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Rosh yeshiva, (pl. Heb. Roshei yeshiva; Yeshivish Rosh yeshivas), ( ), is the title given to the dean of a Talmudical academy (yeshiva). It is made up of the Hebrew words rosh — meaning head, and yeshiva — a school of religious Jewish education. The rosh yeshiva is required to have a vast and penetrating knowledge of the Talmud and the ability to achieve a level of mastery of his material and an ability to analyse and present new perspectives, called chidushim, (novellae) verbally and often in print.


Yeshivas play a central role in the life of certain communities within Orthodox Judaism, so the position of rosh yeshiva is more than just a dean of a school. A rosh yeshiva is often a pillar of leadership in extended communities. In Hasidic Judaism the role of rosh yeshiva is secondary to the Rebbe, who is head of the Hasidic dynasty that controls it. In many Hassidic sects, the rosh yeshiva of a school will be the son or son-in-law of the Rebbe, the assumed heir of the Rebbe.


Yeshivas continue the scholarly traditions of the Biblical Sanhedrin and the Seventy Elders wherein were discussed and elaborated the 613 Mitzvot. This tradition was continued by the sages of the Mishnah and Talmud who often headed academies with hundreds of students. In Babylonia the rosh yeshiva was referred to as the Reish Metivta in Aramaic.

General role

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

Rosh yeshiva dynasties

Depending on the size of the yeshiva, there may be several rosh yeshivas, sometimes from one extended family. There are familial dynasties of rosh yeshivas, for example the Soloveitchik, the Finkel, the Feinstein, the Kotler, Kook, which head many yeshivas in the United Statesmarker and Israelmarker.

Famous rosh yeshivas

Prior to The Holocaust, most of the large yeshivos were based in Eastern Europe. Many rosh yeshivas were trained by graduates of the Volozhin yeshiva, headed by Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, (1749 - 1821). It is known as the "Mother of Yeshivas" because it was the first institution of its kind, for prior to its establishment people learned primarily in their respective towns with local rabbis. Another explanation that has been offered for the title "Mother of Yeshivas" is that so many of its alumni established yeshivas of their own. Rabbi Chaim was the chief disciple of the famed Vilna Gaon (1720-1797).

Presently the majority of the world's yeshivas and their rosh yeshivas are located in the United Statesmarker and Israelmarker.

The following is a list of some famous rosh yeshivas:

Current rosh yeshivas

Role of mashgiach ruchani

The personal and ethical development of the students in the yeshiva is usually covered by a different personality, known as the mashgiach or spiritual 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. One typical and influential mashgiach was Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler.

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