The appointment of a disciple as a teacher of the Torah; Heb, semikhah, based on the verse: ‘And he laid his hands [va-yismokh] upon him, and gave him a charge, as the Lord spoke by the hand of Moses' (Numbers 27: 23). In the verse, Moses, at the command of God, lays his hands on his disciple Joshua so that the latter can function in Moses' stead as the spiritual leader. In the early Rabbinic period only scholars who had received ordination, in the chain reaching back to Joshua, could act as judges and this was reserved for scholars in the land of Israel, the Babylonian scholars being given a minor form of authority as agents of the Palestinian scholars. After the close of the Talmud full ordination came to an end. Although the term semikhah is still used for the ordination of Rabbis, this is not the full ordination but is only convention by which a scholar does not render decisions in Jewish law unless he has been authorized so to do by a competent Halakhic authority who has himself been ordained. Modern seminaries train their students in many disciplines other than that of pure Jewish law, so that ordination in these seminaries is a matter of attesting to the proficiency of the graduates to carry out all the other functions of a modern Rabbi such as preaching, counselling, and pastoral work, and there is often a service of ordination and a celebration with pomp and ceremony, rather like a university graduation ceremony, from which, in fact, it seems to have been copied.
Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.