The Hebrew Concept of Ordination


The last matter of our weekly Torah portion is when Moses appointed Joshua to succeed him. Let’s have a look at the scriptures:

“So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him. Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and you shall commission him in their sight. You shall invest him with some of your authority, that all the congregation of the people of Israel may obey. And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the LORD. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the people of Israel with him, the whole congregation.” And Moses did as the LORD commanded him. He took Joshua and made him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation, and he laid his hands on him and commissioned him as the LORD directed through Moses. ” (Numbers 27:18-23)

The original Hebrew phrase for ‘lay your hand’ is ‘Ve-Samachta Et Yadecha’ {וסמכת את ידיך}. The Hebrew root S-M-C {ס-מ-כ} (not to be confused with the Hebrew root for ‘happy’ which is spelled differently) is very interesting and can be found almost in ALL different Hebrew verb groups (‘Binyanim’):

‘Le-Semoch’ {לסמוך} (verb group ‘Pa’al’ for basic actions) – means ‘to trust.’

Le-Hasmich {להסמיך} (verb group ‘He’feel’ for actions performed over someone else) – means ‘to authorize’ or ‘to ordain’ and that is the common Hebrew verb to describe the action of ordaining new rabbis.’

Le-Histamech {להסתמך}  (verb group ‘Hitpa’el’ for reflexive or mutual actions) – means ‘to rely on.’

Le-Hisamech {להיסמך} (verb group ‘Nifa’l for passive actions) – means ‘to be based on’ or ‘to be leaned on.’

When Moses laid his hand on Joshua everyone saw that Moses trusted Joshua to be his successor. Not less importantly, Joshua, by doing that, showed everyone that his basis and his foundations were based on what he learned form Moses.