Is it possible for a man to receive his smicha simply from the fact that the Jews of his time all agree he should be a Rabbi? (I know this leaves out the ceremony part of it.) If a man so clearly has the learning, knowledge and ability to be a Rabbi, is it possible for him to become a Rabbi simply on that merit, if everyone around sees it? This question was spawned from the question about Rabbi Moshe Feinstein's Smicha.

  • If the answers to this question ( judaism.stackexchange.com/q/1098/5) are correct, it would seem that some very prominent European rabbis were only conferred with "official" Semichah when they needed it professionally in order to be recognized by the government or community (and I've heard this before, independently from the linked question).
    – Seth J
    Dec 25, 2011 at 17:19
  • I heard similar things as @SethJ, but in addition, I did not think that the Gra had smicha.
    – soandos
    Dec 25, 2011 at 17:27
  • morah hochman, you might explain what you mean by "for him to become a Rabbi": that he's called "rabbi" by others? that he can serve as chaplain in the army/hospital/prison (and in what jurisdiction)? that he can serve as the leader of a synagogue? that he can teach Tora? These may well have very different criteria. As far as I know (but I may be wrong), the only thing s'micha is technically good for in halacha is the ability to give s'micha to others. Is that what you're asking about: whether someone widely recognized as a rabbi but without s'micha can give it?
    – msh210
    Dec 25, 2011 at 17:28

1 Answer 1


Rambam (San. 4:11) allows for recognizing actual halachic semicha (with the ability to give fines and punishments) with the consensus of "all of the sages of the land of Israel". This is, of course, even if they did not have semicha, otherwise even 1 can give it.

I would call this a theoretical issue, as getting all those Jews to agree not very practical (just google Rabbi Yaakov Beirav), especially since the Rambam himself was hesitant to give give such a psak.

Other than that, I'm with msh210. You can call him a Rabbi, but what he can do with it is based on custom. Plenty without semicha teach Torah. I'm pretty sure that those without semicha will only hold an unofficial position in a synagogue, but still perform the duties required of a Rabbi. And, like nsh said, he can't give semicha.


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