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January 27, 2011


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Yoel Mechanic

>Morristown's BA is a joke. So is Aish's. So are most others I've seen

Please show me precisely where (such as a link) where Morristown (ie. RCA) says they grant a BA (Bachelor of Arts). How about Aish? What other's grant Bachelor of Arts? Are you implying that a Bachelor of Talmud, or some other Bachelors is the same as a Bachelor of Arts? heheh... BT... pretty funny, wouldn't you say?


If the semichah is from an institution that has a curriculum, ongoing assessment, written examinations and a system of academic records -- there MAY be a case. Otherwise - absolutely not (and many "semichas" I have encountered are in the latter category). But most yeshivah guys -- rabbanim as well as students -- are by now so removed from anything approaching secular knowledge (tfu tfu tfu) that in my experience they have NO IDEA what a BA / University education means. Plus -- the devaluation of academic standards over the last few decades means that all sorts of bizarre institutions now award "degrees" (and I am not even talking about the 'degree mills' that sell them online, which many haredim think are just fine!0.


*You do at least understand the concept of a liberal edeucation, right?*

I guess I don't, just what (marketable) skills does one walk away with a BA in French? A smattering of intro level of required courses that hangs around in short term memory for a few weeks is unimpressive.

Attaining smicha does hone debating skills, sharpening skills in logic. There are many issues of law at play as well.

If only they could exclude from their studies the fine art and requirement to steal from your fellow man. As well as how to entrap young boys for sexual pleasures it would be a most noble endeavor.


Posted by: A E ANDERSON | Christchurch, New Zealand | January 27, 2011 at 04:57 PM

Morristown's BA is a joke. So is Aish's. So are most others I've seen.

And none of these yeshivas, BT or not, requires the what you claim is required to be accepted for accreditation.

A E ANDERSON | Christchurch, New Zealand

I confronted this issue while serving as a consultant to a prominent yeshiva during its national accreditation/self-study proceedings nearly two decades ago.

Most accredited American yeshivas at the tertiary level separate the granting of ordination (semicha) from academic degrees. This is for a variety of reasons, ranging from financial aid regulatory compliance to customary yeshiva practice. In the United States, yeshivot accredited by the Association for Advanced Rabbinic and Talmudic Schools tend to offer a degree at bachelors level, sometime styled bachelors, or sometimes "First Talmudic Degree," depending on how squeamish they are about seeming "too goyishe."

From a financial aid standpoint, an institution must meet a certain graduation rate or it becomes institutionally ineligible to receive federal financial aid. If the Ordination Certificate is the terminal credential, that means that all students must be enrolled for it, and something on the order of a majority of those must attain the credential.

In Orthodox practice, tertiary yeshiva study is a finishing "liberal" Jewish education, not a practical or professional course. What's more, ordination in some traditions was reserved for the honours graduates rather than ordinary, competent students. There is also a tradition among some yeshivos that graduates who need ordination to enter on rabbinic work obtain their certificates privately, from sages of renown.

At one time, it could be said that a person competent enough to be examined in the traditional areas of Yoreh Deah and Poskim possessed a sufficiently deep and broad knowledge of Talmud and commentaries, certainly beyond the BA level. Today, with the proliferation of "semicha programs" that drip feed a few sections of Shulchan 'Arukh to enrollees in a one-year course, one cannot be assured that the ordination in and of itself represents the depth and breadth of scholarship that it once did. [AARTS, to its credit, does not accredit these semicha programs]

(In the Lubavitcher milieu, the existence of "shaylah sheets" for semicha exams for many years running also calls into question the qualification of many ordinands.)

Of course, given the sorry state of secular college graduates in the United States, I think there is no doubt that achievement to the level of semicha "Yoreh Yoreh" equals and largely exceeds the rigor and complexity of a typical "soft" BA course. That does not mean that such an ordinand will be able to compose, in English, a coherent paragraph, or has any exposure to the general studies portion of secular knowledge that one expects of a university graduate or even a secondary school leaver.

One really must look beyond the actual semicha certificate to the depth and breadth of the "Bet Midrash" yeshiva education that proceeded it. AARTs requires several hundred pages of Talmud or more -- in the original Aramaic and Hebrew -- for an entering Bet Midrash student, I seem to recall. If this is the starting point, it is beyond question that an ordination that results four or six years later exeeds many times the rigor and depth of anything encountered on pretty much any BA syllabus in any field.

The Israeli rabbanut semicha is well regarded and is known to take years of adult, post-yeshiva study to achieve. Certainly its ordinands meet or exceed the BA level educationally. They may be challenged, again, on basic knowledge issues, but as Israelis functioning entirely in Hebrew, they are often far more skilled users of the Hebrew language than their secular counterparts, it could be argued.

A. Nuran

Garnel, you're being dishonest here. Maybe ordination requires more work than some baccalaureate degrees although much less than a degree in chemistry or mechanical engineering.

But it isn't the number of hours. It's mastery of basic skills and knowledge. That chemist I mentioned puts in more hard work and thought than a rabbinical student. It doesn't make him a rabbi or the equivalent or a rabbi.

The whole point here is to get Haredi kids out of their ghetto capable of surviving in the real world. The Talitbani would rather die than see Jews capable, free and educated. That's why they're doing everything they can to stop real education. Talking about all the hours required to learn how to vomit up dogma on command is nothing but a distraction.

Menachem Mendel lll

Excellent idea!

The scare crow in The Wizard Of Oz was conferred "the equivalent" of a bachelors degree for far less so I'm all for it!

MOSHAICH (uber alles)

Office of the Chief Rabbi

At JTS, HUCJIR, or Recon you don't get IN without the BA. Their students earn an M.A. prior to ordination.



Israel, like most European and Latin American countries, does not have a "liberal arts" curriculum. A bachelor's degree takes three years and focuses only on the requisite knowledge in the field of the degree. So get off your high horse and let people express legitimate insights into the issue at hand.

Aleksandr Sigalov

I think Chumash provides list of a very specific requirements for a community leader (Exodus 18:21)

"Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.

I think its a pretty good description of what a "rabbi" must be.


@ YU, u don't get smikha without a bachelor degree be it in the humanities or the sciences.
i don't know what they do @ jts or huc, though i suspect their rabbis to be literate too .
on the other hand young man with smikha is no guarrantee of literacy not in rabbinics nor general knowledge. they graduate in zeal!


You people do understand that a degree in French or literature requires one to have a depth of knowledge beyond French or literature? You do at least understand the concept of a liberal edeucation, right?

A nudnik

A candidate for a supervisory position in education should possess at least training and preferably formal credentials in educational methodology.


*Apologies to Star Trek: "It's learning Jim, but not as we know it."*

You know, that makes sense in a way. It is "learning" post high school with at least as many hours devoted to achieve a "certification" (smicha). You may dismiss as it as being a useless profession (mostly teaching), but to some a degree in French or literature is just as useless.

Garnel Ironheart

Having done both, I would definitely say that a basic smicha (Isa' 1 above) was far more work than the baccalaureate. The amount of retention of material that was expected for the exam was much higher. What's more, there's practical use for the material learned while a baccalaureate might make you more interesting at a party but not much else.
The question is: does the job simply require a degree, or a relevant degree? If it's the fortmer, then smicha should be equivalent.


The following may not be totally correct. Please chime in if you have more knowledge of this

We have a system today in which there are really 3 levels of smicha and a 4th category that we allow to use the title Rabbi even though they don't really have a smicha and can't give smicha under our system.

All 4 from lowest level to highest:

1) Rav u'manhig
Really just permission to use the title Rabbi. Just a community leader/teacher. No permission to give wide psak and likely no right to give smicha to others.

One caveat, such an individual may have been given a very narrow right by their teacher to give psak in a very narrow area to a very limited degree. Beyond that, they must forward questions to a recognized posek.

The following 3 groups can give smicha at their level and below:

Yoreh Yoreh can give psak except in more specialized areas like Dinei Nidah and can't be a judge.

3) Yadin Yadin can be a judge and rule in dinei Nidah.

4) There is a level of smicha that deals with making rulings in regard to Temple work. Obviously, not as practical an area (for now) and as far as I know is not widely given. Usually, people giving/receiving such smicha today are people who have strong emunah in regard to the immediate coming of the Moshiach.
This is called Yechachin Yechachin

the usual chaim

agreed. but being that they have a curriculum that mandates intense jewish studies the heads should also be rabbis. basically they should be educated rabbis. it should be staffed in the meantime with non-haredim who fit this criteria and the haredim should be told that as soon as they can produce a group of people who meet the criteria they will be able to take over the board. this will give them an incentive to comply

A. Nuran

If they're going to supervise the core curriculum they need at least a passing understanding of the material. Rabbinic ordination doesn't cover it any more than a PhD in History qualifies you to teach aircraft mechanics.


Apologies to Star Trek: "It's learning Jim, but not as we know it."

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