Can semicha (rabbinic ordination) be removed today? If so, what is the criteria for removal?

slightly related

  • 4
    I'm pretty sure there's no universal standard for any aspect of what we call "semicha" nowadays.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 17:24
  • If we view smicha today as an indicator not of moral character but of learning attained as evidenced by passing a test of some sort, one can not lose smicha. If smicha is tied to character then it an be revoked.
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 22:31
  • @Dan disagree, it can be an indication not only of learning attained but of the ability to adjudicate based on that knowledge. If a person demonstrates that their sense of judgement is impaired then it can be revoked even if they still possess all the knowledge. The same is true of passing the bar/being disbarred.
    – user2110
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 18:28
  • a lawyer doesn't adjudicate so questioning his judgment is a matter of assessing his following the canon of law, not applying rules well. A rabbi who gives patently inappropriate psak halacha might be demonstrating only an ignorance (through forgetfulness or issuing psak on an area in which he has no expertise) or a disregard for the rules. Are you saying that ignorance is grounds for losing smicha?
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 18:41

2 Answers 2


This question has already been discussed in the Hirhurim blog, in which R. Student argues that no matter how we understand contemporary semicha today, a rabbi's semicha can be revoked by the mentor who gave him semicha. As an example of this happening, R. Student cites R. Rakeffet's biography Bernard Revel, which describes how R. Revel [first president of Yeshiva College] revoked a particular student's semicha:

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graduate refused Revel’s request to leave a position which had both mixed pews and a mixed choir, his ordination was revoked.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.”

Furthermore, there are various institutions which have begun providing a disclaimer that they can revoke the semichot they give. Yeshivah Pirchei Shoshanim declares as much on their site:

It is at our discretion to block access and terminate either the course or revoke one’s Smicha of any participant if they do not adhere entirely to all precepts of the TORAH and the teaching’s of its Sages while maintaining the high level of personal and moral integrity that is demanded of one who is either learning for Semicha or has achieved that designation.

Similarly, after an Israeli rabbi admitted to stealing Torah scrolls, the Israeli Chief Rabbinate revoked his semicha, creating a new precedent:

Rabbinate representatives said that this is a precedent, and from now on this will be the policy towards any Rav who bears an official document and is convicted of offenses.

Regarding rabbis convicted in the past, the possibility is examined whether a certificate from the Chief Rabbinate will be denied them retroactively.

Hagr"y Metzger [Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi]: "The council wanted to send a message that a rabbi who transgresses does not only transgress a halachic, moral or value prohibition - but this may jeopardize his continued tenure and status as a rabbi in Israel."

In addition, a certain Rav accused of falsifying addresses and license to hold Chuppahs, was summoned to a hearing and it will be decided if he will be denied a certificate too.

  • Didn't Rav Solovechik also revoke s'micha of any of his students who took Conservative pulpits? Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 14:07
  • @BruceJames I would like to see a source for that
    – Jmill388
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 15:20

I'm pretty sure there's no universal standard for any aspect of what we call "semicha" nowadays. You'd have to ask each rabbi or institution that confers something with this name what their policies on removal are.

  • Seems to be more like a comment Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 18:20
  • 5
    @ShmuelBrin Removing the entire premise of a question can be a valid answer.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 18:26

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