JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Re: What does Rav mean? #general


In a message dated 8/10/2006 6:22:04 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, writes:

< < 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? >>

==The Hebrew word rav means "great," "much," "many."

==It is also a title meaning "master." In the Talmud, and among Ashkenazim,
Rav is a title for a rabbi--or, more correctly, Rabbi is an English rendering
of Rav.

==A rabbi is usually referred to in official documents and on tombstones as
heRav (the Rabbi) or Morenu heRav (our teacher, the Rabbi) or heRav haGaon
(the Rabbi and exalted scholar) or other words attesting to his status.

==It was common among Ashkenazim to bestow an honorary title to just about
any adult male. The most common form was Reb, Yiddish for Rav (identical
spelling in both Hebrew and Yiddish, but lacking the initial heh, for "the" that
marks heRav as a rabbi).

==heRav is a rabbi. Reb is used as an honorific title for just about any
adult male who hasn't been caught stealing or selling pork, the equivalent of
Mr. By coincidence, the Hebrew for Mister is Mar (actually an Aramaic term)
spelled mem-resh or M-R, and for Mrs it's MaRaTH, the Th in old Jerusalem and
Ashkenazi pronunciation being pronounced rather like an S, so that MRS in
Aramaic is . . . . MRS.

==The tombstone of a real rabbi, even if he couldn't preach and never kept a
job for long is almost always inscribed with a number of honorific terms
that go beyond Rav. What you have on the tombstone in question is almost
certainly a simple "Reb" or "Mr."

Michael Bernet, New York

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