I have never met anyone or heard of anyone that has received Semicha (rabbinic ordination) from Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky Zatzal. Did Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky ever give anyone Semicha? If the answer is no, was there a reason he did not give Semicha?

  • In the Artscroll book about R' Yaakov, it tells a story from Rav Belsky z"l. Someone came in to ask R' Yaakov a question, and he pointed over to young Yisrael Belsky, and said, "He'll answer your question." - Does that count? That may depend on some other details.
    – MichoelR
    Feb 19, 2023 at 16:21

3 Answers 3


I spoke with a student of his. He said:

  • R' Yaakov did not sign the institutional Torah VoDaath semicha (which was signed by his co-"menahel", Rabbi Gedalya Schorr) as that program required knowledge only on Shechita, Melicha, Basar B'Chalav, Ta'aruvos. (Slaughter, salting, meat&milk, prohibited mixtures.) The institutional semicha at that point, by the way, was kind of like passing a class -- you could do so with an "A", or with a "D." Thus they had different wordings for the semicha certificate.
  • R' Yaakov felt that a semicha test should also require knowledge of Chumash with Rashi and Ramban, several tractates such as Gittin and Kiddushin, and the Laws of Shabbos.
  • There are some people out there who claim to have personal ordination. The individual with whom I spoke said he wasn't sure whether their claims are true.
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    My understanding is that he never signed any Semicha including the ones that were issued by Yeshiva Torah VoDaath. Dec 15, 2011 at 16:10
  • FWIW, I heard the same re. first half of second bullet. (Also, cf. Bet Yosef YD §1.)
    – Oliver
    Jan 27, 2019 at 20:50

In Sefer B'Mechitzas Rabbeinu pg.117 (by a close talmid of Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky -- I asked Rav Nosson Kamenetsky if he is reliable and he answered in the affirmative), the author writes that Rav Yaakov made a condition with Yeshiva Torah V'Daas that he will not be required to sign the semichas since he believed that one should know all sources from the gemara to halacha (like was done in Europe).

However, he did not understand the derech of those learning just the Shach and Taz without the foundation of the gemara behind the halacha.

Text of Mechitzas Rabbeinu:

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  • This fits nicely with what R. Nosson writes in Making of a Gadol that R. Yaakov said that every town rabbi in Europe new the entire Talmud.
    – Alex
    Nov 1, 2019 at 20:07

we know that the Great Rav Ztsl was a master of Hebrew grammar and he may have felt that giving Semikhah to someone who did not know the rules of grammar, was tantamount to the recipient's possible mistake in Halakhah in the future and he would not want to be part of that error. He was also very well informed in general matters which are involved in Halakahah and this may have contributed to his decision to refrain from granting Ordination.

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for this interesting answer. Editing in any sources you might have for this claim would greatly increase it's value. I look forward to seeing you around!
    – Double AA
    Oct 22, 2012 at 19:10
  • Yeah, a source would definitely help here.
    – Seth J
    Oct 22, 2012 at 19:15

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