Rabbinic Titles

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  • #588555

    suburbanite
    Member

    In a recent issue of a frum newspaper, I found the following plethora of titles used, sometimes referring to the same

    person by two or more in one article: Maran Harav Hagaon, Harav Hagaon, Maran Harav, Harav, Horav, Harab, Maran Rav, Rav,

    Rov, Rabbi, and Reb.

    My first question is about the title Hagaon. I am not, chas v’shalom, belittling the qualifications or accomplishments of

    the distinguished Rabbonim who were mentioned with that title. Nevertheless from a historical viewpoint the title of Gaon

    was given to very few people in our entire history. Originally, it was the title of the heads of the two academies in

    Babylonia, in Sura and Pompedisa. After that, it was virtually unused until the Vilna Gaon, who was called that because he

    was so far above his contemporaries. Now it seems like every elderly Rosh Yeshiva is called Hagaon. The overuse of an

    honorific title tends to cheapen it.

    My next question is about the honorific Maran. Who gets it and who does not? Who determines?

    Finally, why all the different titles? I assume Reb is for someone who does not have smicha, but for someone with smicha

    what is the difference between Harav, Rav,and Rabbi? (I am assuming the others are variations in pronunciation.) Once again, who determines?

    #1024732

    Ashrecha Yisroel
    Participant

    Does it really bother you that we’re giving people kavod, even though YOU feel they don’t deserve it. And if you’re referring to elderly Roshei HaYeshiva, then I really feel you’re hiking up a very dangerous path! If klal yisroel wants to call their role models by mechubadike titles, then you have no right to comment; especially, if you don’t feel these rabbanim have clear chisronos – I mean you wrote about “elderly Roshei HaYeshiva”! And, agav, in many Chassidishe circles, which you clearly don’t belong to, titles are only given for specific schar limud – and that’s after extensive farhers!

    #1024733

    Ashrecha Yisroel, I think you have missed the point. Did you read all of suburbanite’s post, including the part that says “I am not, chas v’shalom, belittling the qualifications or accomplishments of the distinguished Rabbonim who were mentioned with that title”? Regardless of whether or not you happen to agree with him about the overuse of the term, I think he still has a “right to comment” and his point is certainly historically valid.

    #1024734

    aryehm
    Participant

    Let’s start with the easy. Rabbi is an English-language title. The Hebrew version was used only for those who had the authentic Semichah. It is now applied when speaking English to all who claim any form or rabbinic certification.

    Rav and Harav (as well as their alternates in spelling) should be used only when referring to those who posess Yore Yore or Yadin Yadin ordination. There is an additional ordination of Rav u Manhig that is used in America differently than it was used in Europe (and Israel) where it was actually a masters degree. Now, many American rabbis have this in lieu of the more traditional Yore Yoreh.

    In Germany (and several Central European countries) there was a title of Chaver which implied one who was a scholar but had not [yet] qualified for Semichah.

    In places where there are many, many rabbis with various qualifications, it is nice to have a title that can be used to denote a rabbi of eminent status. Hagaon is one such title.

    Maran is Aramaic for “our lord” and is also a title that implies more than a mere rabbi, one who is considered as a spiritual father by other rabbis. While it might sound a bit stuffy to an American, it would sound perfect to a Briton, where you have Mr., the Honourable Mr., the Right Honourable Mr., the Reverend Mr., the Right Honorable Reverand, and the Right and Most Reverend….. to apply different levels of their secular and religious nobility.

    #1024735

    RBS_gimmel
    Participant

    A joke originating from Bnei Brak:

    The title “Gaon” is used nowadays primarily to differentiate between a man and a woman 🙂

    #1024736

    noitallmr
    Participant

    kitzur_dot_net- Ha Ha great!!! Post this under the Humour thread as well! About time I saw a decent joke here…

    But seriously that is what these titles have become. It used to be that only someone with Semicha was called Rabbi and now anyone with a hat is!

    #1024737

    oomis
    Member

    “A joke originating from Bnei Brak:

    The title “Gaon” is used nowadays primarily to differentiate between a man and a woman 🙂 “

    Yes, but what are they calling the man?????

    #1024738

    Good one, oomis.

    #1024739

    RBS_gimmel
    Participant

    simple, “HaReb Hagaon” (referring to the new practice of calling Rebbetzins “Reb. so-and-so”)

    #1024740

    SJSinNYC
    Member

    LOL at Oomis 🙂

    To be honest, nowadays, smicha is more of a degree (like a bachelors) than anything else. I know plenty of women who are really shtark and can learn many people with smicha under the table.

    Not that we would offer women the smicha title nowadays, but it wouldnt really matter because its a degree.

    #1024741

    yoshi
    Member

    I wonder how it makes someone feel when they have a higher title, but are referred to as, “MR.”

    My father has the title, Doctor, yet at times, people call him Mr. My brother has the title, Rabbi, yet again, sometimes people call him, Mr.

    I asked them if it was insulting to them, but they just find it humorous. They know what they earned, and they know their title, so if someone doesn’t know better, and calls them something else, it doesn’t really affect them.

    I guess if someone is aware of their title, but purposely calls them by a different name, well, that’s a whole other story…

    I’m not speaking for all, just people I happen to know very well 🙂

    #1024742

    sammyjoe
    Member

    i think it is a honor to be called mr. in lakewood. everyone is “rabbi” even the frum janitor (if there was one). Mr. is a “yekar hametziois” not pushut!

    #1024743

    Pashuteh Yid
    Member

    I insist on being called the Right Honorable Pashuteh Yid.

    #1024744

    Joseph
    Participant

    Don’t you mean the Left Honorable Pashuteh Yid?

    #1024745

    sammygol
    Member

    As usual, someone HAD to stick in something personally insulting, and, as usual, the same poster who is always RIGHT.

    #1024746

    ujm
    Participant

    sam, sheesh you have no sense of humor. It was a JOKE!

    And coming from from you who always gets into verbal spars with just about EVERYONE you ever comment about.

    #1024747

    titles are very interesting –

    I recently heard for myself in my shul a guy called to the torah – Tzvi Moshe, ESQIRE ben DR. whatever his father’s name was, I can’t remember…

    Please confirm that this is out of control.

    I don’t believe that Tzvi Moshe asks/requires/demands this “level of kavod”

    #1024748

    gavra_at_work
    Participant

    Agree with sammyjoe.

    Everyone gets called Rabbi these days.

    That is why Maran is used, so the editor can separate those who he/she thinks are the real rabbonim from the run of the mill “Rabbi” or “Rav”.

    Now “Gavra” is a title with real Chashivus. As in “Hahu Gavra”. He is mentioned more times in the Gemorah than any other Tanna or Amorah.

    Mr. and Mar (as in “Amar Mar” (second place)) are also acceptable.

    #1024749

    oomis
    Member

    “I recently heard for myself in my shul a guy called to the torah – Tzvi Moshe, ESQIRE ben DR. whatever his father’s name was, I can’t remember…”

    Was this by any chance on Simchas Torah (and before or after Kiddush)?

    Regarding what we prefer to be addressed as – “Your Majesty” works for me…

    #1024750

    oomis, I really wish I could say that this was on simchas Torah…

    No, this was just 2 weeks ago Parshas Noach…

    I do not usually get to shul for Torah reading, but had the “merit” to hear this for myself…

    #1024751

    Back to the origional point, and for those who seem to inject criticism in what anyone else says—-I am NOT trying to downgrade or belittle anyone at all in this post. I just want to know, like the origional poster, what the qualifications are to be called a specific title today, as I want to make sure I do not belittle someone when speaking to/about them. Do I say “Harav Hagaon”or just “Harav”? Is that person a “Reb” or “Rav”? For the perspective of today- what makes someone “”worthy”” of being called one title and not another?

    #1024752

    noitallmr
    Participant

    havesomeseichel:

    If he’s your Rav, speak to him in third person. According to what the Rov just said etc.

    If he’s a Gadol say hagaon if he has Smicha say Rabbi.

    Simple!

    #1024753

    Chacham
    Participant

    rav elyashiv said all you can learn from these names is weather he keeps shabbos

    #1024754

    oomis
    Participant

    “oomis, I really wish I could say that this was on simchas Torah…

    No, this was just 2 weeks ago Parshas Noach…

    I do not usually get to shul for Torah reading, but had the “merit” to hear this for myself”

    Interesting – I wonder what reason the man could have to be called up that way. Obviously, there must be a purpose of some kind, because a gabbai would not do something like that just stam azoy, I would think. Maybe the man is known so specifically by that name that it is halachically considered as his full name…? I remember I had a friend who was known to us by one name. It was not until she became a kallah that we all learned that in fact her real name was something totally different (and very unusual, as well as not so pretty-sounding). When her kesuvah was written and read aloud at the chuppah, her name was written as Hakallah “Name that we knew her by and the actual name she was given at birth.” The rov had paskened that she had to have a kesuvah with all the jewish names that applied to her, ebcause she was known to all by the first name, yet her real name was the birth name.

    #1024755

    squeak
    Participant

    I recently heard a funnyish story that reminded me of this thread. A non-Jewish family with a few children moved in to one of the Lakewood “sh’chunot”. They are decent people, and the non-Jewish children of this complex occasionally play together with the Jewish children of the complex. One of the mothers recounted that her child told her the following: “Mrs. Jefferson is really nice, she offered us kosher ice cream. But Rabbi Jefferson seems a little bit scary!”

    #1024756

    Patur Aval Assur
    Participant

    “Now “Gavra” is a title with real Chashivus. As in “Hahu Gavra”. He is mentioned more times in the Gemorah than any other Tanna or Amorah.”

    Not even close to true.

    #1024757

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    I have my own theories on what hahu gavra means. I donno if I’ve ever espouses it on this side.

    #1024758

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant
    #1024759

    SayIDidIt™
    Participant

    oomis, your first part on this thread was really funny! Thanks for the laugh!

    SiDi™

    #1024760

    catch yourself
    Participant

    For some perspective about titles, I like to refer to the following halacha:

    A person whose father has gone OTD r”l should be called for an aliyah using his grandfather’s name (i.e., yaamod Yaakov ben Avraham). If, however, he is well known in the community and changing the way he is called to the Torah will embarrass him (presumably by highlighting the fact that his father is not religious), Shulchan Aruch rules that he may be called with his father’s name. The Mishnah Berurah comments that “at the very least titles such as Moreinu should not be used.”

    I think this speaks for itself about the usage of even the most revered titles in centuries past.

    (and perhaps it was to this comment of the Mishnah Berurah that Rav Elyashiv [quoted above] referred)

    Anyway, like “Thank you,” a title is a very subjective thing which can be used with both the most shallow and the most profound meanings, depending on the context. Fact is, when we say “Harav Hagaon Reb Shloime Mechel, assistant night seder sho’el u’meishiv,” noone thinks we are equating the subject with the Vilna Gaon. Nor, for that matter, is the title Gaon used in quite the same way to refer to the Vilna Gaon as to Rav Sherira Gaon.

    I know a veteran gabbai who calls his congregants with their titles (Dr. Ploni ben Ploni esquire) – it’s part of what he does to make the davening more entertaining for many of the people who (sadly) would not stay inside otherwise.

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