - Task and Function , Orthodox Rabbinical Conference Germany (ORD). Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  3. Does a rabbi have to be married? . In: "Ask the Rabbi", www.hagalil.com (accessed April 12, 2008)
  4. Rabbi An overview of training , Berufe.net. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
  5. Rachel Monika Herweg: Regina Jonas (1902–1944) ( Memento from December 9, 2010 in the Internet Archive ). Hagalil.com
  6. Regina Jonas | Jewish Women's Archive . Jwa.org. Archived from the original on April 17, 2012. Retrieved on April 7, 2019.
  7. "Rabbanit Reclaimed," Hurwitz, Sara. JOFA Journal, VI, 1, 2006, 10-11.
  8. Pamela S. Nadell: Sally Jane Priesand. Jewish Women's Archive, accessed April 5, 2019 .
  9. Seymour “Sy” Brody, Rabbis as Chaplains in America's Military: A Tradition of Service, Dedication and Bravery . Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  10. Rachel Barenblat: Sara Hurwitz's 'Rabba' Title Sparks Orthodox Jewish Condemnation . In: Religion Dispatches, March 10, 2010 (accessed March 13, 2010)
  11. Responsa Regarding Women's Roles in Religious Leadership and Ordination ( Memento from February 25, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (Hebrew and English PDF file 2.13 MB) (accessed on March 13, 2010)
  12. Position of the Jewish woman (PDF file 150 kB) SIG FACTSHEET, March 3, 2010 (accessed on March 13, 2010)
  13. Mahara't to Rabba ( Memento of November 11, 2010 in the Internet Archive ). In: Jewish Journal.com, January 27, 2010 (accessed March 13, 2010)
  14. Michael Orbach: RCA, Rabbi Weiss agree: Todah, no Rabba. Past the edge of orthodoxy? Hurwitz will retain 'rabba' title for now others to be called 'mahara ”t' . In: The Jewish Star, March 5, 2010 / 20. Adar 5770 (accessed March 13, 2010)
  15. Cf. Nathanael Riemer: Review of: Carlebach, Julius; Brocke, Michael: The rabbis in the German Empire 1871–1945. Munich 2006 . In: H-Soz-u-Kult. March 17, 2010.