Honorifics in Judaism
There are a number of honorifics in Judaism that vary depending on the status of and the relationship to the person to whom one is referring.
Literally, "Rabbi" means 'my master'. It is the same Hebrew word as "Rav", (see below) with the possessive suffix "i". Although it is technically a possessive form, it is used as a general title even for those who are not one's personal teacher, particularly for the Tannaim, and, in its English form, for any rabbi.
"Rav" is the Hebrew word for "master," and is closely related to the Hebrew form which gives rise to the English "Rabbi." "Rav" can be used as a generic honorific for a teacher or a personal spiritual guide, similar to Rabbi.
In Modern Hebrew, Rav is used for all rabbis, equivalent to the English "Rabbi."
In the Orthodox non-Hebrew speaking world, "Rabbi" is often used as a lesser title, with more famous rabbis receiving the title "Rav".
In some communities, "Rav" is also used like "Reb". This is common in Judeo-Czech.
Rebbe may refer to the leader of a Hasidic Judaism movement, a person's main rosh yeshiva (a rabbi who is the academic head of a school) or mentor, or to an elementary school teacher as referred to by his/her students.
In many Hasidic groups the Rebbe gives spiritual guidance; but for questions of halakhah they ask a Rav. This Rav is sometimes referred to as the Rav of the Hasidic group. This position normally is occupied by the Av Beis Din or chief justice, of a Hasidic group. In some Hasidic groups, such as Belz and Satmar, the Rebbe and Rav are concurrent positions. In Hasidic groups with similar organizations, the Admo"r will be referred to by the interchangeable titles. In those groups where the positions are divided, they will not. For example, the Satmar Rav and the Satmar Rebbe are the same person. The Breslover Rebbe and the Breslover Rav are not.
Other honorifics include Admo"r, K'vod K'dushas, Shlit"a and Shy'.
"Admor" is an acronym for "Adonainu, Morainu, VeRabbeinu," a phrase meaning "Our Master, Our Teacher, and Our Rebbe." This is an honorific title given to scholarly leaders of a Jewish community. In writing, this title is placed before the name, as in "Admor of Pinsk" or “R' (stands for Rabbi, Rav, or Reb) Ploni Almoni, Admor of Redomsk.”
This term is used to point to the leaders of the generation, for example rav Shmuel Auerbach.
"Hakham" (wise one) is an alternate title for rabbis (especially Sephardic ones) but also includes some sages (such as ben Zoma and ben Azzai who were never formally ordained). It is also the primary title of Karaite spiritual leaders, perhaps on the Sephardic model but also to emphasize their role as advisors rather than authorities.
"Maskil" מַשְׂכִּיל or "ha-maskil" indicates a scholar or an "enlightened man", used before the name. For its use in the Haskalah movement, see Maskil.
'Shlit"a' (or sometimes 'SHLYT"A') is an acronym for "Sheyikhye Lirot Yamim Tovim Arukim/Amen," “May he live a good long life” or “May he live a good life, Amen,” given to a revered rabbi or to someone's child's Rebbe (teacher). This title is usually placed after the name and/or other title(s).
- Note that the Rebbe sh'lita has instructed and requested all of Bar Mitzvah age and older to regularly put on tefillin.
- HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Yaakov Borenstein, Shlita, To Address Acheinu Parlor Meeting In Flatbush. (Also note the use of HaGaon, meaning "The Pride of", and HaRav, a variation on Rav above where Ha means "The".)
"Shy'" is an acronym for "Sheyikhye," meaning “May he live”. This title is usually placed after the name.
For the dead
In reference to levite descent. Used preceding surname.
In reference to Priestly descent. Used preceding surname.