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I have heard (I honestly cannot remember where...) that to be a rabbi a man must be married. Is there any truth to this?

I am more interested in knowing if this was true in the first century C.E. than if it is true today.

I have no reason to believe that there was a change in the standard,but two thousand years is a long time to not image that things might have changed.

Part of the context of this question is that it is written that Jesus was called "Rabbi", yet Christian canon holds that Jesus was never married (a claim of which I am skeptical).

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Similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/61433 –  msh210 Jul 22 at 12:52

5 Answers 5

up vote 13 down vote accepted

It was certainly very common, but I can't find a requirement in the talmud (which was written in the few hundred years around your target timeframe), and I find one talmudic counter-example:

On Kiddushin 71b R. Yehudah of Pumbeditha is asked why his son, R. Yitzchak, is not yet married (and is an adult).

Kiddushin 82a does argue that an unmarried man cannot teach children, but this appears to be a concern about the appearance of impropriety, not a question about his ability or knowledge.

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Moshe Rabbeinu seperated from his wife and was still the leader of the Jewish nation.

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But he had previously already been married, unlike (lehavdil) the subject of the OP. –  Alex Jun 10 '11 at 18:43
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By a Kohain Godol we see that a different wife is prepared for him in case his wife dies, which shows that a Kohain Godol is required to be married. –  Gershon Gold Jun 12 '11 at 20:06
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Did Moshe Rabbeinu have semicha? –  Double AA Apr 18 '12 at 16:53
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@DoubleAA: sure, from Hashem. He's the first in the chain of semichah (Rambam, Hil. Sanhedrin 4:1). –  Alex Apr 18 '12 at 17:07
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@DoubleAA: this teshuvah, in a sefer called Mecholas Hamachanayim, says that "Moshe was given semichah by Hashem," and indeed that this is why judges are called אלקים in the Torah - because their authority goes back in a chain to Hashem. –  Alex Apr 19 '12 at 13:54

Rambam Hilchot Ishut 15:3

מי שחשקה נפשו בתורה תמיד ושגה בה כבן עזאי ונדבק בה כל ימיו ולא נשא אשה אין בידו עון והוא שלא יהיה יצרו מתגבר עליו, אבל אם היה יצרו מתגבר עליו חייב לישא אשה ואפילו היו לו בנים שמא יבוא לידי הרהור.‏

My translation: Someone who wished to only study Torah his whole life like Ben Azzai (See Monica Cellio's answer) and clings to it his whole life and never married, he does not have a sin on his hands. This only applies if his desires do not get the better of him, but if he cannot control his desires he must marry, even if he has children [from a previous marriage].

According to Rambam, getting married is highly recommended, even for a rabbi, but is not an absolute requirement.

Perhaps in today's society it is less acceptable, but Halachically it is permitted, albeit not recommended.

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Elisha and Elijah never married on this principle. –  ShamanSTK Aug 14 at 0:15

No one has mentioned the argument between R Akiva Eiger and the Tiferes Yisroel about his unmarried son becoming a rov Here look on the end of page 127 and beginning of 128. That is the only source I can find at the moment but there are many more. I cant imagine how he could pasken womens shaalos without being married.

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"Part of the context of this question is that it is written that Jesus was called "Rabbi", yet Christian canon holds that Jesus was never married (a claim of which I am skeptical)."

In response to this part of your inquiry, I can answer you that, by the time of Jesus, the title "rabbi" and correlates were not exclusively used in a formal manner as it is today in judaism in reference to authorized clergy. On the contrary, it was sometimes used in reference to non-clergy and non-pharisaic individuals who had acquired a religious following as a means of attributing honor. Also, not all recognized pharisaic authorities (that time's rabbis) had the rabbi title attached to their names, as was, for example, the case for Hillel The Elder. Later rabbinc authorities also don't always have the title, as is the case for the Sage Shmuel, and many others.

All this to say that: even if it could be proven that in rabbinic judaism historically one would have to be married to be a recognized rabbi, it does not follow from it that Jesus was married just because he was called a rabbi, since the title was not exclusively used in this formal manner by that time, being some times attributed to religious leaderships independent of formal training, recognition and, needless to say, any other requirement for official ordination as a rabbi.

Obs.: Anyone may feel free to edit my answer due to english problems, since it is not my native language.

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protected by Isaac Moses Feb 1 '13 at 17:27

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