Revoking Ordination

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I. Revoking Ordination

Can rabbinic ordination be revoked? A doctor’s license can be suspended and a lawyer can be disbarred. Is there any recourse against a malpracticing rabbi?

In prior posts, we have spent much time on the nature of the rabbinate and rabbinic ordination (see here: link). In two posts, we offered three possible reasons for contemporary ordination: 1) a replica of the original Mosaic ordination, 2) permission from one’s mentor to issue halakhic rulings or 3) testimony that the rabbi is worthy of the title. According to the first approach, only someone who qualifies for the original ordination can obtain ordination today. According to the second approach, you need not obtain ordination if your mentor is deceased. According to the latter, someone already famous need not obtain ordination. As we showed, authorities differ over which theory is correct (see here: I, II).

II. Types of Ordination

1. Replica

According to the first approach, ordination can be revoked. The Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Sanhedrin 4:15) writes:

מי שאינו ראוי לדון מפני שאינו יודע או מפני שאינו הגון שעבר ראש גלות ונתן לו רשות או שטעו בית דין ונתנו לו רשות אין הרשות מועלת לו כלום עד שיהיה ראוי

Someone who is unfit to serve as a judge due to lack of knowledge or suitability but was improperly given permission by the exilarch or accidentally given permission by a court, the permission is ineffective until he becomes worthy

A rabbi who acts improperly is not a rabbi. His ordination is invalid. While his mentor can formally declare this by revoking his ordination, that is merely a formality. His ordination automatically becomes invalid. That is based on the model of the original Mosaic ordination.

2. Permission

If ordination is permission, then certainly it can be revoked just like any other permission. The rabbi serves at the pleasure of his mentor and must take care to live up to his standards. However, if ordination is testimony to its bearer’s worthiness, then we run afoul of the rule that testimony can never be rescinded. As the Talmud (Sanhedrin 44b) puts it: “Keivan she-higid, shuv eino chozer u-magid — once he spoke (testified), he cannnot return and speak.” Presumably, then, a rabbi who ordains another and thereby testifies to his worthiness cannot retract this testimony. However, that depends on the reason for the rule against retracting testimony.

3. Testimony

Is testimony permanent because a retraction is inherently unbelievable or as a procedural matter in court? Rashi (Sanhedrin 44b sv. keivan) implies the former reason, that the retraction is implausible. However, the Ritva (Kesubos 18b) and others seem to accept the latter reason (see here: link – RTF). The Shev Shemat’sa (6:8) accepts the latter, as well. If so, the rule only applies when two witnesses testify before a court. In other cases, such as when a single witness testifies in cases in which he is believed, the rule does not apply (see the above Shev Shemat’sa).

Ordination does not consist of the testimony of two witnesses before a court. It is the written testimony of a single (or more) witnesses. Therefore, even if ordination serves as a rabbi’s testimony that his student is worthy of being called a rabbi, the mentor may retract his earlier testimony if new information or new behavior arise.

III. Historical Cases

Ordination has been revoked in the past. R. David Tzvi Hoffmann (Melamed Le-Ho’il, Orach Chaim no. 16) writes that he would not revoke a student’s ordination merely for permitting use of an organ in a wedding during the week, implying that he would revoke it over other organ use. However, his case is different because the Hildesheimer Seminary issued ordination only on condition that the rabbi not serve in a synagogue with an organ, making revocation a simple matter (see David Ellenson, After Emancipation, p. 184ff). The codicil certainly served as a warning to rabbis but does not inform our current discussion of ordination without an explicit condition.

I heard rumors of ordination revocation in my day, when a JTS student switched to RIETS after JTS began admitting women. He quickly earned ordination and then went straight to a synagogue without a mechitzah. Rumor had it that RIETS revoked his ordination. But we don’t need rumors.

R. Aharon Rakeffet records that R. Bernard Revel revoked a RIETS graduate’s ordination (Bernard Revel, pp. 165-166 – h/t):

When a Yeshiva graduate refused Revel’s request to leave a position which had both mixed pews and a mixed choir, his ordination was revoked. Revel wrote to a graduate on September 19, 1933: “It grieves me to inform you that since you refuse to leave Temple…where the sacred laws of traditional Judaism are violated, I urgently request that you return the conditional document of ordination that you received from the Yeshiva. The basic purpose of the Yeshiva is to guard the sanctity of Jewish Law in this land. If you will not return the document of ordination, I will be obligated to publish newspaper announcements declaring the nullification of your ordination.” The rabbi did not heed Rabbi Revel’s request, and the Yeshiva publicly announced the cancellation of his ordination and proclaimed that “one can no longer rely on his answers to inquiries of Jewish Law.”

Similarly, R. Yehudah Aszod published in a newspaper the revocation of ordination from one of his students (Responsa Yehudah Ya’aleh, Orach Chaim no. 37). This is certainly possible and, according to the above, understandable.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.


  1. Nu? So organize a petition together of fellow REITS musmachim and send it to those in charge there. What’s the problem?

  2. RIETS, of course.

  3. This isn’t about a specific case. That was last week. This is aout the subject in general.

  4. Same point, though. Given all the crimes against Orthodoxy you rail against, surely there are other test cases at RIETS for you to raise with the institution.

    Perhaps a test case on the right as well: e.g. someone who abandons the YU hashkafa and admits belief in modern Charedi Daas Torah.

  5. “Rumor had it that RIETS revoked his ordination.”

    Interesting that some ( not sure how many) yu rabbinic graduates ended up in pulpits of conservative Shuls in the 1950s and 1960s – with no mechitzas (but no women aliyot back then).One became head yu alumni later on ( post pulpit).

  6. Is R. Rakeffet’s story footnoted? Surely, if in late 1933:

    Yeshiva publicly announced the cancellation of his ordination and proclaimed that “one can no longer rely on his answers to inquiries of Jewish Law.”

    there should be documentation of this story and its details.

  7. I too would like a footnote reference. Since the quote is in quotation marks, there has to be a piece of paper that RR is quoting from. It would be ice to know what it is. Gil, you obviously have the book; can you help us with the primary source?

  8. Also, you don’t seem to address what constitutes “malpractice”.

    If a Rabbi admits, or is convicted of, sexual crimes, should his ordination be revoked? What about If a Rabbi admits, or is convicted of, fraud? How about adultery?

  9. Ah. The key in the quotation from R. Rakeffet’s narrative is “the conditional document of ordination”.

    I can’t make it all out in Google Books snippet, but see what appears to be the preceding paragraph:

  10. “there should be documentation of this story and its details.”

    In the PhD, pg. 184, it footnotes “Hebrew letter, September 19, 1933 (Y.A.)” which means Yeshiva Archives.

  11. Oh, and the following footnote refers to the “copy of the Yiddish announcement, n.d. (Y.A.).”

  12. I agree with IH that some pressure ought to be brought to bear (spelling?) on YU to revoke Greenberg’s semicha.

  13. See Teshuvos of Mehr”i Weil 147:

    שו”ת מהר”י וויל ס’ קמ”ז שכתב בסופו בזה”ל:אם לא תשוב אל יהא לך מושך חסד אספי מארץ כנעתיך. הורד עדיך מעליך הסר המצנפת והרם העטרה. שמך לא נאה לך ואתה לא נאה לשמך. לא יהא לך זכרון אצל חכמי ישראל וימחה שמך מתקנותינו ואל יקרא שמך עוד הדובר רבי זמלין כי אם זמלין כאחד מן הריקים. וכן לס”ת אל יקראוך החבר אלא שמואל בר’ מנחם וימחה שמך מלקרותך רבי..

    -Also see Sarna’s Judaism in America p. 242 for YU’s policy of revoking ordination for those who continued to serve in mixed seated synagogues.

    IMHO, revoking ordination would add much needed spice and excitment to the rabbinate. Give it a much deserved survivor field where we get to vote rabbis off the island. (Maybe it should only be done during sweeps weeks?). Just a thought…

  14. I don’t see how the retraction issue is relevant here. The facts changed, not the testimony about previous facts.

  15. Does one not have to address the gemara on the top of Sanhedrin 30b where Rabbi Yochanon gives a smicha (in his case a real smicha) to R. Yose ben Chanina based on the latter’s rebbe’s incorrect assurance that he knew the answer to a question R. Yochanon had? After R. Yochanon dismisses the R. Yose’s answer he says that nonetheless once the smich has been given it stands.

    I could see arguments why that might not be dispositeve in the case you are discussing, but it seems that one at least has to address the issue.

  16. Michael Rogovin

    Interesting if YU once revoked simcha over that issue. Subsequently, many musmachim served in conservative shuls and even where the permission was conditional and the conditions never met, their simcha was never revoked by the Rav, to our knowledge. Is not public Shabbat desecration a worse sin than anything reported recently, yet no one ever suggested revocation. Caution, once you go down this road, there is no stopping it. Smicha will be revoked left and right, well just left really, by the increasingly hareidi element.

  17. Shachar Ha'amim

    The comparison to lawyer’s and doctors is somewhat misleading. Those professions are granted a license to practice the profession. alomgside this license there is a limitation in the law which grants professional specialization and uniqueness to certain actions which can only be practiced by those holding such a license. It is illegal for someone who does not have a license to engage in these actions and tasks and someone whose licensed is revoked can no longer perform these actions.
    For example see Section 20 of Israel’s Bar Association Law

    I can’t think of any type of function that is reserved exclusively for someone with Rabbinic ordination.
    Occassionally, Rabbinic Ordination is a requirement for certain jobs. For example, one must have Semicha in order to be appointed a dayan. See Section 1(a) of the Dayanim Regulations (Appointment Qualifications)

    But someone who acts as a dayan on a private beit din but doesn’t have semicha would not be in violation of any law, as oppsed to someone who gives legal advice without being licensed as a lawyer or who treats ill people without being licensed as a doctor.

    So the revoking of semicha is really effectively meanigless.

  18. The reason a semicha is given is not a theoretical discussion after-the-fact. Once given, if its purpose is debatable, if its conditions are debateable then you are automatically dealing with ambiguity. Its like any other contract. There was offer, acceptance and consideration. The relevant discussion is contract interpretation in the face of ambiguity.

    And its not clear to me that Rabbi X, if it was not an explicit condition, can revoke a certification he gave to someone on the basis of time, effort and/or money expended to someone else, even if that someone has now acted disgracefully.

    Even if the above – not discussed in this theoretical discussion is clear – application should be consistent. So what violations of halacha are grounds for revocation of semicha? Is a rabbi permitting tax fraud grounds for semicha revocation? What if he says its permissible publicly in a shul setting? I can think of rabbis who are convicted sexual abusers – disgraced in the community – whose semicha was not revoked. What about the rabbinic enablers? No one revoked (or revokes) their semicha. I can’t remember a discussion raising it.

    We all know the Agudah requires that a rabbi approve whether a person can go to the police concerning a child molester.
    Concerning several proofs in this post. Rumors are not proof. Stories told over even by preeminent scholars who had to be relying on first hand sources is not proof unless there is accompanying citation to the first hand sources. Conditional Semichas are not the same as unconditional semichas.

  19. Shachar Ha'amim

    HAGTBG – semicha is not a contract. it is essentially a degree. so basically it can only be revoked if obtained fraudulently. subsequent actions will have no relevance to the semicha, as the semicha itself is not a license to practice.

    For example, in Israel the chief rabbinate can grant certificates establishing that a person can be a town rabbi. this is essentially a “permit” and is limited in time. it can also be revoked for certain conduct (see Section 5(c) here ) But it doesn’t say that the chief rabbinate can revoke the semicha – because semicha is essentially a degree which can’t be revoked. the Dayanim Law and Regulations have a similar provision regarding conduct unbecoming pursuant to which a dayan can be removed from his position.

  20. Mike S: I hear. I don’t see it as being particularly relevant because R. Yose bar Chanina didn’t do anything wrong and R. Yochanan did not say that he couldn’t revoke the semicha, only that he chose not to. I’ll b”n take a closer look at the acharonim to see if they disagree.

  21. שו”ת יהודה יעלה חלק א – או”ח סימן לז

    תשובה אל קהל קדושים יראי ד’ וחושבי שמו העומדים על הפקודים בראש פינה למשמרת התורה ומצות ה’. מנהיגי אקרו”ט דק”ק דיולא יפרוס ד’ עליהם סוכת שלומו וכצינה רצון יעטרם אכי”ר.

    יקרת מכתבכם קבלתי. בה הודעתני מצעריכם שהגיע לכם מן הצר השורר לפי שעה ומעשי תעתועים שעשה ביו”ט של ר”ה בשני הימים שביטל מצות היום מקרא קודש יום תרועה וסדר היום. חטא בנפשו והחטיא אחרים באופן מכוער הרבה. גם הלך לקבול בערכאות על שלא הניחוהו הציבור לדרוש שנית והם כתורה וכמנהג עשו והוא פשע. גם ראיתי הפרעדיג שלו מר”ה עגמה נפשי מאד על צער הדור עד היכן הגיע העזות להעמיד בראש בור וריק מיראת ה’ ומתורה כזה שלא ראה אור ה’ ולא למד שהן רשאין ולא אתה. ואז”ל לא שררות נתתי לכם אלא עבדות ואם יש בו רק ריח יראת ד’ וריח תורה לא היה הרהיב בנפשו לעשות חילול השם גדול כזה אשר בזה הגדיל עונו מנשוא. גם שגם יום הכפורים לא כיפרה. ככתוב ישעי’ כ”ב אם יכופר העון הזה לכם עד וכו’ יקרא נא בפי’ משפטו חרוץ ברמב”ם הל’ תשובה פרק ג’ פרנס המטיל אימה יתירה על הציבור שלא לשם שמים כ”א לכבוד עצמו וכו’ אין לו חלק לעוה”ב ובמסכת מגילה האי מאן דסני שומעניה שרי לבזויי’ בגימ”ל ושי”ן שלו וזה לא למד גם הלכות דייני’ ועמד ע”פ השררה שלא ברצון הציבור ושלא ברצון חכמים ישראל ואסור לעמוד מפניו ולא לנהוג בו שום כבוד כמבואר בירושלמי ובח”מ סי’ ג’ וכבר מני אז אשר הדיוט ההוא קפץ בראש להיות רב החובל והרעישו עליו גדולי הדור מיד גזרתי אומר על תלמידי הרב מוהר”ש דייטש נר”י אבדק”ק איפאלשאק נ”י שיפרסם בדפוס בכל הצייטונגען /העתונים/ שהוא מבטל אותו הכתב שנתן הוא בידו איזו סמיכת היתר הוראה הוא בטל ומבוטל כחרס הנשבר וכפי תשובת הרב הנ”ל אלי מעולם לא נתן בידו סמיכה להיתר הוראה ובשקר ותרמוח /ותרמית/ בא אליכם הפרעדיגער באק ההוא והן עתה אשר הקדיח תבשילו ברבים בחילול השם הגדול. ותחת אשר ביום הדין ביום הזכרון היה לו לבקש רחמים נהפוך הוא ערר מדנים מצער את הציבור בחוזק יד החיוב עלינו לבטל את המעוררים המנקפים ומקללים ומחרפים את מערכת ישראל זרע ברוכי ה’ ודתי ומנהגי אבותינו הקדושים ולשבור את תקפו. והנה קי”ל בש”ע יו”ד סימן של”ד ת”ח או אב”ד ששמועתו רעה כגון שמתעסק בספרי אפיקורס וכו’ או שחבריו מתביישין ממנו ושם שמים מתחלל על ידו שאומרים עליו שארי ליה מאריה לפלוני או שמזלזל בדבר א’ מד”ס ואצ”ל מד”ת משמתינן ליה ובסי’ רמ”ו סעיף ח’ /יו”ד/ קיי”ל הרב שאינו הולך בדרך טובה אעפ”י שחכם גדול הוא וכל העם צריכים לו אין למידין ממנו וכו’ שאסור ללמוד תורה מפיו. +הג”ה מבן המחבר עיין של”ה פ’ תשא ע”פ ראה קראתי בשם בצלאל ורמב”ם פ”ה הי”א מיסוה”ת דמי שזכה להיות מנהיג בישראל צ”ל מלא בחכמה ודעת והגון בעיני אלהים ואדם: וצריך שיהיה ניכר במעשיו בדיבורו בהילוכו במלבושיו במאכלו ומשקהו באופן היותר נאות עיין רמב”ם פ”ה מדעות ופ”ד מתשובה ה”ב ועיין מהרש”ל ביש”ש פרק חובל סימן נ”ח.+ ומכ”ש שאסור לסמוך על הוראותיו והרמב”ם ספ”ד מהלכות סנהדרין כתב וז”ל מי שאינו ראוי לדון או להורות מפני שאינו יודע או מפני שאינו הגון שעבר ריש גלותא ונתן לו רשות או שטעו ב”ד ונתנו לו רשות אין הרשות מועלת לו כלום עד שיהיה ראוי שהמקדיש בעל מום למזבח אין הקדושה חלה עליו עכ”ל. ובחומש בפ’ יתרו בפה מלא דיבר הכתוב ממעלות הדיינים. אנשי חיל יראי ה’ ופירש הרמב”ם בפ”ב מהלכות סנהדרין אנשי חיל אלו שהן גבורים במצות ומדקדקים על עצמם וכובשין את יצרן עד שלא יהא להם שום גנאי ולא שם רע ויהא פרקן נאה וכו’ יראי אלהים כמשמעו וכו’ א”כ פלוני הנ”ל סני’ שומעני’ ואין פחד אלהים לנגד עיניו ונזרקה בו מינות ומושרש הוא בחטאו ופשעו עפ”י המעשים אשר הצעתם עתה. ואשר נשמע עליו מני אז מפורש יוצא דיני’ דהאי ג,,, רא /גברא/ עפ”י דין תוה”ק להעביר אדרתו מעליו שלא יקרא עוד בשם רב או דיין ממונה. הסר המצנפת והרם העטרה כי אסור לקבל הוראותיו ושיבושי דיעותיו בשום ענין מעניני הדת. וכתב התרות אם יש בידו בטלין כחרס המה לא שרירין ולא קיימין כפסק הרמב”ם שאין הקדושה חלה על בעל מום וכו’ כנ”ל. ואליכם יזרח ה’ להסיר מכשול ולבער הקוץ ומכאוב וסילון ממאיר מקרביכם יהי חן ה’ עמכם יאשר כחכם יאמץ חילכם להוציא לפועל לטובה מחשבותיכם נאום אוה”נ הדש”ת. ומני שים טעם להעתיק מכתבינו זה אות באות ולשלחו לעיני הרבנים מובהקים גדולי ישראל יחיו המפורסמים גדולים צדיקים יחיו: ולבקש מהם שגם המה יעשו את שלהם. וכשתשיבו עוד שלשה מכתבים משלשה רבנים מפורסמים לא אפונה כי גם הקיר”ה גם שרי המדינה שטאטהאלטערייא יר”ה יתנו עדיהן יצדקו ויאמרו אמת יסכימו לפסק הרבנים נרם יאיר. לבער הרע מקרביכם. וה’ עמנו ועמכם והעיר שושן צהלה ושמחה ושלשה הרבנים לדעת יהי’ הרב הגאון דק”ק פרעסבורג והרב הגאון דק”ק אוהעל והרב הגאון דק”ק גראס ווארדיין יצ”ו. ולא תפרסמו את כל זאת עד אחר שיהיה בידכם הסכמותם ואת צנועים חכמה כתיב. נאום הק’ יהודא אסאד.

  22. Does anyone have access to a RIETS semicha certificate? Does it use any language that can be perceived as conditional?

  23. Sorry, but aren’t you a RIETS musmach?

  24. I am told that Rav Ahron Soleveichik zt’l, while Rosh Yeshiva of the Skokie Yeshiva (Hebrew Theological College), made his granting of semicha conditional on not taking the pulpit of a Traditional shul. I do not know if he ever had to revoke the semicha using such a condition. The yeshiva had previously allowed its musmachim to take such positions. Traditional was somewhat popular and mostly unique to Chicago and the midwest in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It was an Orthodox shul (Orthodox liturgy etc.) with two major exceptions. It had mixed pews and allowed the use of a microphone. Most of these Traditional shuls had a true Orthodox smaller minyan in the bais midrash. They had been allowed on the basis of Sha’as Hadechak in the post-Word War Two era when Conservative was growing. Rav Ahron, I am told in consultation with his brother, was determined to put an end to this dilution of Orthodoxy by eliminating rabbinical candidates for these posts. He was mostly successful. While a smattering of these types of shuls still exist, they all have aging membership, and most often a more senior-aged rabbi. They will shortly be extinct.

  25. IH: No. I have private semicha (four of them).

  26. Thx, I guess the 4 will cover your bases in case some start revoking smicha 🙂

  27. On a serious note, in this post, smicha is in large part symbolic of affiliation. So, I think it is fair to ask the following personal question:

    In our discussions, you have answered direct questions from me indicating (reverse chonological order): 1) you are not a RIETS musmach, 2) you are not an RCA member; and, 3) you are more comfortable socially and behaviourally (i.e. halachically) with Charedim. Other than in your personal hashkafa, then, what affiliates you with Modern Orthodoxy?

  28. “four of them”

    Why would you or anyone else need more than one?

  29. Some people collect degrees. You know that.

  30. Charlie,
    For one thing, the RCA requires multiple (2?3?) private smicha’s, and only some are acceptable to them. So if Gil wanted to be eligible for RCA membership, then he’d need at least that many (2 or 3)

  31. Superintendant Chalmers

    I take issue with your assertion that real Mosaic smicha can be revoked. The Rambam is clearly referring to a case in which it was given betaus, ie it was a mistake in the first place and thus was never chal. (The Rambam compares it to makdish mum.) That in no way implies that you can “revoke” a smicha later on.

    Additionally, I think there may be a chilluk between “smicha” and netilas reshus, and the Rambam may be referring only to netillas reshus.

  32. Charlie: The RCA requires 2 private Yoreh Yorehs. I have one “rav u-manhig” which is insufficient so I obtained 3 private Yoreh Yorehs, just in case they disqualified one.

  33. Michael Rogovin

    Traditional shuls were not limited to the midwest. NYC and suburbs had many of them, almost none left. So did/does Canada. Can’t speak for any other part of the country though.

    Also, if RIETS gave smicha signed by the Rav, can anyone other than the Rav revoke it? After all, if the people revoking it also had smicha from the Rav, who is to say that they are a higher authority than the object of their displeasure? Does employment = greater spiritual authority? Given the recent debates on various blogs, who is to say that Rabbi Y speaks for the Rav vs Rabbi Y? It is a slippery slope without end.

  34. IH: I’ve answered this many times. I am a Zionist and believe in Torah U-Madda. I’m more or less a pluralist within limits, respect the center-left of MO, have good relations with Conservative and Reform. RWMO used to look at me suspiciously until the YU roshei yeshiva indicated that I’m still part of “the chevra”.

  35. Gil — Thanks, but I was asking about affiliation and not personal hashkafa. Again, I view smicha as symbolic of affiliation in the context of this and related posts.

  36. Well then my semicha is unquestionably MO, but not for public discussion. You can e-mail me.

  37. Michael: If it’s RIETS semicha, then RIETS can revoke it regardless of who signed it. If it’s the Rav’s private semicha, then only he can revoke it. At least that is my assumption.

  38. Well then my semicha is unquestionably MO, but not for public discussion.

    Gil – I don’t understand. You are publicly calling for the defenestration of a Rabbi from a club to which you do not seem to be belong. Surely your credentials to do so should be public.

  39. IH: You are publicly calling for the defenestration of a Rabbi from a club to which you do not seem to be belong.

    No, these posts were doing that:

    And the qualifications to do so are pretty clear in the posts (RCA, 100 rabbis). This post is on the subject in general.

  40. My understanding is that RIETS revoked smicha for all of its graduates who took Conservative pulpits. But apparently not those shuls with mixed seating that called themselves “Independent.”

  41. Why is the title Rabbi even necessary? Leaving aside the fact that non-orthodox clergymen (and women) are called rabbis, even within orthodoxy, the title Rabbi or even Rav is hardly a universal certification of knowledge and character.

  42. I would suggest that revocation of Smicha in the US has as much sense as a Cherem , especially given the fact that we really don’t see Kehilos in the MO world. What IMO would be far more logical would be protesting the actions of musmachim who act as if SA is irrelevant or worse and simply asking the simple question-would you consider such a person a proper person from whom to seek either Halachic, Hashkafic or pastoral guidance? As in many other issues, people tend to vote with their feet or dollars on such issues.

  43. IH wrote:

    “Perhaps a test case on the right as well: e.g. someone who abandons the YU hashkafa and admits belief in modern Charedi Daas Torah”

    I can think of at least two prominent Talmidei Chachamim who meet that description R M Gifter ZL and R CP Sheinberg. As far as the YU hashkafa is concerned, think about the broad width of views among the RIETS RY and you will see a wide variety of views, but none of which can be characterized as “modern Charedi Daas Torah.” One should never view or confuse advocacy of the primacy of Mesorah and Baalei Mesorah with the contemporary Charedi perspective. The view that all males should be learning in Kollel for as long as possible is simply not voiced by any RY in RIETS. Neither is the Charedi view of Zionism or the State of Israel. In contrast, what is voiced that regardless of one’s occupation, one must be Kovea Itim LaTorah whether with a chavrusa or by attending a shiur. That IMO differentiates YU from the Charedi view which views the Yissochar/Zvulun role so literally that learning is left for those learning and at the most a Baal HaBayis is expected to possibly attend a Daf Yomi shiur.

    OTOH, anyone who attended YU in the 1960s-1980s will remember one musmach who due to his vicious missives against anyone who was appointed a RY, and especially his views of RHS, which led to a major dust up in the Breuers’ Kehillah about a Kollel that RHS spoke about a parlor meeting thereat and in Queens, was prohibited from entering the Beis Medrash.

  44. “regardless of one’s occupation, one must be Kovea Itim LaTorah whether with a chavrusa or by attending a shiur.”

    What about with yourself, as actual talmidei chachomim do?

  45. From a few minutes spent with R. Rakaffet’s book, it appears the conditional document of ordination referenced in the selected quotation has this context:

    (pp. 143-4):

    To safeguard its interests in the Yeshiva, the Agudat Harabanim appointed a Rabbinical Advisory Board which was instructed to aid Rabbi Revel in administering the Yeshiva. Prominent European-trained talmudic scholars served on this board, which functioned from the late 1920s until its dissolution during the early 1940s. […names…]

    These rabbis delineated the course of study for ordination, and their approval was required before a graduate was ordained. In 1929 they refused to permit the ordination of a graduate until his synagogue installed the required partition between men and women.

    (p. 145)

    Throughout this period the Agudat Harabanim carefully scrutinized Rabbi Revel and the continually expanding Yeshiva. Its members made their feelings known to him when they were not pleased with specific situations. When it was announced in 1929 that Revel would attend the installation of a Yeshiva rabbi in a synagogue which the Agudat Harabanim felt did not have a sufficiently large partition separating the men and the women, he was exhorted not to attend. Rabbi Eliezer Silver, then the President of the Agudat Harabanim, wrote “that we are certain that that you will not enter such a synagogue which is constructed in a fashion which transgresses a basic law of Orthodoxy.” Later that year a vociferous debate broke out at an executive committee meeting of the Agudat Harabanim concerning the gentile help engaged by the recently opened Yeshiva cafeteria. Although Jewish law required only that the actual cooking be done by Jews, many rabbis felt that it was not proper for a yeshiva cafeteria to be staffed almost exclusively by gentiles. Some of the Agudat Harabanim leaders declared that they would not dine in the cafeteria and voted against holding a luncheon session at the new Yeshiva building. Rabbi Eliezer Silver wrote to Revel and advised him to hire Jewish employees for the cafeteria. “If the Agudat Harabanim feels that the cafeteria situation is not proper, then the Yeshiva students may not eat there either.” […]

  46. And the paragraphs immediately preceding the selected quotation in the post:

    (pp. 164-5)

    In many instances, the removal of the mechitzawas the first deviation introduced by a congregation, which nonetheless considered itself Orthodox. A Pennsylvania synagogue wrote to the Yeshiva in 1929: […letter…].

    Revel did not permit the Yeshiva to acquiesce to a congregation’s introducing mixed pews. He insisted that the mechitza tradition be retained in the synagogue if a yeshiva rabbinical graduate was to occupy the pulpit.

    There were instances when Revel did permit graduates to be interviewed by congregations with mixed pews and he felt that “an able, diplomatic man could bring them back to the fold.” The rabbi was only authorized to accept the position if the congregation agreed to install a mechitza, or if the rabbi felt he had a reasonable chance of correcting the deviation. While ministering to the deviating synagogue, the rabbi corresponded with Revel to inform him of his progress. If the rabbi did not succeed within a year, Revel insisted that he leave the congregation.

    Revel anxiously attempted to aid the rabbis who were struggling to separate the sexes during worship. In 1929 he wrote to a rabbi in Nashville, Tennessee:

    I hope that your sincerity and continuing efforts will prevail upon your congregation to return to the sanctioned and sanctified standards of the synagogue. It is encouraging to hear that just last week . . . a graduate of the Yeshiva scored a victory for traditional Judaism by having his synagogue – after many years of mixed pews – changed to separate pews. If you consider that outside cooperation, the coming of Dr, Leo Jung, or Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein, Rabbi N. H. Ebin, President of the Yeshiva Alumni, or any other rabbi you may suggest, will be of service to you, I shall be glad to help by arranging for him to study and visit and address your congregation.

    When the rabbi did not succeed, Revel informed him that “as matters stand, there is of course no choice left you. The Yeshiva is ready to help you in whatever way it can to secure another post as rabbi or as principal.”

    When a Yeshiva graduate refused Revel’s request to leave a position which had both mixed pews and a mixed choir, his ordination was revoked. Revel wrote to a graduate on September 19, 1933:

    “It grieves me to inform you that since you refuse to leave Temple…where the sacred laws of traditional Judaism are violated, I urgently request that you return the conditional document of ordination that you received from the Yeshiva. The basic purpose of the Yeshiva is to guard the sanctity of Jewish Law in this land. If you will not return the document of ordination, I will be obligated to publish newspaper announcements declaring the nullification of your ordination.”

    The rabbi did not heed Rabbi Revel’s request, and the Yeshiva publicly announced the cancellation of his ordination and proclaimed that “one can no longer rely on his answers to inquiries of Jewish Law.”

    [IH: n.b. this was during The Great Depression, which significantly impacted YU as R. Rakaffet writes elsewhere in the book].

  47. Steve,
    Rav Gifter was only at YU for a brief period, and did not recieve Smicha there. R. Scheinberg certainly received smicha at YU from YU roshei yeshiva, but I’m not sure it was through the standard program (as opposed to an essentially private smicha from RM soloveitchic) and RD Revel.

  48. Rav Gifter gave shiur in RIETS for a brief period. He filled in for one of the rabbeim who was ill.

  49. “NYC and suburbs had many of them, almost none left.”

    There is one in the Bronx.

  50. “The RCA requires 2 private Yoreh Yorehs”

    Ok, I understand why you did it. But they would seriously reject someone who had a single private semichah from, say, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein?

  51. I believe they would.

  52. Hirhurim on December 14, 2011 at 10:02 am
    Does anyone have access to a RIETS semicha certificate? Does it use any language that can be perceived as conditional?

    The RIETS s’mikhoh certificate is worded unconditionally.

  53. Finally, one more reference to a revocation demanded of R. Revel:

    (pp. 171)

    In instances where the Yeshiva rabbis and Agudat Harabanim rabbis did minister in close proximity there were occasions when caustic controversies developed between them. In such cases the rav would write to Rabbi Revel and demand the reprimand the Yeshiva graduate. These demands greatly exasperated Revel, for he feared further antagonizing the Agudat Harabanim by supporting his own graduates. In an instance where a prominent Yeshiva graduate permitted shohatim to slaughter cattle for a kosher butcher who has been declared trefa by the local council of Agudat Harabanim, the following letter was sent to Revel by the chairman of the Council of Orthodox Rabbis of a New England area on April 24, 1931:

    In the name of the rabbis and the gaonim who comprise the Council of Orthodox Rabbis, I am issuing this vehement protest against the arrogance of the graduate of the Yeshiva . . . who desecrated the name of God and ruined himself when he publicly contradicted with the insolence of a prostitute all the rabbinical members of our Council, and permitted that which we have forbidden . . . and he started that our rulings are foolish and that he is well acquainted with all the laws. . . . And when asked if he knows the Chairman of our Council, he acted as if the Chairman wasn’t worth knowing and he boasted that he has no desire to be a member of an organization such as Agudat Harabanim . . . .
    It is understood that the Yeshiva became a laughing stock when he started that his rulings were correct and the rulings of our Chairman are incorrect. . . . We decided at our meeting that if the Yeshiva doesn’t publically revoke his ordination and bring him up on charges, then we will present the entire case before the next convention of the Agudat Harabanim and demand that they publicly disqualify him.


  54. S wrote:

    “regardless of one’s occupation, one must be Kovea Itim LaTorah whether with a chavrusa or by attending a shiur.”

    What about with yourself, as actual talmidei chachomim do

    Ain haci Nami. Yet, RHS has noted that he always discusses halachic issues with other Talmidei Chachamim, and especially if one is not on the level of the few Gdolei Talmidei Chachamim who study by themselves, Pilpul Chaverim is a means of discovering whether one is correct or simply off the mark in understanding an issue.

  55. MDJ-RCPS never has denied that he learned in RIETS, that R D Revel ZL was his Msader Kiddushin or that he received Smicha from R S Revel ZL. IIRC, the smicha is prominently on display in RCPS’s apartment.

  56. IIRC,in R Gifter ZL’s well known address condemning centrist Orthodoxy, R Gifter ZL certainly mentioned that he learned in RIETS.

  57. Can R Avi Weiss revoke a maharatship if she insists on wearing a snood in defiance of R Broyde’s heter/limmud zechut and the eternal principles of feminimity? (I snark, therefore I am)

  58. Steve,
    Do keep your eye on the ball, especially since this particular ball is yours. I didn’t deny that they learned at REITS either. But the relevant question is not where they learned, but whether they got Smicha for REITS. R. Gifter certainly did not, and it is not clear that R. Scheinberg did either (though he may have).

  59. R’ Gil: I’ve seen several RIETS smichos though I don’t have one of my own (yet… alas poor undergrad) and I don’t recall it being anything other than the standard yoreh yoreh plus a list of what he knows, though when I asked my rabbi who is a RIETS musmach about the process he told me that if you don’t do well on the tests but not badly enough to fail they will sometimes give you the smicha “on the condition that you chazer xyz.” Maybe they did something similar back then?

  60. A YU smicha:

    Steve Greenberg graduated in 1983 but I assume his smicha looks the basically the same.

  61. IH, for completeness sake, we should finish the story: After R’ Revel and R’ Soloveichik passed away within about a month of each other, the Agudat HaRabbanim, which had grown increasingly distant from and even opposed to YU, sent a letter telling YU to appoint the Rav in their place. The board politely told them it wasn’t their business; the Commentator was much more rudely dismissive of them (and of the Rav himself). And that was the formal end of a relationship which didn’t really exist anymore anyway. Of course, they eventually chose the Rav as (a) Rosh Yeshiva anyway, but R’ Belkin became president.

    As R’ Rakeffet points out in the “sequel” on R’ Silver, the sad thing is that the Charedi world proceeded to passel the Agudat HaRabbanim as well, and that was pretty much the end of them as well. The were too old-fashioned for the MO and too little “yeshivish” for the Charedim.

  62. I think I am right in saying that in the past various Chief Rabbis in the UK have revoked ordinations of graduates of Jews College. In one case because after receiving ordination, one graduate came out in public in regard to his sexual orientation. It might also be worthy of note that up until the 1960s, many holders of pulpits in the UK did not call themselves “Rabbis” but “Reverend” or “Minister” in part this was because the then Chief Rabbi did not want any competition and wanted to be the only Rabbi in the UK & Commonwealth.

  63. ‘Can R Avi Weiss revoke a maharatship if she insists on wearing a snood in defiance of R Broyde’s heter/limmud zechut and the eternal principles of feminimity? (I snark, therefore I am)”

    FWIW I have never seen Sara Hurwitz without a headcovering.

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