Rosh yeshiva

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Rosh yeshiva (Hebrew: ראש ישיבה) (pl.: Roshei yeshiva, also referred to as "Rosh yeshivas") is a rabbi who is the academic "head", or rosh (ראש), of a yeshiva (ישיבה), a school of higher Talmudic study. He is required to have a vast and penetrating knowledge of the Talmud and most responsa and the ability to "talk in learning", meaning supreme capabilities and knowledge of his material and an ability to analyse and present new perspectives that are called chidushim (novellae) verbally and often in print.

Yeshivas play a central role in the life of Orthodox Judaism and Ultra Orthodox Judaism so the position of Rosh yeshiva is the critical central pillar of leadership upon which the entire institution and system depends. In Hasidic Judaism the role of Rosh yeshiva is secondary to the Rebbe, who is head of the Hasidic dynasty that controls it.

Historically, the yeshivas continue the scholarly traditions of the Biblical Sanhedrin and the Seventy Elders (Shivim Z'kenim), wise men [1] ( (Exodus 24:1,9; Numbers 11:16,24) wherein were discussed and eloborated the 613 Mitzvot (commandments). This tradition was continued by the sages of the Mishnah and Talmud. In Babylonia the Rosh yeshiva was referred to as the Reish Metivta (or RaM) in Aramaic.

Depending on the size of the yeshiva, there may be several Roshei yeshiva, often from one extended family but not always. There are even dynasties of Roshei yeshiva the most famous of which is the Soloveitchik family to which Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik of Yeshiva University belonged.

The general role of the rosh yeshiva is to oversee the Talmudic studies and practical legal matters. The rosh yeshiva may lecture on a daily or weekly basis to the highest class (shiur). He is also the one to decide whether to grant permission for students (talmidim) to undertake classes for ordination, known as semicha, as rabbis.

The personal and ethical development of the students in the yeshiva is usually covered by a different personality, known as the mashgiach ("supervisor"). This concept, introduced by the Mussar movement in the 19th century, led to perfection of character as one of the aims of attending a yeshiva.

Famous roshei yeshiva were Rabbis Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, Moshe Feinstein, and Isaac Hutner. Famous mashgichim include Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler.

Prior to the Holocaust most of the large yeshivas were based in Eastern Europe. Many Roshei yeshiva were trained by graduates of the Volozhin yeshiva, headed by its Rosh yeshiva Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, (1749 - 1821). It was known as the "Mother of Yeshivas" because so many of its alumni established yeshivas of their own over time. Rabbi Chaim was the chief disciple of the famed Elijah of Vilna (1720 - 1797) known as the "Vilna Gaon".

Presently the majority of the world's yeshivas and their Roshei yeshiva are located in the United States and the State of Israel.

Famous Rosh yeshivas

(In alphabetical order:)


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