A rabbi needs sufficient training to go deeper into Jewish tradition than a well-read Jew. The fact is, a student can develop that level of expertise anywhere. In my experience, the established movement-connected seminaries turn out such rabbis with a good deal more consistency. Indie seminaries – particularly those looking to establish themselves – seem to be more optimistic about the talent in their pool of applicants than seminaries with nothing to prove.
But once you get past that, you and I both know that it’s not what makes a rabbi a rabbi.
A rabbi needs to have a heart that breaks into little pieces, but is not disabled in the process. A rabbi needs to be able to hear the question beneath the question, and to have the wisdom to offer a response instead of an answer. A rabbi needs to walk the very thin line between necessary authority and self-serving egotism. A rabbi needs to be willing to suffer loneliness living in the place s/he hopes other Jews aspire to be. A rabbi needs to know how to make a symphony out of a niggun.
Rabbi Jack Moline, email (9 May 2013).