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Semicha , also Semichah and Smicha , ( Hebrew סְמִיכָה, AHL Šemíka , hang up (the hands) ', in Hebrew alsoסְמִיכָה לְרַבָּנוּת, AHL sĕmiḵa lĕ-Rabbanuṯ 'rabbinic laying on' orסְמִיכוּת, AHL sĕmiḵuṯ , laying on ') describes the formal appointment as rabbi in Judaism . Through the Semicha the authority is granted to make valid decisions on questions of the religious law, the Halacha .


The laying on of hands constitutes a chain of transmission of (teaching) authority that begins with Moses and the 70 elders. The relevant position is:

Then the Lord said to Moses: Gather seventy of the elders of Israel before me, men whom you know as elders of the people and list keepers; take them to the tabernacle! There they should line up with you. Then I'll come down and talk to you there. I take some of the spirit that rests on you and put it on her . In this way they can carry the people's burden together with you and you no longer have to carry them alone. ( Num 11,16-30  EU )

It is precisely this laying on, this (burden) transfer, which means the Hebrew root of Semicha . According to current opinion of Jewish authorities, the chain of transmission that began with Moses expired sometime in the time of Hillel HaNasi in the 4th century.

According to a statement by Maimonides, according to which a unanimous confirmation by all the wise men in Israel could give an authority corresponding to the original Semicha and thereby restore the chain of transmissions (Hilchot Sanhedrin 4:11), there have been some attempts over time to to restore the original semichah.

In the Middle Ages (probably under the influence of Christian universities) the practice of giving Semicha not only by the laying on of hands , but by a written document, corresponding to a diploma, came up again. This practice had been common before among the Geonim , the leaders of Babylonian Judaism.

Semicha of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate

The Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel issues three types of semichah to those who have passed the appropriate exams:

  • Jore Jore - examinations of the Halachot (laws) of Shabbat , Eruv , Nidda , Mikveh , Kashrut , as well as the laws of mourning
  • Rav Ha-Ir (City Rabbi) - Exams on the rest of the laws in the Orach Chajim and Jore Dea part of Shulchan Aruch that are relevant today
  • Jadin Jadin - exams on the Halachot from the financial sector (included in the Choschen Mishpat part of Shulchan Aruch), as well as marriage and divorce law (included in the Even haEser part of Shulchan Aruch). Upon completion of the “Jadin Jadin” examination, the title of Dajan (Hebrew judge) is awarded.

Semicha in the sacrificial service

In a further meaning, Semicha referred to the laying on or pressing of the hands on the sacrificial animal in the temple service , whereby the sins of the sacrificer were symbolically known and pronounced above the animal.

Semicha for women

The Semichah is open to women in Liberal (or Progressive) and Conservative Judaism , while it is not possible for women in Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Judaism .

Situation in Germany

In German Judaism , rabbis are appointed to their office by a semichah after studying science or training at a Talmud school. This study has been carried out since 1999 for liberal Judaism at the Abraham Geiger College and since 2013 for conservative Judaism at Zacharias Frankel College , both affiliated institutes of the School of Jewish Theology at the University of Potsdam . The training place for Orthodox rabbis is the rabbinical seminar in Berlin , which was re-established in 2009 .

On September 13 and 14, 2006, liberal rabbis in Germany were ordained again for the first time since the end of the Second World War in the New Synagogue in Dresden . The first ordination ceremony in Germany for Orthodox Judaism took place on June 2, 2009 in Munich in the synagogue of the Jewish Community in Munich and Upper Bavaria .


  • Eduard Baneth: SĔMICHA . In: Georg Herlitz , Dr. Bruno Kirschner et al. (Ed.): Jewish Lexicon . An encyclopedic manual of Jewish knowledge in four volumes. Volume IV / 2: S-Z. Jewish publishing house, Berlin 1930, Sp. 361–362 , urn : nbn: de: hebis: 30-180015078053 ( digitized from Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main ).
  • Isaac Levitats / Aaron Rothkoff / Pamela Nadell: Semikhah. In: Encyclopaedia Judaica . 2nd ed. Vol. 18: San – Sol . Macmillan Reference, Detroit 2007, ISBN 978-0-02-865946-6 , pp. 274-279.
  • Julius Newman: Semikhah (ordination). A study of its origin, history, and function in Rabbinic literature. Manchester University Press. Manchester 1950.
  • Elliot Stevens: Rabbinic Authority / Papers Presented Before the Ninety-first Annual Convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis . Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), New York, 1982, pp. 67-71.

Web links

Wiktionary: Semicha  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Aharon Ziegler: Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik , Volume III, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005, p. 170