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What is a Rabbi?


In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah.  This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי rabi, meaning "My Master" (irregular plural רבנים rabanim) which is the way a student would address a master of Torah.


This word "master" רב rav literally means "great one" or one who is "abundant/much/many."


The basic form of the Rabbi developed in the Pharisaic and Talmudic era, when learned teachers assembled to codify Judaism's written and oral laws.


In more recent centuries, the duties of the Rabbi became increasingly influenced by the duties of the Protestant Christian minister, hence the title "Pulpit Rabbis,"  and in 19th century Germany and the United States rabbinic activities including sermons, pastoral counseling, and representing the community to the outside, all increased in importance.


Within the various Jewish denominations there are different requirements for rabbinic ordination, and differences in opinion regarding who is to be recognized as a Rabbi.


All types of Judaism except for Orthodox Judaism ordain women as Rabbis and Cantors.


Today, Rabbis are spiritual leaders, teachers, pastoral counselors, chaplains, Hebrew School Directors and Principals.  More and more, the roles of Rabbis are broadening and the definition of a Rabbi is evolving.

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