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Can a Rabbi Get Married?

Can a Rabbi Get Married?

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Question:

I was wondering whether rabbis are allowed to get married. In my religion, the priests do not marry; is it the same in Judaism?

Answer:

I once had this exact conversation with a taxi driver. He was Catholic, and asked me if rabbis marry. I told him that not only are rabbis allowed to marry, they are obligated to marry. “Be fruitful and multiply” is a command to all, regardless of career or position in the community.

The taxi driver shook his head and said, “You Jews have got it good. In my community, when someone is dating and confused, or is going through a rough patch in his marriage, or needs guidance on how to discipline their kids, who should we turn to? Our celibate priest? He wouldn’t have a clue what it means to argue with your wife, he’s never been dumped, and certainly doesn’t have a kid that pokes other kids’ eyes out. If I have a question in theology, or need to know which prayers to say, then sure, I’ll go to him. But real-life issues—he can’t help me!”

This taxi driver’s comments brought home for me an important truth. Judaism does not differentiate between “clergy” and “laymen.” Whether you are a rabbi or a taxi driver, you are expected to live a “normal” life, to be involved with the struggles and pleasures of the mundane world.

But it works the other way as well. Whether you are a taxi driver or a rabbi, you are expected to make your everyday mundane world a home for G‑d. The Torah’s ideal is to create a society of holy people. Sanctity and morality are not the domain of rabbis alone: every individual must live to the same standard, and each one of us can engage in direct dialogue with G‑d and Torah.

The rabbi is there just to help others bridge the needs of the spirit with the realities of life. But he has to do the same in his own life.

Perhaps that cab was a microcosm of an ideal world. What could be more beautiful than a society in which taxi drivers share spiritual wisdom, and rabbis change diapers?

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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33 Comments
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osei moshe Ghana May 21, 2014

good decision BUT thanks a lot for a clear stand on this subject Reply

louise leon PA USA February 10, 2014

to Bobbi I can't resist sharing a reference from Fiddler on the Roof.
If I were a matchmaker...I would definitely match you to a super cool rabbi. Reply

rmm Boca Raton, fl. February 10, 2014

All of the above: Comments such as these on celibacy, marriage, or (Christians and Jews ) make me want to get down on my knees in prayer and gratitude that I was born and raised as a Jew. (My parents were "Reform" Jews, I lived as a Conservative tending toward Orthodoxy and my two sons I sent to the Solomon Shechter day school and Akiba in Philadelphia (blessings on both schools!!) Reply

Bobbi Ysmael Nebraska February 9, 2014

Marriage I would marry a rabbi. If one would have me. :-) Reply

Anonymous USA January 23, 2013

addendum I would, however, go to a respected rabbi for spiritual guidance/support his preferences notwithstanding. Reply

Richard Boca Raton Fll January 22, 2013

Many years ago I knew a wonderful guy who was a great rabbi. He was also homosexual. He was the assistant rabbi in a great conservative congregation in a large East coast city and later went on to become the head rabbi in another congregation. his sexual preference had no bearing on his ability to serve as rabbi for all of us. He was hugely liked and admired. Reply

Anonymous USA January 22, 2013

To Leyzer... I personally would have more confidence in going to my religious leader for marital counseling if the leader had some marital experience. I would also have more confidence in going to my religious leader in my search to beome a better parent knowing that he/she had parenting experience. This doesn't hold true for all types of experiences ie. I wouldn't expect my criminology professor to have been a criminal. Reply

306wencir greenville, sc usa January 18, 2013

Celibate or Married for your Spiritual Leader? This conversation makes me glad. Like we are doing something positive in a messed-up world.

The idea of celibacy for holy reasons bothers me. We are by nature sexual and social beings. Do we not honor G-d and our selves by accepting this and learning to live as we ought within the constraints of who/how we are?

It may not be true for all persons, but for me to choose celibacy solely for "religious reasons" would be somehow perverse--an inappropriate response to the Great Giver of (sometimes strange, but always) Amazing Gifts. Reply

Leyzer NYC January 18, 2013

orthodox christianity and other issues discussed above Dear orthodox person: you are wrong. Priests do NOT HAVE to get married and infact once a man is ordained he is no longer allowed to marry; however, married men can become parish priests but not bishops. Get your facts straight.

Married clergy can perhaps do marriage counseling - A very real advantage, however, of celibate clergy is that they are (or at least can be) totally devoted to their congregations, because they don't have family issues. So they don't pave the way for their sons to take over their positions, and they always have time for their congregants. It is also much less expensive for a congregation to support a single person than to support a whole family.

"Choosing to be single" is looked down upon in orthodox Judaism. While a man can be ordained as a rabbi (ordination really is nothing more than passing some exams. it does not impart any magical or mystical powers to the rabbinical ordainee) it is unlikely that a congregation would hire a man who chose to be single. Reply

Barbara USA January 17, 2013

Single rabbis, female rabbis, and gay rabbis My turn to ask a question: Does the law about rabbis being required to marry apply to all of the above? Please answer. Reply

306wencir Greenville SC USA January 17, 2013

Can a Rabbi Marry? or How can a celibate person counsel the married? Yaaay, Rabbi ! What a great piece of wisdom you have witten here. Thank you so much for saying what I have been thinking for years. I do not profess wisdom by any stretch of the imagination, but today I feel validated in the Common Sense Department. Best wishes Reply

J de Freitas January 17, 2013

Can a Rabbi Marry? Thank you Rabbi, I have always bellieved that all are equal in G-d sight, both men and women should change diapers and live a holy and blessed life. Reply

Yehudit Olam Hazeh January 17, 2013

taxi drivers in yerushalayim This reminds me of one of the highlights of my stay in Israel - as a secular Jew I didn't know what selichot is- I had never heard of this until I got into a taxi in Jerusalem and the driver was playing and singing the most beautiful heart-felt prayers I had ever heard. I later learned about selichot, the penitential prayers, and was so moved by this beautiful soul. His prayers lifted and taught me so much. Reply

Richard Marcus Boca Raton, FL January 17, 2013

One of the many reasons that I rejoice in being a Jew is that our laws are for "ha-Am" which means, the PEOPLE". A rabbi is first and foremost a TEACHER. In fact, any Jew can responsibly conduct an entire religious service. It is reserved for rabbis to PASS ON our religion through their teachings. They are expected to know more, having studied more deeply, given thought more deeply, and come to the conclusions that together, make Judaism a vibrant religious institution more than 5000 years after it began with the thinking of a single man, Moses. He is not our G-d, but Moses is the first known to acknowledge the concept of one G-d. Reply

Irene Glen Burnie, MD USA January 17, 2013

Can a Rabbi get married? A very well said and written article.

Thank you for sharing this.

G-d's blessings be upon you Rabbi. Reply

charles richman fripp island, SC USA January 16, 2013

Rabbi means teacher Yerushalmi Hagigah 1:6-----Not only are Rabbis teachers they are the protectors of the Children of Israel; without teachers of our children we would no longer exist as a people (Maimonides, Halkhot Talmud Torah 2:1. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks discusses the necessity of our survival is through education and practicing the 613 Mitzvot found in the TORAH.. Reply

Anonymous Melbourne au January 16, 2013

kohanim Kohanim are obligated to marry just like Rabbis.
One of the qualifications of the kohen gadol (high priest) is that he must be married. Otherwise he does not qualify Reply

Lucre Quebec January 16, 2013

A Catholic Priest and a Rabbi At a Restaurant: the Rabbi asked for a vegetarian sandwich and the Priest asked for a ham and bacon sandwich. The Priest ironically said, "you do not know what you are missing here", and the Rabbi replied and you do not know the girls you're missing. Reply

Samantha January 16, 2013

RE: Did the kohanim marry? If I am not mistaken, yes. They were allowed to marry. Reply

Anonymous Arizona January 16, 2013

Ah, it's GOOD to be a Jew! This is something that strikes me every day for each day I know that my rabbi has a body of experience that he can call on that my buddy, a Roman Catholic priest wishes he had to offer his congregants. Once again, It's GOOD to be a Jew! Reply

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