Rav Soloveitchik on Semikhah

by Rabbi Aryeh Klapper


This essay is devoted to a purely conceptual “Brisker” account of the Rav’s analysis, in many contexts, of classical semikhah and eligibility for the same.  If this analysis survives critique, a subsequent essay will place it in the context of a central theme of the Rav’s philosophic work.  If that analysis as well emerges recognizably from critique, a third and last essay will draw tentative but concrete implications for contemporary practice with regard to eligibility for semikhah, and humbly submit them for critique.

No attempt will be made in this essay to evaluate the Rav’s work, only to present it.  The practical weight of any implications derived from this analysis will depend on the general weight one assigns to the Rav’s opinions in determining individual or communal practice, and/or on evaluation of the argument on its merits as a reading of the tradition.

I have followed the approach of many of the Rav’s direct talmidim in writing the Rav’s material directly, rather than citing him in the third person.  Any content that I believe to be my own is specifically marked {ADK}.  There may be places where I have misunderstood the Rav or made an argument that seems necessary for his thesis but which he himself never made.  Readers are encouraged to check my analysis against the available evidence of his positions, to which I have tried to provide fairly comprehensive access in the endnotes.  Readers who wish to study the Rav’s directly relevant positions in advance of my presentation are directed to

“קביעת מועדים על פי הראיה ועל פי החשבון”, in קובץ חידושי תורה

“בענין תקנת משה”, in שיעורים לזכר אבא מרי ז”ל כרך ב

“קונטרס הסמיכה” in ארץ הצבי

רשימות שיעורים to נדרים ח:, שבועות ל., שבועות לא.,  בבא קמא טו., בבא קמא פד:׳

The Rav Thinking Aloud on the Parsha: Sefer Bamidbar

“Semichah of Yehoshua” in The Rav Thinking Aloud on the Parsha: Sefer Bamidbar

“הערות בריש מסכת אבות”, in בית יצחק כרך כב עמוד סד



The rest of the article can be found here.


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