The governments of the kingdoms of Israel and the Judah were based on a system of Jewish kings, prophets, the legal authority of the court of the Sanhedrin and the ritual authority of priesthood. Since the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the role of the priests for the People of Israel has diminished, and rabbis have taken over the spiritual leadership of the Jewish community.
The word rabbi originates from the Hebrew meaning "teacher." The term has evolved over Jewish history to include many roles and meanings. Today it usually refers to those who have received rabbinical ordination and are educated in matters of halacha (Jewish law) and tradition to instruct the community, to answer questions and resolve disputes regarding halakhah. When a person has completed the necessary course of study, he is given a written document , “semikhah,” which confirms his authority.
The State of Israel gives rabbis the permission to perform weddings. In Israel, a rabbi is needed for the secular legality of the wedding.
Some non-Orthodox movements began to grant women semicha in the last few decades. Orthodox congregations do not ordain women as rabbis. However, at Nishmat, the JerusalemCenter for Advanced Jewish Study for Women, Orthodox women may study the laws of family purity at the same level of detail that Orthodox males do. The purpose is for them to be able to act as halakhic advisors for other women.
In Israel there are Chief Rabbis of Israel (Ashkenazi and Sephardic), of each city, of the Army of Israel, and the Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall of Jerusalem.