Benzy Shani <bzs@...>
Walter Spector wrote:
I had a great uncle's tombstone translated. His father's name(my ggfather)
was translated as Rav Yosef. On the nine other tombstones for his children
is just Yosef. Does Rav have a special significance?
What it really says is "Reb Yosef".
"Reb" is a way of respecting someone who is not actually a Rabbi. It is
tantamount to inscribing "the honorable", or "Mr.".
On the tombstone of an "ordained" Rabbi it would have said "Harav".
Usually "Reb" is not spelled out, and instead it will say Resh-apostrophe.
The absence of "Reb" on any other tombstone is insignificant as the title is
not an official one and is not mandatory.
To make a short story long, the title "Rav", in the rabbinical sense,
followed by the first name (Rav Yosef) or full patronymic (Rav Shmuel bar
Nachman), is reserved for the Babylonian Amoraim, the Sevoraim, and the
Gaonim - the scholars of the Babylonian Talmud and post-Talmudic era.
(The Gaonim had the title Gaon following their name, e. g., Rav Saadiah
This was probably designed to demonstrate the defference of these scholars
to the Tannaim - the Mishnaic scholars - who were referred to as "Rabbi"
(pronounced with a long "e" sound at the end), followed by either their
first name alone (Rabbi Akiva) , their full patronymic (Rabbi Elazar ben
Azaria), or their first name followed by their location (Rabbi Yehuda ish
Kefar Ichos) or profession (Rabbi Yochanan Hasandlar).
Mishnaic scholars who were not "ordained" as Rabbis, did not carry the title
"Rabbi" (ben Zoma, ben Bagbag).
The title "Rabban" was only used in reference to Presidents of the
Sanhedrin, but this title only came into use after the destruction of the
Temple. (The Talmud teaches that "greater than Rabban is his own name", i.e.
the greatest greats need no title before their names (Hillel, Shamai, etc.).
The Palestinian Amoraim - the scholars of the Jerusalem Talmud - retained
the title "Rabbi", but this isn't to say that they deferred to the Tannaim
to any lesser extent than their Babylonian conterparts.
In the middle-ages, Rabbis were addressed as "Rabbeinu" (our Rabbi), or as
"Rabbi". The reason this latter was less common is that the
The form Harav-First Name- Surname, is the modern usage.
All the Best,
MODERATOR NOTE: Responses related to genealogy will be considered
for posting. Others should be sent privately.