How Does Someone Become a Rabbi?
First of all, relax. I don't want the job. I don't even believe a non-Jew can become a Rabbi but having said that, I'm also not sure there can be such a thing as a Messianic Rabbi, even if the person is Jewish.
Let me explain.
When I first came on board with the whole "Messianic movement" thing, the guy leading the congregation called himself a "Pastor". Then he went away to a conference for a week and came back "an ordained Rabbi". No, he wasn't Jewish and, while he had previously taken some classes in a Christian seminary, he didn't hold a degree. He certainly didn't know Hebrew or Talmud (although he tried to learn some Hebrew as time went on).
I discovered that just about any one with a theological axe to grind could put on a kippah and a tallit and call himself a "Messianic Rabbi". It was pretty ridiculous.
Now I'm encountering a number of people associated with organizations such as the Messianic Jewish Theological Institute (MJTI) who call themselves Rabbis. Derek Leman, Joshua Brumbach, and Carl Kinbar are all called Rabbis. I'm pretty sure I inadvertently insulted Carl Kinbar last week when, during an exchange of comments on this blog, I mistakenly referred to him as "Dr. Kinbar". He corrected me, saying he didn't have a doctorate degree and was "Rabbi Kinbar". I gave him a much shorter explanation about my reservations in using the title "Rabbi" to folks associated with Messianism and never heard back from him.
I apologize to Kinbar and anyone else I don't call a Rabbi, but I'm really hesitant with the use of titles.
I've tried to look up the qualifications for becoming a (non-Messianic) Rabbi on the web (and I don't want to do an in-depth study on the matter) and found that the requirements vary somewhat depending on the sect of Judaism involved.
According to Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner, the general requirements go like this:
I realize my sources aren't directly from Jewish Yeshivas, but I only need a thumbnail sketch to ask my question:
- There is some form of admission process that often includes testing, both psychological and subject competence
- One has to complete a minimum of 4 years of college
- The major differences between the institutions are the various emphases - Talmud, philosophy, Hebrew, history, Bible, etc. even though there are minimum requirements in each subject area plus a variety of practical Rabbinics, pastoral psychology, etc.
- A minimum of 5-6 years and also one year in Israel, especially to develop a relationship with Israel and familiarity with Hebrew as a living language
- Graduation or ordination is essentially the same kind of ceremony with various kinds of certification or diplomas. I chose to have all of my teachers sign my diploma, and while it took some time to receive, I am very glad as most are no longer living except in my heart and mind - and I miss them
- Some Seminaries or yeshivot also require an internship to gain some practical experience
- Some movements require a new graduate to start with a small congregation in order to learn all of the various elements of congregational or institutional life before moving up to a large congregation, UNLESS one takes an assistant position in a larger congregation which is much more narrow in function.
What is the process for a Jewish person to become a Rabbi in Messianic Judaism as opposed to the other types of Judaism? I know that Joshua Brumbach explained it to me many months ago in the comments in one of his blog posts at Yinon, but I can't locate the conversation now. From what I remember though, it was a very impressive set of requirements that, in all practicality, would take a full ten years to complete, including living and training in Israel.
Only after the fact, did I realize I wanted to ask if the current Rabbis associated with MJTI and other formal MJ organizations have undergone a ten year (or so) educational and training program. If so, even the most freshly minted Messianic Rabbi would have had to start the study process in 2000/2001.
I'm not trying to be insulting or contentious and I apologize if my comments seem to suggest otherwise, but, after my unintended insult of Carl Kinbar, I felt it my duty to investigate this matter further. If I'm being unfair, I want to change that. If people such as Kinbar, Derek, and Joshua can walk into a room full of Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Rabbis and be recognized as peers among that group, I need to make amends.
While many of the people I interact with in the Messianic blogosphere seem to take it for granted that the people who call themselves Rabbis are Rabbis and make no bones about it, I take the matter very seriously, especially in the Messianic realm, which is struggling to find legitimacy not only in the larger Jewish world, but in the eyes of the Christian church as well.
I don't doubt that there are many "silent readers" of this blog and others who consider themselves Messianic who would also like to know more.
Oh, for the record, I don't have a title of any kind in my congregation. First off, I have no formal training and am not "certified" or "approved" by any official organization to do what I'm doing. I operate under the authority of the board of the congregation but that's as far as it goes. Whenever someone walks into my congregation and tries to pin "Pastor" or "Rabbi" onto my name, I gently but firmly stop them and explain that I'm "just plain Jim".
Disclaimer out of the way. Comments?
Addendum: Another question occurred to me earlier today. Do Messianic Rabbis, like other Rabbis and like Pastors and other clergy, that legal credentials to marry people, visit inmates in prison, provide "pastorial care" to patients in hospitals and the like? I guess this is another way of asking if Rabbi's in the Messianic movement are legally recognized by the state as such.