The Key Leader of the Jewish Faith

Rabbis address the religious and social issues of their congregations.
... Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images

Unlike other religious traditions such as Catholicism, Judaism does not have a centrally recognized living authority. Instead, rabbis serve as local authorities, and in some cases chief rabbis resolve larger problems at a national level. According to Jewish tradition, the key leaders in Judaism are not living persons, but rather God and the holy founders of the religion.

1 Rabbis

A rabbi is anyone who receives rabbinical ordination and education in Jewish law. Rabbis are experts in Jewish tradition, history and scripture, and are capable of resolving problems that members of their congregation might have. They also perform weddings and lead prayer on the Sabbath. In general, rabbis act as community leaders, helping to organize and guide local Jewish communities. However, although rabbis can provide religious guidance, they have no divine authority, because Judaism teaches that a relationship with God is personal, and is not mediated by another individual.

2 Chief Rabbis

In some cases, especially governmental ones, chief rabbis serve as leaders for the entire Jewish population, helping to resolve disputes that occur between different Jewish communities within a nation. Local rabbis can also consult chief rabbis in order to get an authoritative resolution to problematic issues. However, "The Guardian" newspaper notes that some members of the Jewish faith believe that the role of the chief rabbi is problematic, claiming that the institution has no basis in Jewish scripture.

3 Moses

Many Jews view Moses as the key leader of the Jewish faith, as he is arguably the founder of Judaism. This is based on the biblical story of Moses leading the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt and into the Holy Land, where he served as a channel between them and God. According to Jewish scripture, Moses spoke directly to God, and handed down the laws and rules that the Jews continue to live their life by today. Many Jews seeking religious guidance look to the figure of Moses and his stories in the Torah -- the collection of Jewish scriptures and other sacred Jewish writings -- as an example.

4 God

Although rabbis can help provide guidance, and Moses and other holy figures helped formalize Jewish beliefs, followers of Judaism regard God as the key leader in their religion. They believe that after Abraham forged a special covenant with God, the Jewish people received a special blessing that anointed them as God's chosen people. Therefore, God is viewed as the supreme authority in all things, and when observant Jews have problems or need spiritual guidance, they pray to Him directly.

James Stuart began his professional writing career in 2010. He traveled through Asia, Europe, and North America, and has recently returned from Japan, where he worked as a freelance editor for several English language publications. He looks forward to using his travel experience in his writing. Stuart holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from the University of Toronto.