The question that is on most people’s minds is “does a Rov of a Kehilla need Semicha, or not?” and it’s been a question that has been lingering and festering among many in the neighborhood. Rather putting this issue to bed, the Zabla Beis Din has remained mum on the topic.
So our researchers have gathered a collection of a Sicha, letter and a story upon which you can make your own informed decision.
One without Semicha is an Am Haaretz
In a Sicha from Shabbos Parashas Maatos Maaseh 5746 in which the Rebbe says some very harsh things about Askonim who feel they own the community, and that such a thing has never been heard of in the history of the Jewish nation.
The Rebbe goes into the discussion of “who are Rabbonim?” and answers, “those who have Semicha for Rabonus, and not just on paper, they were ordained in directing on matters of Halacha – “Yoreh Yoreh”, “Yodin Yodin” – by Rabonim who were ordained before them, from man to man etc. until Moshe Rabainu.
The Rebbe concludes with very harsh words calling someone who does not have Shimus an “Am Haaretz” despite being well versed in Shas and Poskim.
Electing the First Beis Din
In 5746 following the conclusion of the elections for the very first Beis Din of Crown Heights, the head of the election committee Rabbi Eliezer Tzvi Zev Zirkind sent a letter to the Rebbe informing him of the election results.
In the letter they announce that they have “merited to complete their Shlichus by seeing the three Semichos for Rabonus from the three Rabbis of our community, as well as securing the seven signatures on the contracts and Kesav Rabonus, and arranging their salary…”
The conclusion of the letter Rabbi Zirkind details the candidates, along with what their qualification are and who gave it to them.
No Semicha – No Kashrus, No Chuppas, No Shaalos
In a story printed in the Teshura from the Markowitz-Lokshin wedding called Nobility and Piety By Getzy Markowitz (originally published here on CrownHeights.info) he tells the amazing story of Rabbi Yehoshua Lein the Rabbi of a small Russian town called Ostrovna, near Vitebsk, where a fire destroyed their home and with it his Semicha Certificate.
Among Lubavitcher Chassidim, the year 1906 has become a symbol of sentimentalism. It was the year when the Rebbe Rashab delivered some of the most sublime dissertations of Chassidism. Until this very day, clever students explore the world of Chassidic thought eager to amass enough knowledge and training to study the masterly treatise known simply as “Samach Vov.”
In the same year that the Rebbe Rashab delivered Samach Vov, he dispatched Zeide Yehoshua to the Lithuanian Chassidic fortress of Dokshitz to establish a branch of Tomchei Temimim for a select group of students.
Among Zeide Yehoshua’s sixteen gifted pupils was Rabbi Mordechai Perlow, the author of Chabad’s cherished “Kuntres Hasipurim,” who would become an illustrious rabbi in Soviet Georgia, Italy, and Australia. In his book, Rabbi Perlow quotes a number of stories in the name of his teacher, and describes Zeide Yehoshua as a man who could articulate all of Talmud, and the major works of Jewish jurisprudence and their commentaries, from memory.
Eventually the Rebbe Rashab motivated Zeide Yehoshua to take up the position of Rabbi of Ostrovna, a town near Vitebsk. Then, in 1911, four generations after Peretz Chein served as Rabbi of Beshenkovitz, his great-grandson became the city’s rabbinic authority. The inhabitants of Beshenkovitz would apply to Yehoshua the biblical verse “and the fourth generation shall return here.”
When a fire erupted in the Lein home, Zeide Yehoshua’s certificate of Rabbinical ordination was destroyed along with other possessions. As a result, the pious man ceased serving as a Rabbi. He no longer officiated at weddings, or oversaw kosher certification. Accounts of what had happened reached the razor sharp Rabbi Yoseph Rosen, the Rogochover Gaon who immediately issued a new superlative certificate.