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Rebbe (רבי) //, which means master, teacher, or mentor, is a Yiddish word derived from the Hebrew word Rabbi. In accordance with Yiddish pronunciation norms, the stress is on the first syllable and the final vowel is sometimes reduced to a schwa, but is other times pronounced "ee."
Whilst Rebbe is a term that refers to many leaders of Jewry, 'Rebbe' or 'Rebbi' when mentioned in the Talmud is a reference to the redactor of the Mishna, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. In common parlance of modern times, the term 'The Rebbe' is often used by Hasidim to refer to the leader of a Hasidic movement, for example, by Lubavitcher Hasidim referring to their Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
Today, Rebbe has three meanings:
- The leader of a Chasidus (Chasidic movement) is called a rebbe. His followers would address him as "The Rebbe" or refer to him when speaking to others as "the Rebbe" or "my Rebbe". He is referred to by others as the Rebbe of a particular Chasidus. It is this definition that is the focus of this article. In Hebrew, a Chasidic Rebbe is often referred to as an admor, which is an abbreviation for Adoneinu, Moreinu, veRabbenu ("Our Master, our Teacher, and our Rebbe"). In writing, this title is placed before the name of the Chasidus, as in "Admor of Belz"; while the title Rebbe comes after the name of the Chasidus when used as an adjective, as in "Lubavitcher Rebbe," "Amshinever Rebbe," and every Rebbe of every Chassidic Dynasty.
- A person's main Rosh Yeshiva or mentor, who teaches him/her Torah and gives guidance, is referred to as "my Rebbe".
- Yeshiva students or cheider (elementary school) students, when talking to their Teacher, would address him with the honorific Rebbe. We also refer to him when speaking to our classmates as "The Rebbe" or when speaking to others as "my Rebbe".
In the Litvishe world, when not referring to a Chasidic Rebbe, the word may be pronounced "Rebbee". Sephardic Jews may pronounce it as "Ribbi".
Terminology and origin 
Rebbe come from the Hebrew word rav, meaning great, and might mean the equivalent of "my master." It was an honorific originally given to those who had Smicha at the beginning of the first millennium, though because vowels were not written at the time, it is impossible to know if it was pronounced rah-bee or r-bee. The English word rabbi directly comes from this form. In Yiddish, the word became reb-eh (now commonly spelled rebbe) or just reb.
The Sages of the Mishnah known as the Tannaim, from the 1st and 2nd centuries of the common era, were known by the title Rabbi, for example Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochoy. Rabbi Yehudah haNasi, the leader of Jewry in Mishnaic Times, was simply called Rabbi, meaning "The Rebbe of the Generation".
Distinctions between Rebbe and Rav 
A Rebbe is sometimes distinct from a 'Rav' or 'Rov' who is an authoritative Halachic decider and leader of a Jewish, often Chassidic, community) in that a significant function of a Rav is to answer questions of Halacha (Jewish law). A Chasid has a Rebbe as a spiritual guide and to go and sometimes an additional Rav for a ruling on an issue of Halachah, Jewish law.
Chasidim use the term to denote someone that they perceive not only as the religious leader of their congregation, but as their spiritual adviser and mentor. A rebbe is someone whose views and advice are accepted not only on issues of religious dogma and practice, but in all arenas of life, including political and social issues.
Sprouting Chasidim use the concept of a (non-Chasidic) Rebbe. Example: "I will ask my Rebbe, Rabbi Ploni (so-and-so), for advice about this personal matter."
As a rule, among all Chasidim, Rebbe is referred to in Hebrew as "Admor", an abbreviation for Adoneinu Moreinu V'Rabeinu, Our Master Our Teacher Our Rebbe, which is now the modern Hebrew word in Israel for "rebbe" (pl. admorim).
Hasidic Rebbe 
A Rebbe is generally taken to mean a great leader of a Hasidic dynasties, also referred to as Grand Rabbi in English or an ADMOR, a Hebrew abbreviation for Adoneinu-Moreinu-veRabbeinu ("our lord/master, teacher/guide and rabbi/teacher").
Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, is regarded by Hasidim as the first Hasidic rebbe.
The first "rebbe" to be known as such was the Baal Shem Tov's grandson, Rabbi Boruch of Mezhbizh who was referred to as "The Rebbe" during his lifetime. After him, those who rose to positions of leadership and their successors began to be called rebbe. The title gradually came to suggest a higher spiritual status.
Each Hasidic group refers to its leader as "the rebbe".
Hannah Rachel Verbermacher, also known as the Maiden of Ludmir or the "Ludmirer Moyd", was the only female rebbe in the history of the Hasidic movement; she lived in the nineteenth century in Ukraine and Israel.
Outside of Hasidic circles the term "Grand Rabbi" has been used to refer to a rebbe. The practice became widespread in America in the early 1900s when Hasidic rebbes began to emigrate to the United States and was derived from the German Grossrabbiner.
Relationship of hasidim to their rebbe 
A hasidic rebbe is generally understood to be an exceptionally righteous person (called a "tzaddik"). According to Kabbalah (and particularly the chasidic understanding of Kabbalah), the world is sustained on the "shoulders" of several exceptionally righteous people in a generation (tzaddikim). These people are understood to have perfected their personal service of God to such an extent that they become literally and physically aware of God. These righteous people's perception (of both spiritual and physical, not to mention temporal matters) transcends the apparent boundaries of existence, such that a Rebbe will appear to be able to "see the future," or at least have strong insight into the life and trials of another. Furthermore, a rebbe is said to be able to affect divine providence.
As a result, hasidim in some hasidic circles seek their rebbe's advice for a variety of concerns: spiritual, physical, and even business concerns. Furthermore, many people seek the blessing (brocho) of a rebbe (and a chosid will specifically seek the blessing of his own rebbe) for anything from minor (and all the more so major) physical troubles, to grand spiritual concerns. Many famous and common stories of a rebbe's intervention involve women who successfully seek a rebbe's blessing for fertility so that they can conceive after having been barren for many years.
Given a rebbe's physical awareness of God, and the Rebbe's transcendent perception of Godliness, many hasidim take special care to observe the specific and sometimes minute practices of their Rebbe. Even things that seem mundane may nonetheless be seen by chasidim as incredibly significant. For example, Lubavitcher hasidim frequently shape their fedoras to match the way that the Lubavitcher Rebbe shaped his hat-which was more flat than many others. Many Skverer hasidim (of the Skverer Rebbe in New Square) wear their peyos identical to those of the Skverer Rebbe. While hasidim do not always follow the specific practices of their rebbe, the rebbe is able to create practices that may be specific and unique to his hasidim. For example, Rabbi Aaron Roth (Reb Areleh, as he was called) the first rebbe of Shomer Emunim, told his hasidim to pause frequently while eating their meals in order to keep them from overindulging.
A hasid will usually love his rebbe like a close family member, if not more so. But the degree and nature of this belief varies depending on the movement. In some movements the hasidim believe that their rebbe is the "tzadik hador" (greatest and holiest saint of the generation) and would regard any thought that detracts from his perfection and holiness as heresy. Other sects lessen this idealization to some degree or another. Since many rebbes are sons-in-law or students of other rebbes, it makes sense that they would view themselves as subordinate to those other rebbes. Nonetheless, their hasidim remain loyal to them because of their special loyalty, a family connection, or a belief that a specific tzaddik (though there may be others of greater spiritual stature) connects best with one's soul. For example, the Kosover Rebbe makes yearly pilgrimages to the Tosher Rebbe. Nonetheless, his followers remain very loyal to him.
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There are some functions which are exclusively the domain of hasidic rebbes:
Others are not exclusive to Hasidic rebbes, but are often an important part of their role:
- Participating in family celebrations of the hasidim, such as weddings and brisim (circumcision ceremony)
- Performing mitzvos etc. in the presence of their hasidim, such as kindling the Chanuka lights and drawing water to bake matzos with
- Leading the prayers on Shabbos, Holy Days and other special occasions
- Delivering learned or inspirational discourses (in Chabad Hasidut, this is one of the main roles of a Rebbe)
A rebbe has times when Hasidim (and other petitioners) may come for a private audience. A kvitel (Yiddish for "note", plural kvitlach) is a note with the name of the petitioner and a short request for which the rebbe is asked to pray. The formula in which a person's name is written is one's own Hebrew name, the son/daughter of one's mother's Hebrew name, such as Shimon ben Rivkah (Simeon the son of Rebecca). Hasidim believe that rebbes read supernaturally "between the lines" of a kvitel, and in every Hasidic movement there are numerous anecdotes relating how the rebbe saw things that were not written in the kvitel. In most Hasidic groups, the kvitel is written by the rebbe's gabbai (secretary), however sometimes the petitioner writes it on his own. Usually, but with some exceptions, a pidyon (redemption) of cash is customarily handed to the rebbe under the kvitel, however this is not obligatory. This is considered to be the conduit through which the blessing is given, and a redemption for the soul of the petitioner. ("A gift makes its receiver glad" is given as an explanation: a blessing only comes from a joyous heart.) It is also customary to tip the gabbai, although this too is not obligatory.
A rebbe conducts a tish (Yiddish: פֿירט טיש: feert tish, literally, "table")—a (communal festive) meal with highly mystical overtones—on Shabbat and other occasions. At a tish, the rebbe distributes shirayim (lit. remnants) to the Hasidim seated at or gathered round the table. When a gathering similar to a tish is led by a rabbi who is not a rebbe, it may be referred to as a botte (esp. amongst groups from Romania) or sheves achim.
Hasidic movements 
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In Israel, some of the best known Hasidic groups are those of Belz, Boston, Chabad-Lubavitch, Ger, Karlin, Kaliv, Nadvorna, Slonim, Vizhnitz, and Dushinsky, each having their own Rebbe. Some of the larger or better known chasidic groups in the United States of America are Bobov, Chabad-Lubavitch, Klausenburg, Lubavitch, Munkatch, Puppa, Satmar, Skulen, Skver, Tshernobl. A more complete list of chasidic groups can be found here.
Some Hasidic rebbes have thousands of followers, or disciples, called Hasidim, whilst others may number only a few hundred. Some rebbes have only a title, but do not have a following beyond their own family members and a few congregants in their synagogues. Rebbes often have a synagogue or beis medrash (study hall) where they pray, learn, and interact with their Hasidim.
Rebbes are usually called by the Yiddish name of the geographic region in which they or their predecessors gained prominence: e.g., the first Bobover Rebbe lived in Bobowa, Poland, the first Skulener Rebbe lived in Sculeni, Bessarabia, the first Munkatcher Rebbe in Munkacs, Ukraine and the first Bostoner Rebbe, served as a rebbe in Boston, Massachusetts.
The Lubavitcher Hasidim do not have a living rebbe, but continue to believe in his teachings, and say that he is even more alive then before. Many believe that the Rebbe is the ultimate Moshiach and his passing is only a stage of Moshiach's arrival. By the Breslov Hasidim they don't have a living rebbe and follow it's original founder, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.
Links to names of Hasidic Rebbes by name of geographic region 
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Alexander • Alesk • Amshinov • Anipoli • Apt • Avritch • Belz • Berditchev • Beregsaz • Biala | Bluzhov • Bobov • Bohush • Boston • Boyan • Burshtin • Chabad-Lubavitch • Chentshin • Chernobyl • Chernovitz • Cheshenov • Chortkov • Chust • Cleveland • Deyzh • Dinov • Dombrov • Drohobitch • Dzikov • Faltichan • Ger • Glogov • Gorlitz • Grodzisk • Grybov • Hornsteipel • Hornostaypil-Milwaukee • Husiatyn • Izhbitz • Kalov • Kaminka • Kapust • Karlin-Stolin • Kashou • Kerestir • Klausenberg • Kobrin • Koidanov Komarno • Kopyczynitz • Korets • Koson • Kosov • Kotsk • Kozhnitz • Kozlov • Kretchenif • Krula • Kshanov • Kutna • Kuzmir • Lantzhit • Lechovitsh • Lelov • Liozna • Liske • Lutsk • Machnovka • Makarov • Makove • Manestrishtze • Mattersdorf • Melitz • Mezhbizh • Milwaukee • Modzitz • Mogelnitz • Mosholu • Munkatch • Muzhay • Nadvorna • Narol • Nassod • Nikolsburg • Novominsk • Ostrof • Ozharov • Pinsk-Karlin • Pilzno • Pittsburgh • Porisov • Premishlan • Pshemish • Pshevorsk • Pshischa • Pupa • Rachev • Rachmastrivka • Radomsk • Radoshitz • Radzin • Ratzfert • Rimanov • Rimnitz • Rizhin • Ropshitz • Sadigura • Sanz • Sasregen • Sassov • Satmar • Savran • Serdahel • Seret • Shedlitz • Shenitza • Shepetivka • Shidlovtza • Shinova • Shotz • Shpikov • Shtefanesht • Skolye • Skula • Skulen • Skver • Slonim • Sochatshov • Spinka • Stanislav • Stitshin • Strashelye • Stretin • Strikov • Strizov • Stropkov • Strozhnitz • Sudylkov • Sulitza • Tshenstechov • Tshenstkovitz • Temishvar • Tolno • Toltchav • Tosh • Trisk • Tshokava • Vien (Hasidic community) • Vien (Rabbinical dynasty) • Vizhnits • Vurka • Yeruslav • Zhvill • Zhvil-Mezhbuz • Zidichov • Zidichov-Beregsaz • Zinkov • Zhmigrod • Zlotchiv • Zutchke • Zychlin
Rebbes with non-eponymous dynasties 
Hasidim without a living rebbe 
See also 
- Oxford Dictionary of English, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary