A Day At The Office For The Local Rabbi

A rabbi is a spiritual leader for the Jewish. The word, in Hebrew, means ‘my teacher’ or ‘my master’. Unlike the Pope, there is no single leader of the entire global Jewish faith. However, individual denominations, such as the Hasidim or Chasidics, may have a single leader. Among the Hasidim, the word is ‘rebbe’.

The duties of a Jewish spiritual leader are many. They are pastoral, as when leading a congregation in prayer. They have preaching duties, as when giving a sermon at a synagogue. They officiate, as in a bar mitzvah ceremony or a wedding rabbi.

Rabbis have administrative functions. They will assemble in a rabbinical court called a Beit Din in order to approve a conversion to Judaism. Traditionally, the role was held by a man, but the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative have ordained increasingly more women into the role.

Often, a rabbi will be called outside the congregation. They serve as community activists and lead Jewish organizations. They comfort the sick and the bereaved. A spiritual leader is also available to individual members of their congregation to provide guidance. They write books.

Rabbis adjudicate Jewish religious law, the halakhah. Interestingly, they have no formal authority to conduct a service. This may be done by any Jew who has had the appropriate religious education.

Prior to the destruction of the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, special rabbis, called Kohein, served as priests. In order to qualify as kohein, he would have to be a direct descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses. In fact, a scientific study published in 1997 showed that people who had identified themselves as kohein had common elements in the Y-chromosome, which indicated that they had a common ancestor. The role of the kohein diminished following the destruction of the Temple in approximately 70 AD. Kohein is the root of the Jewish surname, ‘Cohen’.

There are number of rabbinical roles. The familiar Cantor, or Chazan, will lead the congregation in musical prayers. A Tzaddik is an ultra righteous Florida rabbi with spiritual or mystical powers. Then there is the Gabbai, a lay volunteer who has been endowed with the special honor of reading the Torah at a service. He may also stand next to another member of the congregation who is engaged in reading the Toray. The role of the Gabbai is to coach the reader in pronunciation and stand by to correct him if he makes any other sort of mistake.

Rabbi Steven Westman offers great prices on services offered at a bar mitzvah ceremony. Check out his website to learn more! (http://www.rabbistevenwestman.com)

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