Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Child prodigy

The Jerusalem Post reports that a 14-year-old was sitting for the Rabbinate exams, but his results would not be tallied or graded - IOW, they would not allow a potentially qualified minor to actually attain Smicha.

Where does this fear of a young rabbi come from? Well, I wonder. Who else in recent history was ordained young-ish? R' Moshe Cordovero, contemporary of the Ari, at 16 was given R' Yaakov Beirav's revived Mosaic Semicha. Rav Goren, at 16. yblcht"a R' David Weiss-Halivni, at 15 in Sighet before the War. That's all I can find/think of on a quick scan, and both are/were religio-politically, um, offbeat.

Although, being a prodigy is not the worst thing in the world. Take my late Dad, for one. He was admitted to Juilliard (the music conservatory) at age 15 in 1936, he went through the regular and graduate programs in 3 years (they didn't have the Pre-college Program yet), and became, at 19, the 20th century's youngest principal trumpet in a major orchestra. He also married twice, happily, raised children and grandchildren, had a long musical career, and died two months ago at 88, content with his life.

So the Rabbinate should have given this boy his chance to attain ordination at 14, and help him to grow while remaining on the straight and narrow.


Saul said...

The big deal with Rabbanut Semicha is that he would be able to work in the "system" as a Rabbi. Let him get "personal" semicha from R Goldberg or the like, which is considered more prestigious anyway.

thanbo said...

Yeah, like R' Mordechai Kaplan's smicha from R' Reines.

In his day, nobody in America was giving smicha yet, so even after 8 years of JTS HS/college program, you still had to go to Europe to get smicha.

I wonder who R' Israel Goldfarb (same 1902 class as Kaplan) got smicha from? I should have asked his son, but he passed away recently.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Knowledge and maturity are not the same thing.
A 14 year old might be able to memorize Shas and kol hakavod to him for doing it but does he have the maturity and insight to handle deep problems yet?

S. said...

Who says passing a exam means he gets to be moreh horaah?

Provisional semichas are not unheard of. Moses Mendelssohn was told by R. Yonasan Eybeschuetz that he deserved morenu semicha, but not until he got married. Rabbi Akiva Eger gave semicha to controversial Rabbi Yonasan Alexandersohn on condition that he continue to learn for a couple of years before finding a job in the rabbinate (which he did not do). There are loads of examples, most of them not controversial as per above. Semicha certificate does not equal appointment as a new R Moshe Feinstein. All this thing did was show the Rabbanut to be afraid of something, it's just not clear what.