Skip to main content

Shammash

SHAMMASH

SHAMMASH (Heb. שַׁמָּשׁ), salaried beadle or sexton in the community, the synagogue, rabbinical court, or a ḥevrah. A shammash performed a number of functions varying in accordance with the measure of autonomy or the nature of the religious institutions he served: tax collector, bailiff, process server, secretary, messenger, almoner, all-around handyman, grave digger, or notary. He sometimes acted as shulklaper, knocking on window shutters with a mallet to summon Jews to prayer, to announce the arrival of the Sabbath, or to waken people for pre-dawn penitential services. By signing the minutes of the kahal or of an association, he testified to their correctness. In Vilna he had to take an oath that he would strictly observe and enforce the communal statutes. He often acted as a diplomat or was sent as an envoy to another community. The ḥevra kaddisha of 19th-century Russian communities sometimes employed an oylem shamash to run errands. Along with the rabbi and cantor, the shammash was one of the three employees who received a regular salary and shared in the income from fees and largesse distributed at weddings or other festive occasions. He also supervised the local institutions, whether synagogue, *hekdesh, or association. In larger towns there was a variety of specialized functionaries by that name. In the ḥevra the term shammash was used to denote the period of apprenticeship served by a new member.

bibliography:

Baron, Community, 3 (1942), index s.v.Shammash; I. Levitats, Jewish Community in Russia 17721844 (1943), index s.v.Beadle.

[Isaac Levitats]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Shammash." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Shammash." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 10, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/shammash

"Shammash." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved December 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/shammash

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.