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Every time recently that I've heard of an Orthodox congregation conducting a search for a rabbi, the stage at which the rabbi visits the community for a Shabbat and auditions for the position is called a probeh.

Here are some examples of the use of this term that I can find on the web:

  • A schedule for a probeh event.

  • From a blog post by ADDeRabbi:

    In the late 1940s, my grandfather was hired to officiate (lead services, read the Torah, and deliver sermons) High Holiday services at a synagogue in a small town in Ohio. The one-off gig turned out to be a probeh, an audition, and he was offered the job of full-time rabbi.

  • From a Rabbinic Search notice:

    ... Rabbinic Search has completed its series of Probehs and will culimate with a Congregational Vote ...

I tried searching the Internet for an etymology for this word and came up empty. I have only ever heard it in this specific context - rabbinic audition.

What language is this word from? Yiddish?

What is its etymology and derivation?

How far back does its usage go in this context?

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    This term is also used for the device used to separate the or pria from the orla by a bris. If such a device is used. It seems Yiddish, provably same derivative as the English word probe. – user6591 Feb 1 '15 at 17:17
  • My guess is that it's Yiddish, and perhaps related to the English "probe," like (1.4) -- "An investigation." ....I don't know enough Yiddish to say that it's a Yiddish word though; that's just a feeling. The relationship to "probe" is an educated guess. – Shokhet Feb 1 '15 at 17:58
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    Hungarian and Polish have much to say about this en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pr%C3%B3ba – rosends Feb 1 '15 at 21:26
  • Is it not as proof, prova in Italian, epreuve in French, probe in Latin – kouty Mar 23 '16 at 1:16
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פּראָבעה is apparently a Yiddish word meaning "test" or "tryout". See Google Translate.

I don't actually speak Yiddish, but the etymology is probably from German Probe (approximately pronounced probuh, per Wiktionary), with the same meaning. It is related to the English probe, with both deriving from Latin probare.

I can't answer for historical usage.

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it is from the common European word for 'examine, test, prove, try', originally from the Latin word probare (infinitive - 'to try, etc.') and late latin proba (noun for proof, whence our English word 'proof'). It gives us the English word probe, probation (trial, proof, demonstration). It has taken on the meaning 'audition' because the chazan/rabbi is trying to prove his worth. Our modern usage of the word comes from Yiddish.

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To add to the other (correct) answers, it is indeed a Yiddish word (פּראָבע), and Weinreich's dictionary translates it as "test, tryout; assay; hallmark; probation; rehearsal". In addition, it has אױף פּראָבע (af probe) meaning "as a test; on trial", which neatly fits into the OP's context. Beinfeld and Bochner's dictionary adds the phrase מאַכן פּראָבע (makhn probe) with the definition "(theat.) to rehearse". As a Yiddish speaker myself (but not in Chassidish-Yiddish circles), I can attest to the usages in the context of auditions (for a play, etc.).

In terms of history of usage in the OP's specific context, I found an example from Sholem Aleichem's Monologue מיסטער גרין האָט אַ דזשאַב (Mister Green has a Job, from at latest 1915), about a shofar blower who is auditioning in various shuls for a job (on the 17th line in the link).

I found another example cited in דער גרױסער װערטערבוך (The Great Dictionary) from Solomon Maurer from the story זײַ נישט קײן װאױלער יונג from 1925:

האָט די קהילה... דעם חײמלען אױף אַ פּראָבע אױף שבת אײַנגעלאַדנט

Hot di kehile... dem khaymlen af a probe af shabes ayngeladnt

The congregatation... invited this Chaiml for Shabbos for a probe

I don't have access to the book, but the context is likely the same as the OP's.

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It's Yiddish and I would guess almost certainly from Slavic, which has the verb "пробовать" ("probovat'"), "to try." However, Wikipedia suggests it could have come to Yiddish directly from the German:

From про́ба ‎(próba), from Polish próba or German Probe, from Middle Latin proba, from probō, from Proto-Indo-European *pro-bhwo- ‎(“being in front”), from *pro-, a variant of the base *per-, + the base *bhu- (to be).

FWIW, there is some amount of unending and unendable debate about whether Yiddish comes from German or Slavic in the first place.

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