The Young Rabbi

August 2, 2011 | by

Is a rabbi allowed to give rabbinic ordination to a 15-year-old? I do not want to say the rabbi's name, but I heard a rumor. Anyway, is it permitted?

The Aish Rabbi Replies

There are exceptional cases where very young people (usually geniuses) become respected leaders of their communities.

The story is told of how the Vilna Gaon (18th century) was in the process of making a Golem. (A golem is a living human-like body without a soul, which Kabbalists were able to create through combining the Hebrew letters into various Names of God.) An angel came and told the Vilna Gaon that it wasn't appropriate, and that he should stop making the Golem. Why? Because the Vilna Gaon was not yet Bar Mitzvah!

On the other hand, age 15 is a full-fledged adult.

But is that an appropriate age for a rabbi?

Consider a story from the Passover Haggadah. Rebbe Elazar ben Azaryah is quoted as saying: "I am LIKE a man of 70 years." He said that because he was actually a very young man. He was 18 years old and suddenly became head of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court. He had tremendous wisdom for his youth, but he was afraid that people wouldn't respect him. So he prayed to God and his hair miraculously turned white overnight. So he says, "I'm only like a 70-year-old man."

So you see, there is an aspect of "respect" that comes with an older rabbi. And certainly a person should be well-trained for their position. But the idea of age does not seem to be an overriding factor. So if a 15-year-old has passed all the tests, and demonstrates maturity and leadership qualities, he also can become a rabbi!

By the way, Solomon became King of Israel at age 12.

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