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The term rabbi comes from a Hebrew word meaning master, and it has been used to describe Jewish leaders and scholars for the last 2,000 years. During the Talmudic period (from the first to the fifth century A.D.), the term was used to refer to preachers and scholars.

Over the centuries, rabbis became the leading religious authorities in Jewish communities. It has only been in the last 150 years that rabbis have become salaried officials in religious congregations.