The Title of "Rabbi" and Smicha

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  • #593224

    so right
    Member

    Is it only proper to call anyone who has smicha with the title of “Rabbi” rather than Mr.? If someone who had received smicha is currently employed as a computer programmer or as a publisher or as woman’s apparel salesman, must his boss, colleagues, customers, neighbors, friends, and everyone call him and refer to him as Rabbi? And if he insists his colleagues not call him Rabbi, is there any reason to think that others must?

    If not, why do some people consider it an affront when Michael, who had smicha, is not called Rabbi?

    Of course the smicha we have today is not the same unbroken chain of smicha of yore. The real smicha has long ago been lost.

    #1066326

    mdd
    Member

    A real Talmid Chochom remains a real Talmid Chochom, even if he had to get a job. Chayey Adom, Beis Efraim and others remained Rabbis, eveh after they had gotten jobs.

    It is a different story, that most heintike s’michos do not mean much.

    #1066327

    ItcheSrulik
    Member

    If nothing else, it’s basic derech eretz to call a rabbi “rabbi” unless he asks you not to. It’s just like a phd and the title Dr. He earned it and it would be insulting not to give it to him. Anyway, who is this “Michael” you’re talking about?

    #1066328

    real-brisker
    Member

    *Rabbi* Is not a chosuva title these days anymore. Every “Tom Dick and Harry” that learns in kolel has the title “Rabbi”, Why? – I’m not sure, but it doesn’t have the same chashivus as it used to.

    #1066329

    anonymrs
    Participant

    why are people who DO NOT have smicha called rabbi? there are places where, as soon as a man gets married, everything that comes addressed to him says rabbi. is that all it takes to get smicha?

    #1066330

    WIY
    Member

    so right

    It depends on where he got the Semicha, or rather from whom. I know people who have Semicha who I wouldnt ask any Shaila to…

    #1066331

    so right
    Member

    So if your cook got smicha from somewhere once, you ought to always refer to your cook as “Rabbi”?

    #1066332

    eclipse
    Member

    the whole title means zero today:the result of ridiculous overuse.

    #1066333

    ItcheSrulik
    Member

    That’s another issue entirely. I think the OP was asking about someone who got a serious semicha.

    #1066334

    charliehall
    Participant

    I personally know many with semichah who insist on NOT being called rabbi. One insisted that he was told personally by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein that the title should only be used by people serving in rabbinic postions, such as teaching, chaplaincy, or synagogue clergy.

    I also know people without even yoreh yoreh semichah who are referred to as rabbi.

    #1066335

    myfriend
    Member

    most heintike s’michos do not mean much.

    If most smichos today don’t mean much, then one cannot complain that people don’t refer to someone as “Rabbi” simply because he has smicha.

    #1066336

    WolfishMusings
    Participant

    why are people who DO NOT have smicha called rabbi? there are places where, as soon as a man gets married, everything that comes addressed to him says rabbi. is that all it takes to get smicha?

    I am also very much against this. If anyone calls me “rabbi” I correct him or her and insist that they either call me by my first name or use “Mr….” I likewise do not open mail addressed to “Rabbi…” that arrives at my home.

    In fact, this past summer, a fellow (whom I don’t know) greeted me on Friday night by addressing me as “rabbi.” I told him that I don’t know who he’s talking to as I am not a rabbi and there was no one else present. But okay, perhaps since he didn’t know me he was trying to err on the side of courtesy. I can understand that. Nonetheless, after I made the point that I wasn’t a rabbi, he insisted on defending his action by saying that today “everyone’s a rabbi.”

    I took umbrage at the idea, since I feel that if “everyone’s a rabbi” then the title is meaningless. In addition, I feel that calling non-rabbis “rabbi” is an insult (even if not intended as such) to all those who have put in the hard work and effort to actually earn the honorific. To award it to everyone demeans the title.

    My greeter then replied that the title was already demeaned. My response to that was “so why demean it further?” To further prove my point, I mentioned the Tanaim Ben Azsai and Ben Zoma. The reason they are not called “Rabbi Shimon ben Azzai” and “Rabbi Shimon ben Zoma” is simply because they did not earn the title — they never earned smicha*. That’s not to say that Ben Azzai and Ben Zoma weren’t brilliant chachamim — they certainly were. But due to other circumstances in their lives, they never earned smicha, and so were never given the title “Rabbi.” If Ben Zoma and Ben Azzai were never given the title because they did not formally earn ordination, then I, certainly, should not be given the title.

    To that he had no response, and we simply agreed to disagree. But I remain firm in my conviction. Barring some exceptional circumstances, I believe the title of Rabbi should be reserved for those who have earned it — and those ranks do not include me.

    The Wolf

    * Yes, there were tanaim who did not use the title “rabbi” (such as Hillel and Shammai), but they lived before the title came into popular use. Ben Azzai and Ben Zoma were contemporaries of Rabbi Akiva — by whose time the title was clearly in use.

    #1066337

    myfriend
    Member

    Wolf: The Chofetz Chaim didn’t have smicha until he was an old man (and even then only got it for a technical reason he needed it for.)

    I sure hope you wouldn’t call him Mr. Kagan had you met him beforehand.

    #1066338

    WolfishMusings
    Participant

    Myfriend,

    The CC may well be the “exceptional circumstance” I was talking about*. And I’m sure you didn’t mean to insult the Chofetz Chaim by comparing him to me. 🙂

    The Wolf

    * In fact, when I posted about this on my blog a few months back, I made the following statement:

    “I suppose one could make the case for an “honorary” rabbi for someone who is clearly a gadol but has, for whatever reason never received semicha, but I clearly do not fall into that class.”

    #1066339

    myfriend
    Member

    Wolf: The CC is not as exceptional on this issue as you may think. He has much company on this point.

    #1066340

    TheChevra
    Member

    The Semicha that is given today, has no legal meaning or effect. We no longer have real Semicha.

    Whether someone is a rabbi or not today is not dependent on whether or not he received some paper purporting to convey upon him Semicha, whatever that purports to mean.

    #1066341

    yitayningwut
    Participant

    Wolf-

    If I am not mistaken, the Rambam in his Introduction to his Peirush Hamishnayos says that the reason those tana’im and all the earlier great people were not referred to as rabbi is because they were so great they did not need a title, as their name alone elicits respect. Similar, lehavdil, to great philosophers, doctors, and artists in history who are known only by their first names.

    #1066342

    WIY
    Member

    Myfriend

    Today if you have a beard they will likely call you Rabbi. I don’t have a beard and have been called Rabbi. It became a term that people use freely. Everyone is a Reb or a Rabbi today. It has lost its meaning. Today if someone is a real Rabbi they call him Rav…

    #1066343

    myfriend
    Member

    And if someone’s a big Rav its Maran?

    #1066344

    WolfishMusings
    Participant

    Wolf: The CC is not as exceptional on this issue as you may think. He has much company on this point.

    Whatever. That’s not the main point.

    The main point is that I object if people call *me* “Rabbi.” Do you object to that?

    The Wolf

    #1066345

    WolfishMusings
    Participant

    that the reason those tana’im and all the earlier great people were not referred to as rabbi is because they were so great they did not need a title, as their name alone elicits respect.

    That’s correct… but that was no longer true by Ben Azzai’s and Ben Zoma’s time. They were contemporaries of Rabbi Akiva (who clearly used the title “Rabbi”).

    The reason Ben Zoma and Ben Azzai are not known as Rabbi Shimon (they were both named Shimon) Ben Azzai/Ben Zoma is because they did not earn semicha.

    The Wolf

    The Wolf

    #1066346

    eclipse
    Member

    i used to be in awe of every “rabbi”ANYBODY….until I was hurt by a whole bunch of them…if I don’t believe rumors about people and they do…who’s more title-worthy,me or them?i still have awe for a select few whose sincere support mamesh keeps me hopeful and strong,but,boy are they a minority!

    #1066352

    I think the Steipler didn’t have smicha. As I’ve heard that he would send halachic questions elsewhere. I’m sure there were others. I think there’s a difference between the title “Rav” and “Rabbi”. I don’t have so many qualms with calling a 30 yr old, YU graduate, pulpit position holding, person- “Rabbi”. But my Rosh Kollel’s (who doesn’t have smicha) first name is “Rav” as far as I’m concerned.

    Also in the kollelim I’ve been to the yungeleit get the title “Reb” not “Rabbi” when they get married.

    #1066353

    apushatayid
    Participant

    I think people intuitively know the difference between a rabbi and harav. I have yet to see anyone (who knows better) say something in the name of Rabbi Kanievsky Shlita or Rabbi Elyashiv Shlita.

    #1066354

    Rak Od Pa'am
    Member

    Wondering

    I am not ?”? questioning anyone’s ?????? ????? but why is it necessary for the general counsel, controller, executive VP of

    an organization that does great work for Klal Yisroel be called Rabbi? He is not the controller because he is a great Talmid Chacham. He is a good accountant and executive who because of his ahavas yisroel is willing to earn less to serve the Klal. But why does that make him a Rabbi?

    #1066355

    newbee
    Member

    There are many different types of smicha and many different types of smicha granting institutions. I dont think it is appropriate to call someone Rabbi unless they are using their smicha in an official capacity such as a school rabbi or rabbi of a shule. This is because when you call someone Rabbi and he calls you by your first name it will psychologically inevitably lead to an unequal relationship, and the person being called rabbi will inevitably gain the upper hand even. For instance, if person a has smicha and person b does not and they both work at an accounting firm, person b should not call person a smicha since there is no reason why they should not be equals.

    #1066356

    Chortkov
    Participant

    I disagree. Calling somebody a respectful title isn’t just a recognition of his job, it is a gesture of respect. If somebody is a Talmid Chochom, then you have an obligation to respect him. That applies both in and out of a professional environment, whether it suits you or not. Life isn’t about psychological power struggle to

    use manipulative behavior to discomfit another person or gain an advantage over them. Your chiyuv of respect is regardless of the situation or context of reception.

    If this will cause you a monetary loss, ask your LOR. Otherwise, the satisfaction of winning a mind game isn’t worth sacrificing halacha.

    #1066357

    newbee
    Member

    yekke2: there is no chiuv to call anyone “rabbi” who has smicha. If you dont want to call so and so rabbi, unless he is the rov of the community you are in there is no halachic basis to demand calling him rabbi. If there is a need to maintain an equal standing with someone, for communal or professional reasons, it is completely valid not to call him rabbi. I have asked my rabbi this question as well.

    regarding the mitzva to honor a talmid chacham, that does not include many of the people who have some sort of smicha today and does include many people who do not have smicha. the talmid chochom of the gem is very dif to the talmid chachom of today.

    #1066358

    sirvoddmort
    Member

    Nowadays, the term ‘Reb’ or ‘Rabbi’ is basically the equivalant of, lehavdil, ‘Mr’. And before you point out that ‘Rabbi’ appears to denote semicha or a position, the term ‘Mister’ was originally only used to address one of superior status, but in modern times is basically a catch-all honorific. I believe it is not unreasonable that the same applies to ‘Rabbi’. And if you wish to challenge this cheapening of the title, may I just point out that it is far better address a Mr as a Rabbi than a Rabbi as a Mr.

    And if you were to argue that this leaves no suitable terms for those who deserve them, two points. Firstly, that the term Rabbi as a title, certainly in my community, is reserved for actual Rabbis in any official context, such as on letters or posters. And secondly, that Harav or similar is generally used with what we nowadays call semicha.

    #1066359

    Chortkov
    Participant

    newbee – I wasn’t referring to somebody who doesn’t have the necessary qualities to define himself as a Talmid Chochom. Such a person, even in an official capacity there is no binding reason to call him ‘Rabbi’. I am talking about somebody who does suit the description. And your ‘chiyuv’ to call him by a suitable title is dependant on the social norm. If it is the accepted thing to call a Rabbi that, then it shows a lack of respect if you do not. And because of your chiyuv to respect a Talmid Chochom, it makes no difference if it suits you or not.

    Your second point – that ??????? there is no chiyuv to respect a Talmid Chochom – is incorrect. The Mishne in Avos says that even somebody who teaches you ???? ??? must be given the Titles of Honour when you address him. (Now your obvious retort is going to be that this is only to somebody who taught you; but a Talmid Chochom who isn’t your Rebbe doesn’t command that respect. I am just bringing out the point that one doesn’t have to hit a certain level in order to command respect.)

    ???? ?? ??? ???? ??????.

    #1066360

    Joseph
    Participant

    1) Not every yodle who was given smich somewhere is a talmid chochom. 2) Many talmidei chachomem don’t have smicha. You should give respect, including with the honorific, to talmidei chachomim without smicha and you need not honor a non-talmid chochom who has smicha – including refraining from giving him the honorific.

    Also, a true rov can be called Rav, which means more than Rabbi. And even larger talmidei chachomim (yes, some rabbis are of greater stature than other rabbis) can be referred to with additional honorifics, i.e. Maran, HaGaon, etc.

    #1066361

    newbee
    Member

    yekke2- we do not paskin halacha lemeisa on a mishna in avos. I stand by my original statement as told to me by my person rabbi:

    There is no halachic obligation to call a regular person in the community who happens to have smicha rabbi. This is all the more true if one needs (or wants) to maintain an equal level with said person on a professional, social or communal basis.

    “I wasn’t referring to somebody who doesn’t have the necessary qualities to define himself as a Talmid Chochom.” This is not helpful on a practical level as all of these issues are very subjective- and thus must be left to the individual to decide. Social norms are also very subjective and in many communities simply do not exist.

    #1066362

    Chortkov
    Participant

    Who is this ‘person Rabbi’?

    And please clarify your position: Are you (a) denying the Chiyuv to be ???? a Talmid Chochom; (b) Denying that a choshuve title comes under the category of ‘kovod’ or (c) denying that the Rabbi is choshuv?

    Yes, you are not mechuyev to be mechabed somebody you hold doesn’t deserve it. This is both in and out of his office. You are mechuyev, however, to be mechabed a real Talmid Chochom. And this applies both inside and outside his official capacity. There is no difference (i) what setting you are in or (ii) whether it suits you or not.

    And what is considered kovod is determined by social norms, as I wrote earlier. And for a high caliber Talmid Chochom, being called Rabbi is part of the social norm. At least in civilized countries like US, Europe, Israel.

    #1066363

    Joseph
    Participant

    “Rabbi” ? Talmid Chochom [and thus one need not call every non-TC “rabbi” even if he has smicha]

    (Talmid Chochom = Rabbi [smicha or not])

    #1066364

    Avi K
    Participant

    The Sephardim use “Chacham”. I know someone who calls me “Chacham Avraham” whenever he wants something.

    #1066365

    newbee
    Member

    yekke2: a) no. b) im denying that one is chiuv to specifically be mekaved a TC by refering to him with an honorific title followed by his last name c) in some cases yes some cases no.

    There are many people who get smicha early in life and go on to do totally different things, don’t really chazer and if they do not sufficiently, and 5-10 years down the road dont really know things. There are many people who dont know more than the average yid even a year after smicha. There are also different types of smicha and yeshivas have vastly different standards. To make a sweeping claim to call every person with some sort of smicha Rabbi for the rest of his life because “why not it doesn’t hurt anyone” is not correct- as it truly can change the dynamic in a relationship and in the office.

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