Project Genesis

Prayer and Religious Articles

The Synagogue

Should a Rabbi Get Paid?

Question: I am researching the historical question of when and how it came to be over time that rabbi would work for a living and taught the Torah for free (as I am led to understand)? Is this true and what would be some reliable sources that document this?

Answer: The Talmud itself in a number of places teaches that Torah should be taught without pay (see Nedarim 37a and Bechoros 29a for examples). Obviously, since the teacher isn’t being recompensed by his students, he would have to have some other source of income.

On the other hand, there are also instances where the Talmud itself permits accepting payment (see Nedarim 37a in particular). This would suggest that, while teaching for free is an ideal, if the alternative is for students to have no one to teach them, then there are mechanisms whereby payment can be acceptable.

Nevertheless, there is evidence that it was a general practice, at least in European communities up until the early middle ages, for communal rabbis to remain financially independent. The famous Rabbi Shimon ben Tzemach Duran (known as the Tashba”tz) is well known for his position that in those difficult Medieval generations, should rabbis not accept public funding, then Torah would likely disappear.
I hope this helps.

With regards,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton

No Follow-ups »

No published follow-up questions.

We respond to every follow-up question submitted, but only publish selected ones. In order to be considered for publication, questions must be on-topic, polite, and address ideas rather than personalities.


Powered by WordPress