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A Gabbai (Hebrew: גבאי‎) (or sometimes: Shamash שמש) is a person who assists in the running of a synagogue and ensures that the needs are met, for example the Jewish prayer services run smoothly, or an assistant to a rabbi (particularly the secretary or personal assistant to a Hassidic Rebbe). A gabbai's obligations might also include maintaining a Jewish cemetery.

In many synagogues the gabbai is not a permanent job like the one described above but rather a role in the Torah service. The gabbai is responsible for calling congregants up to the Torah; in some synagogues, the gabbai stands next to the Torah reader, holding a version of the text with vowels and trop markings (which are not present in the actual Torah scroll), following along in order to correct the reader if he makes an error (e.g., mispronounces a word, or skips a word). In others, this is separated out into the role of sgan סגן.

The word "gabbai" is Aramaic and, in Talmudic times, meant collector of taxes or charity, or treasurer.[1]

In Judaism, the term "beadle" (in Hebrew: shammash or "sexton") is sometimes used for the gabbai, the caretaker or "man of all work," in a synagogue. Moshe the Beadle, the caretaker of a synagogue in Sighet in the 1940s, is an important character in Night by Elie Wiesel.

Further information: Gabbai and Shamash in Judaism


  1. ^ Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Bavli, Talmud Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature by Marcus Jastrow. (London, 1903) 1971/2004 reprinting ISBN 1-932443-20-7. p.206

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