Turning on an incandescent light bulb on Shabbos

1. It is accepted amongst the authorities that it is Biblically prohibited to light an incandescent light bulb on Shabbos. This view was expressed by Harav Yitzchak Schmelkes zt”l (Beis Yitzchak Y.D. 120), Harav Chaim Ozer Grodziensky zt”l (Achiezer 3:60), Harav Isser Zalman Meltzer zt”l (Haskama to Sefer Chelkas Yaakov), amongst others. The question that must be addressed is which Melocho does one transgress when turning on these light bulbs.
2. The Rambam (Shabbos chapter 12) writes, “A person who heats iron in order to strengthen it by submerging it in water is liable for [performing] a derivative [of the forbidden labor] of kindling.” Based on this teaching of the Rambam many poskim maintain that turning on incandescent light bulbs on Shabbos, which heats up a metal filament, transgresses the Melocho of Maavir (kindling). (Achiezer ibid., Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l in Meorei Eish, Keren L’David 80, Even Yikra Third Edition 168, Pnei Meivin 57, Divrei Chizkiyah vol. 2 page 89 and Yaskil Avdi 4:16)

3. The Merkeves Hamishnah feels that according to the Rambam one only transgresses the prohibition if he heated the metal for the intent to strengthen it. If he heated the metal in order to produce light the prohibition is only Rabbinic. A similar notion was expressed by the Avnei Nezer (Orach Chaim 229). However, Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l explains at great length that making metal glow red hot is considered creating a fire, according to the Rambam, it makes no difference whether he intended to do so in order to create light or in order to strengthen the metal.

4. The Maharsham (2:247) questioned whether turning on a light bulb on Shabbos involves the Melocho of Maavir since the “flame in the light bulb is not consuming.”

Following the line of reasoning of the Maharsham when the Rambam rules that heating metals is considered kindling on Shabbos he is discussing a situation where the fire consumes the metal. However, many poskim disagree with his assertion on two fronts. (A) His assertion that a fire must be consuming on Shabbos does not seem to be the same conclusion of the Shulchan Aruch Harav (495 Kuntres Achron 2) who indicates the destructive element of fire is not significant. Creating flame is all that matters, even if it is the type of flame that is not destructive by nature. (B) In addition the Tzitz Eliezer (1:20:7) points out that filaments in a light bulb are destructive by nature. If that filament would be exposed to oxygen and kindling there it would create a flame. It is normally constructed in a safe protective way, however, the filament itself absolutely is capable of creating a fire.

5. The Raaved disagrees with the Rambam and writes that heating metal is not considered kindling (Maavir) but cooking (Bishul). The Chazon Ish (50:9) therefore writes that turning on a light bulb would constitute the Biblical prohibition of cooking on Shabbos.

6. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Minchas Shlomo Kama 12 note 6) questions this ruling on the following grounds. The law is that one only transgresses Shabbos on a Biblical level if one cooks an item using fire (Eish) or an item heated in fire (Toldos Eish. The Rabbis extended this prohibition to include cooking food in a pan heated by the sun (Toldos Chama). Therefore, argues Harav Auerbach zt”l, in this case one is cooking the metal using electric currents which is neither fire or an item heated by fire and therefore one would not transgress a Biblical prohibition. (Parenthetically, the Chazon Ish himself feels that one cannot cook in an electric current for reasons beyond the scope of this article.)

7. It must be noted that the Halacha may be different regarding Led and fluorescent light bulbs and a Rav should be consulted.


Reciting A Blessing Upon Seeing A Torah Scholar

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

1. The Gemara (Brachos 58) says that upon seeing a Torah scholar one recites the blessing “Shecholak Mechochmaso Lireav” (Blessed are You…who apportioned of His wisdom to those who fear Him). This teaching was also codified by the Shulchan Aruch (224:6).

2. None of the commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch indicate that this blessing is no longer relevant and therefore, it would seem that this blessing should be recited today (see Az Nidberu 11:4).

3. The Chayei Adam (63:5) also rules that the blessing is recited, even today. He proves this from a ruling of the Tur. The Tur cites the Gemara that there is a different blessing to be recited upon an exceedingly great Torah Scholar, the blessing of “Chacham Harazim.” The Tur writes that this blessing is not said anymore since there is no longer a scholar of such caliber to warrant such a blessing. Since the Tur only made such a statement regarding the blessing of “Chacham Harazim” and not regarding the blessing of “Shecholok”, one can deduce that the blessing of “Shecholok” is in fact said today. A similar line of reasoning was advanced by Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yechava Daas 4:16).
4. The Sefer Yosef Ometz (450), however, writes the following, “I have omitted the laws of reciting a blessing upon seeing a Torah scholar since there are very scarce Torah scholars today (that would warrant such a blessing). If one wishes to recite the blessing without reciting the name of Hashem one may do so.” (see also Chesed Lalafim Orach Chaim 224:12)

5. The Aruch Hashulchan (224:6) says that it is unclear as to what level of a Torah scholar one must be to warrant this blessing and therefore many do not recite this blessing anymore. The Ben Ish Chai (Ekev 13) also rules that one should only recite the blessing without the use of Hashem’s name. This was also the view of Harav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg zt”l (Tzitz Eliezer 14:36:3).

6. It should be noted that Rabbi Yitzchak Eisik Yehuda Yechiel Safrin zt”l of Komarno, known as the Komarno Rebbe, writes that the scholar must also be proficient in Kabbalah to warrant such a blessing (Shulchan Hatahor 224:3).

7. The poskim offer some examples of different Gedolim upon whom the blessings were recited:

The author was present when a prominent New York Sefardic Rav recited the blessing upon seeing Harav Yitzchak Yosef shlit”a.

Harav Ephraim Greenblatt zt”l (Rivevos Ephraim 8:128) writes that one should recite the blessing upon seeing Harav Elazar Menachem Mann Shach zt”l, Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, and (ybc”l) Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a.

Harav Shmuel Wosner shlit”a (Shevet Halevi 10:13) writes that he recalls that when the Rogachover Gaon zt”l visited Vienna many recited the blessing upon seeing him.

The Minchas Elazar of Munkatch (5:7) also writes that he remembers the blessing being recited upon seeing Torah scholars (though he does not mention which Rabbi’s specifically).

It is also reported that the Chazon Ish was in favor of others reciting the blessing upon seeing the Steipler Gaon zt”l (Orchos Rabbeinu 1:109).
The Steipler Gaon zt”l told the author of the Sefer Orchos Rabbeinu (ibid, 110) that he recited this blessing upon seeing the Chofetz Chaim zt”l and Harav Meir Simcha zt”l of Dvinsk.

Harav Yisroel Taplin shlit”a (Orach Yosrael page 255) writes that he heard from Harav Yaakov Kamanetzky zt”l that Harav Baruch Ber Lebowitz zt”l recited the blessing upon meeting Harav Dovid Karliner zt”l and that Harav Dovid responded “Amen” to the blessing. Harav Yaakov zt”l also ruled that one should say this blessing upon seeing Harav Ahron Kotler zt”l.
Harav Taplin adds that he heard in the name of Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l that today if one sees a Torah scholar who is proficient in all of Shas one may recite upon this scholar the blessing of “Shecholok.”

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The Mitzvah Tantz (Part 2)

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

Who Dances-

1. Father- The Sefer Mor V’Ohalos (page 82b) maintains that the father of the kallah may dance with his daughter without using the gartel. He explains that many poskim rule that a father may have physical contact with his daughter and so the use of the gartel is rendered unnecessary.

This was also the view of Harav Moshe Stern zt”l. He adds that many great rabbis also followed this practice (shu”t Beer Moshe 4:132). Harav Gavriel Zinner shlit”a (Netai Gavriel Nisuin page 272) writes that the author of the Sefer Kol Aryeh, the Minchas Elazar of Munkatch, the Vayaged Moshe of Pupa, the Rebbe of Kasson, the Imrei Chaim of Vizhnitz, and the Ahavas Yisroel of Vizhnitz all danced with their daughters without a gartel.
2. Harav Zinner shlit”a continues that the leaders of Chernobyl, Nadvorna and Bobov all had the custom to dance with their daughters using a gartel.

3. Harav Yosef Greenwald zt”l and Harav Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam zt”l would dance before their daughters without holding a gartel.

4. The father of the chosson is not allowed to have physical contact with his daughter in law and must, at the very least, use a gartel.

5. Grandfather- The Beis Shmuel (Even Haezer 21:14) cites the Chelkas Mechokek and the Bach who both permit a grandfather to have physical contact with his granddaughter. He does note, however, that the Ran seems to rule stringently. While the Beis Shmuel attempts to find a source for the lenient view, it is unclear whether he rules leniently for normative halacha.

Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Even Haezer 4:63) writes that it appears to him that the Beis Shmuel also allows for a grandfather to have contact with his granddaughter. One can argue that according to the Bach, Beis Shmuel, and the Chelkas Mechokek a grandfather can perform the mitzvah tantz without the use of a gartel.

6. Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, in his first volume of Igros Moshe Even Haezer (60), explains that there may be a distinction between a paternal granddaughter (his son’s daughter) and a maternal granddaughter (his daughter’s daughter). There is more room to be lenient with a maternal granddaughter, than a paternal granddaughter. He explains that the daughter is an extension of her mother and any contact with the daughter will remind the person of her mother. Therefore, physical contact with a maternal granddaughter is permitted because it will only remind the father of his daughter, who he is also permitted to touch. However, a paternal granddaughter will remind him of his daughter in law, a woman with whom he may not have any contact. He concludes that while one should be machmir and not have contact with his paternal granddaughter, one should not rebuke those who rule leniently. Yet, in the fourth volume of Even Haezer (ibid.) he notes that the common custom is to permit contact with both forms of granddaughters. (see also Shevet Halevi 5:198)

7. Harav Moshe Stern zt”l (shu”t Beer Moshe 4:133) was asked whether a grandfather may perform the mitzvah tantz with his granddaughter. He writes that one would only be permitted to do so with the use of a gartel. He explains that the aforementioned poskim, who permit physical contact between a granddaughter and grandfather, only allowed this in private. In public one should refrain from all physical contact so as to not lead others to become lenient in these areas of halacha.

8. All other relatives of the kallah may not dance with the kallah without the use of the gartel.

9. The chosson- Harav Gavriel Zinner shlit”a writes that many have the custom that the chosson dances with the kallah without the use of a gartel. He continues to cite the custom among Nadvorna Chassidim that the chosson uses a gartel when dancing with the kallah. The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l told Harav Zinner that he has never heard of the custom of the chosson and kallah dancing together without the use of a gartel.

10. Harav Dovid Harfenes (Vayivarech David page 279) warns that care should be taken that no one else dance with the chosson and kallah. In addition, no men should watch them dance.

11. The custom among many Chassidic sects, (Belz, Sanz, Square, Vizhnitz and Amshinov), is that single men are not present during the mitzvah tantz. It goes without saying that a single man should not participate in the mitzvah tantz (Netai Gavriel ibid. See also shu”t Mishneh Halachos 7:249).

Assorted Hallachos-

12. It is customary for badchanim to rejoice with the chosson and kallah during the mitzvah tantz. The badchan also calls up each person to dance with the kallah (Hanisuin Kesidram chapter 21).

13. Some give charity before dancing with the kallah (Netai Gavriel chapter 45:8).

14. During the dance there is a custom to announce the words “Shabbos Shabbos.” (Sefer Mataamim Chosson V’Kallah 115)

15. Harav Dovid Harfenes rules that there is a need for a mechitzah during the mitzvah tantz. This way no other men can see the kallah dance. He explains that while in earlier seforim it says that there is no need for a mechitzah due to the immense holiness of the mitzvah tantz, unfortunately, the times have changed and there is a need to place boundaries to protect those present from sin (Vayivarech David Nisuin 96).

Harav Meir Brandosdorfer zt”l and Harav Yitzchak Weiss zt”l also feel that there should be a mechitzah separating the men and the women during the mitzvah tantz. The mechitzah should be placed in such a way that the men cannot see the women but the women can still see the kallah dancing (see shu”t Koneh Bosem 2:108).

16. The Tzaddikim of Nadvorna, Vizhnitz and Square all had the custom for the kallah to wear her veil during the mitzvah tantz (Netai Gavriel ibid.).

17. The chosson does not perform the mitzvah tantz with the kallah when she is a nidah (Taharas Yisroel 192:35), even with the use of a gartel (Netai Gavriel page 283).

[Hashevaynu’s Sunday Night Madness at Dave and Buster’s will take place on December 7th, for all information please go to hashevaynu.org]

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at avizakutinsky@gmail.com.

The Mitzvah Tantz (Part 1)

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

1. Few customs in Judaism are as debated as the mitzvah tantz. The mitzvah tantz. or mitzvah dance, is the chassidic custom of honorable men (related to the chosson or kallah) dancing before the bride, after the wedding feast. Commonly, the bride, who usually stands perfectly still at one end of the room, will hold one end of a gartel, while the one dancing before her holds the other end. Many consider this to be a very special and holy practice, while others feel that this practice should not be performed, as shall be explained (see Shulchan Haezer vol. 2 page 79b).
2. The Gemara makes reference to “dancing before the kallah.” The Machzor Vitri (496) writes that, “Following the meal we take the chosson and kallah and we seat them facing each other. We then dance around them etc.” Some point to the Machzor Vitri as the source for the mitzvah tantz, even though he makes no reference of dancing with the kallah, which is usually the case with the mitzvah tantz.

3. Many chassidic seforim explain that the mitzvah tantz carries great spiritual importance (see Sefer Derech Pekudecha Mitzvah Lo Saaseh 35:14, Sefer Avnei Esaser and Sefer Netai Gavriel Nisuin chapter 45).

4. The Sefer Shulchan Haezer (vol. 2 page 80) illustrates the importance of this custom from the following story. Grand Rabbi Moshe Hager of Kosov zt”l was once approached by a very poor kallah a few days before her wedding. She wished to receive charity from the Rebbe. The Rebbe gave her money and said that due to his age and the arduous trip he will not be able to attend the wedding. However, he does wish to perform the great mitzvah of dancing before the kallah. So he donned his Shabbos clothing and performed the mitzvah tantz.

5. The Pischei Teshuva (Even Haezer 65:2), however, cites the Sefer Torah Chaim who prohibits dancing with the kallah, even if a gartel is used and no physical contact is made with the kallah. He adds that the Gemara discusses the virtue of dancing “before” the kallah, not “with” the kallah.

Based upon this teaching, Harav Moshe Stern zt”l (shu”t Beer Moshe 4:131) writes that he performs a modified version of mitzvah tantz. He dances before the kallah without holding a gartel. This was also the practice of the great Rebbe of Shinova zt”l (see Sefer Divrei Torah Munkatch vol. 1 note 6), Harav Yosef Greenwald (Pupa Rav) and Harav Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam zt”l (see Netai Gavriel 45:3).

6. Those who do use a gartel during the mitzvah tantz feel that since the man is not touching the woman (or her clothing), but rather he is touching the same thing that she is touching, there is no prohibition. Even though normally this is not something that one would do (as it may be prohibited for a husband to act this way with his wife when she is a nidah- see Shach Yoreh Deah 195:2), for the sake of the mitzvah of simchas chosson v’kallah it is permitted (see Shulchan Haezer ibid.).

Moreover, the kallah does not really “dance.” She merely holds on to the gartel as the man dances. This way they are really dancing  “before” the kallah and not “with” her (Shu”t Vayivarech David Nisuin page 278).

7. Ashkenazim and sefardim do not have the custom to perform the mitzvah tantz. Chabad Chassidim also do not have the custom to perform the mitzvah tantz (see Netai Gavriel ibid.).

8. The Bach (Even Haezer 21) writes that if one has the custom to perform the mitzvah tantz he may continue to do so. If he does not have such a custom, then one may not decide to perform the mitzvah tantz. This ruling was cited by the Chelkas Mechokek and Beis Shmuel as normative halacha.

Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l also rules that sefardim, who do not have the custom of the mitzvah tantz, should not perform the mitzvah tantz (Yalkut Yosef Sovea Semachos page 197).

If you have a question, comment, or an idea for an article please email  me at avizakutinsky@gmail.com.

Inviting The Departed To A Wedding

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

1. The poskim tell us that the souls of the departed come to the wedding of their children and grandchildren (see Zohar Pinchas, Shu”t Maharash Engel vol. 7 page 119, Yesod Veshoresh Haovodah Shaar Hakolel 15, and Sefer Minhagim Chabad 75).

2. Many have the custom that if the chosson or kallah have lost one of their parents, the engaged child goes to the cemetery before the wedding to extend an invitation to the parent who is deceased (see Shulchan Haezer vol. 2 page 137 and Shu”t Mishnah Halachos 5:247). Some write that the source for this custom is the Zohar (Minhag Yisroel Torah on Nisuin page 137).
3. It is unclear whether this custom extends to grandparents or other relatives (see Sefer Derech Sicha page 152, Yismach Lev page 55, and Sefer Shaarei Nisuin Miluim 2). The Shulchan Haezer writes that the custom is to invite “the parents and the relatives.” It would seem that he feels that this custom does extend to the grandparents. However, Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l is of the opinion that one need not invite the grandparents who are not alive (Sefer Yivakshu Mipihu page 478).

4. The concept of inviting the departed may be used to explain a very interesting custom amongst Chabad Chassidim. The custom among Chabad Chassidim is that during the kabbalas panim the chosson recites the chassidic sermon called maamer lecha dodi 5689 (Sefer Minhagim Chabad page 75).

The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l explains why this maamer is recited. He writes (Toras Menachem vol. 8 page 218), “At my wedding, before the previous Rebbe started saying the Maamer Lecha Dodi, he said, ‘It is well known that at a wedding souls of the fathers come from the World of Truth, going back three generations – and this applies to all Jews – however, there are occasions (by the weddings of Rabbeim) when even more than three generations of souls are present. The recitation of this maamer actually serves as an invitation for these great souls to come to the wedding. A portion of this maamer is from the Alter Rebbe, a portion from the Mittler Rebbe, a portion from the Tzemach Tzedek, and a part from the son of the Tzemach Tzedek (the Rebbe Maharash) the great grandfather of the kallah. A part from the son of the Tzemach Tzedek (Reb Baruch Sholom) the great grandfather of the chosson, and a part from the Rebbe Rashash, the grandfather of the kallah.’ Certainly in the maamer there was something from the Previous Rebbe himself, although he did not state this explicitly. Since we walk in the ways of the previous Rebbe, it is correct that at every wedding (of those who are connected to the Rebbe) that before the chuppah the chosson or another person should say the maamer lecha dodi. Which as aforementioned has a part from all the Rabbeim, and this will serve as an invitation to the souls of all the Rabbeim to participate in the wedding.”

[Following this reasoning, some wish to say the maamer lecha dodi 5714 which is a maamer of the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l (and also mentions all the other Rabbeim). This way all the Rabbeim, including the most recent Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l, will be invited to the wedding.]

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Semichah in the Talmud and Today

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

In Parshas Pinchas we are told of Moshe Rabbeinu giving semichah to his prized student, Yehoshua [He laid his hands upon him and commanded him, in accordance with what G-d had spoken to Moshe. (Pinchas 27:23)]. Many people have a misunderstanding as to the true meaning of semichah and its hallachic ramifications. Semichah today has very few, if any, similarities to the act that Moshe performed. In this article we will describe the evolution of semichah in hallacha, and its significance today.

The Origins

Moshe Rabbeinu was the first ever to receive semichah. He received semichah directly from Hashem. Moshe in turn gave semichah to Yehoshua as was recorded in the verse cited above. In addition, he also performed semichah on the seventy elders. They in turn gave semichah to their students who gave semichah to their students etc. Thus the Rambam (Hilchos Sanhedrin chapter 4) notes that when one received semichah, even during the times of the Gemara, he entered an unbroken chain stemming back to Moshe Rabbeinu. This semichah allowed rabbanim to serve as judges on different batei denim dealing with capital or financial punishments. See the Rambam who enumerates the hallachos of semichah, such as: We do not ordain rabbis outside of Israel, the semichah must be done by three Rabbanim and one of those rabbnim must have semichah himself etc.

When the Chain of Semichah Broke

It is very clear that at some point the chain of semichah broke. The question is when that occurred. Rav Chaim Palagi, in his Sefer Chukos Hachaim (page 109), proves that semichah continued at least until the times of Abaya and Rava. The Chasam Sofer (O.C. 203) writes that Hillel the Amorah (a contemporary of Abaya and Rava, not to be confused with the Tannaim Hillel and Shamai) and his chaveirim were the last to receive semichah. Rav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg zt”l, in the Sefer Hilchos Medina vol. 1 page 104, notes that the Ramban and the Tashbetz held the same sentiments centuries before the Chasam Sofer.
The Tashbetz (Zohar Rakia 54) describes the end of the era of semichah. He writes that hallacha dictates that in order for the Rabbanim to establish Rosh Chodesh they need to have been ordained. Hillel knew that the chain of semichah was not going to continue and he was concerned that we would be unable to establish the months and subsequently we would not have Yomim Tovim. He therefore instituted a calender which establishes the roshei chadashim automatically until the times of moshiach. It is clear from the words of the Tashbetz that semichah ceased around the time of Hillel.
Reinstituting Semichah

We have explained previously that in order to perform semichah on others the Rabbi must have been himself ordained. It would thus seem that once the chain of semichah broke we can not reinstitute semichah. This would indeed be the case if not for a very interesting ruling of the Rambam. The Rambam (Pirush Hamishna Sanhedrin first perek) writes that if all the chachamim of Eretz Yisroel are in agreement they are able to grant semichah. He notes that if we are unable to reinstitute semichah how else will we have a Sanhedrin during the times of moshiach, for we are unable to appoint a Sanhedrin unless the process of semichah exists. Therefore it must be true that if all the Rabbanim of Eretz Yisroel are in agreement they are capable of granting semichah, which will lead to the rebuilding of the Sanhedrin.
The Rambam in Yad Hachazaka (Hilchos Sanhedrin 4:11) codifies this ruling, however, he seems reluctant to rule this way for normative halacha. He writes the following: “It appears to me that if all of the wise men in Eretz Yisrael agree to appoint judges and convey semichah upon them, the semichah is binding and these judges may adjudicate cases involving financial penalties and convey semichah upon others. If so, why did the Sages suffer anguish over the institution of semichah, trying to insure that the judgment of cases involving financial penalties would not be nullified among the Jewish people (as it would be when the institution of semichah ceased), because the Jewish people were dispersed, and it is impossible that all could agree (to reinstitute semichah). If, by contrast, there was a person who had received semichah from a person who had received semichah, he does not require the consent of all others. Instead, he may adjudicate cases involving financial penalties for everyone, for he received semichah from a court. The question requires resolution.”
Most meforshim explain that when the Rambam writes that this “question requires resolution” he is addressing the possibility of reinstituting semichah and he has reservations as to whether this is indeed the hallacha.
The simple explanation of the Rambam is as follows. He feels that klal yisroel as a whole have the strength and ability to appoint judges for a Sanhedrin and since the rabbanim represent the people, they in turn are capable of reinstituting semichah. Rav Elchonon Wasserman zt”l (Kovetz Shiurim vol. 2 Divrei Sophrim 2:8) wonders why is it that only the rabbanim of Eretz Yisroel are significant when it comes to appointing members for the Sanhedrin, while the rabbanim of the diaspora are not part of the equation.
The answer to that question can be found in the writings of the Rambam in Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh (5:13), who emphasizes that the determination of the calendar is solely the province of the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael. And as the Chasam Sofer (Y.D. 234) notes were there not to be any Jews living in Eretz Yisrael, heaven forbid, we would not be able to determine the calendar. Thus the Rambam is telling us that when determining mitzvos, only the Jewish nation living in Israel has the significance of Klal Yisroel. Similarly in our discussion only the Rabbis of eretz yisroel are capable of appointing members for a Sanhedrin.
The Semichah of Rav Yaakov Bei Rav

In the year 1538, the Rabbanim of Tzfat (which was the majority of the rabbanim living within Eretz Yisroel at the time) came together and wished to reinstitute semichah based upon the opinion of the Rambam. They decided to ordain the Great Rav Yaakov Bei Rav. In addition, great sages like Rav Yosef Karo, the Mabit and the Alshich Hakadosh were ordained as well. They felt that the majority of the Rabbanim would suffice in order to reestablish the Sanhedrin.
However, the Rabbanim of Yerushalayim objected to this new semichah, most notably among them was the Maharlbach, who wrote a kuntres specifically to disprove their actions. The Maharlbach and the Radvaz (on Rambam Hilchos Sanhedrin 4:11) noted some of the objections, I will list them here: 1) As noted above, it seems as though the Rambam was reluctant to rule definitively in this manner and therefore it is difficult to rely upon this ruling for normative hallacha. 2) The Rambam would require the consensus of all of the rabbanim of Eretz Yisroel. Although Tzefat contained the majority of the sages of Israel, until all the rabbanim of Israel are in agreement we are unable to reestablish the Sanhedrin. Rav Yehonasan Eibshitz zt”l (Tumim 1:2) agrees that according to the Rambam one needs the concensus of all of the rabbanim, majority would not suffice. The Meiri (Sanhedrin 14a) also writes that semichah can be conveyed if all of the rabbanim are in agreement. 3) Even if we assume that majority of rabbanim suffice, however, the minority still needs to take part in the deliberation, which did not occur. 4) To be worthy of sitting on the Sanhedrin one must be able to issue hallachic rulings on every category of Jewish law. The Maharlbach and the Radvaz had reservations whether sages of this caliber existed at the time. 5) And lastly, the Rambam was forced to issue this novel ruling because he had no other explanation as to how we will have a Sanhedrin during the times of Moshiach. The Radvaz offers the possibility that Eliyahu Hanavi will establish the Sanhedrin during those times. With that being said it is unnecessary to assume that we are indeed capable to reestablish semichah.
Rav Yechiel Tukazinsky zt”l (Ir Hakodesh V’Hamikdash vol. 4 chapter 16) writes that the semichah continued for almost one hundred years. The reason why it ceased was not due to the disagreement with the Maharlbach, as many mistakenly assumed, rather it was due to harsh living conditions in Eretz Yisroel. The Arabs at the time were forcing many Jews to pay unjust fines and this forced many of the great rabbanim, who had received semichah, to move to the Diaspora.
Semichah Today

Although the chain of Semichah was severed, the prevalent custom amongst most of klal yisroel was to grant some form of “semichah” to young men. This “semichah” was a requirement to allow those young men to serve as rabbanim or dayanim. The Tzitz Eliezer cites sources to prove that the sefardic communities never accepted this as a custom.
Semichah during the times of chazal allowed for men to serve on a bais din dealing with capital or financial punishments. The questions that needs to be answered is what is the nature of this new “semichah”, which of course cannot allow the recipient to dole out capital punishment?
The Rivash (cited by Rama Y.D. 242:14) addresses this question and he writes that the new “semichah” is a form of permission to issue rulings in the vicinity of his rebbi. As we know one is not allowed to issue hallachic rulings in the vicinity of one’s rebbi unless the rebbi grants him permission to do so. This semichah is formally granting the student permission to issue hallachic rulings. Therefore, notes the Rama, if the rebbi has passed on it is unnecessary for the student to receive semichah.
That being said, it is important to note that  historically there were many fake “rabbis” who were not learned and unfortunately took advantage of many simple Jews. These “rabbis” would give their “hechsher” to non-kosher establishments for the right price (see letters of the Ridvaz in the hakdama to his sefer). Therefore semichah was extremely necessary to help discern between the real rabbis and those who were fake. This was the main reason that one could not serve as a rabbi without this letter of recommendation. And to this day if one wishes to serve as a rabbi, in most circumstances, a letter of semicha is a prerequisite.

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