Project Genesis




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Jewish History

The Great Rabbis

What is a Rabbi?

What is a rabbi? My father told me a rabbi is a person that brings people together, sits in the middle. Why I asked this is, because, I have seen different kinds of rabbis, some who think of the people and others who only think of money. My synagogue has the best rabbi in the world. He sits with the people at a Kiddush he sits in the middle of the table, not in front, he always has time for every person, and he is very funny. For me he is much more than a rabbi – he is my best friend.

Perhaps you don’t need to ask this question: you seem to have a perfectly good example before your eyes!

But just by way of a brief explanation… The word rabbi comes from the Hebrew “rav” (meaning, “a lot” or “an increase”) and is also related (according to Rabbi S.R. Hirsch) to “roveh” (to aim – Yishmael was called a “roveh keshes,” an aimer of arrows).

Therefore, according to Rabbi Hirsch, a rabbi is one who tries to “reproduce” himself in his students many times over (rav – a lot) and does so by guiding (or “aiming”) his students through careful education and direction. In other words, a rabbi is half teacher and half parent.

One final point: there are no “real” rabbis in our generation because the original Smicha (ordination) that was a direct chain from Moses was broken around 1500 years ago at the time of the dissolution of the Surpreme Jewish Court (Sanhedrin). The modern ‘Smicha” serves as a letter of recommendation by a known senior rabbi stating that his student is qualified to serve as a leader of a community in some capacity.

If you have a rabbi from whom you can learn, grow and comfortably seek guidance, then consider yourself blessed 100 times over! Don’t waste the opportunity.

With best wishes,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton

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