What if someone does know a lot of halachah and wanted to earn semichah and become a posek? Are there any good semichah programs which will award semichah with just a test (as opposed to a additional time requirement for example)?

  • 2
    You might want to clarify what your definitions of "semicha" and "good semicha programs" are.
    – Alex
    May 10, 2018 at 5:48
  • 1
    – Oliver
    May 10, 2018 at 5:50
  • 5
    Having smicha is a prerequisite to being a posek - but being a posek requires a lot more, e.g., "shimush", apprenticeship
    – mbloch
    May 10, 2018 at 6:59

1 Answer 1


Just knowing a lot of halacha does not make someone capable of being a posek. A posek is someone who is not just familiar with the Psak Halacha in the Shulchan Aruch or the Mishna Brerura, but it is someone who is familiar with the major commentators and the reasoning behind each halacha, and how it applies to new questions.

Taking a test will NOT make you into a posek. It can give you semicha (Rav Zalman Nechemia, Rav Zafrani AFAIK offer semicha tests), but they are not meant to bestow upon someone the ability to pasken shealos. Rav Zalman Nechemia actually goes out of his way to point this out upon receiving his Semicha (at least in my experience).

The Rabanut Semicha test in Israel, which is notorious for its difficulty, also confers Semicha.

Being a posek requires two major factors 1. An intimate knowledge of the sugyos and the meforshim as mentioned previously, and 2. Shimush (apprenticeship) from an authoritative halachic expert. Just taking a test will not give you that.

There are rabbinical programs that usually require at least 2 years in the program (Rav Yitzchak Berkowitz, Rav Yosef Lerner..etc.) and there are currently alumni from those programs currently acting as Poskim.

Other programs that are actively geared towards becoming a leaders and poskim in Israel (there are Chaburos in Lakewood and Baltimore that I know of, but I am not intimately knowledgeable about them) for example are, CKD Center For Kehilla Development, run by Rabbi Leib Keleman, and Toras Chaim in Sanhedria under Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis. But these are long programs that require a lot of testing and a time commitment.

The short answer to sum up is that there are test to receive semicha, but there is no test to make you a posek, that requires a tremendous investment of time and Shimush.

  • "is someone who is familiar with the major commentators and the reasoning behind each halacha, and how it applies to new questions" That's what I meant by "Knows a lot of halachah". Halachah is not just what's in shulchan aruch and mishna berurah. As you point out there are many other commentaries. I was wondering about somone who knows enough to be a posek and whether he's have to go through a apprenticeship to get semichah or not. A posek is just somone who paskens. But nobody will accept his psak if he doesn't have smicha. Hence my question.
    – Orion
    May 10, 2018 at 13:36
  • @Orion "But nobody will accept his psak if he doesn't have smicha." I don't think that's entirely true. Note that several 'big rabbis' didn't have any formal 'Semichah'. There's a famous story with the Chafetz Chaim where in his later years when he had to interact with government officials, he asked another Rav to give him a 'Semichah' so that he wouldn't be 'lying' when he was introduced as a Rabbi. And this was long after he published most of his works. May 10, 2018 at 14:10
  • True but its probably easier. Additionally the more controversial the posek the more people would question if he was 'qualified'. But your right that you don't NEED semichah.
    – Orion
    May 10, 2018 at 16:10
  • Aren't there different types of semicha. I gather that only yadin yadin allows one to be a posek. And, I think one must first have yoreh yoreh beforehand. Correct?
    – DanF
    May 10, 2018 at 20:06

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