views updated Jun 08 2018


In the Talmud

The many titles appearing in talmudic literature may be roughly classed into two (sometimes overlapping) categories: titles of respect and titles of office. Almost all these titles make their first appearance not earlier than in the middle or late part of the first century c.e. Thus all "pre-tannaitic" personalities, with the exception of Simeon the Just, bore no titles, unless the term ish (lit. "man [of]") in Avot 1:4 designates some high office rather than merely meaning "native of." Other titles of the Temple period refer mainly to the priestly hierarchy, e.g., Kohen gadol, segan ha-kohanim, among others.

titles of respect

The most important in this category is a group of three related terms: rabban, rabbi, and rav.

According to the Tosefta (Eduy. end) "he who has disciples, and his disciples have disciples, is called rabbi. If his disciples are forgotten (but his statements are handed down) he is called rabban. If both are forgotten he is quoted by his name." No such use of rabban, however, occurs in rabbinic literature, and Allon suggests that this baraita refers to the manner in which a disciple referred to the teachings of his teacher which he had heard or which had been transmitted to him, but not to the titles accorded them by the people as a whole. In point of fact, the only sages upon whom the title rabban was conferred were heads of the central academy, or the Sanhedrin after Hillel, including Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai and Hillel's descendants, Gamaliel i, ii, iii, and Simeon b. Gamaliel iii (cf. Iggeret Sherira Ga'on, ed. by B.M. Lewin (1921), 125f.). It was then a title of supreme distinction granted to the head of the academy. The term rabbi was granted to all Palestinian scholars from the late first century onward who had received *semikhah ("ordination"). Its use in Matthew 23:7, 8 is generally regarded as anachronistic. (Rabbi, without a proper name, refers to Judah ha-Nasi i.) The Ashkenazim vocalize the name as rabbi (רַבִּי), which may mean "my master." The Sephardim, however, vocalize it ribbi (רִבִּי) with no suggestion that it is the first person suffix of "master." Some of the talmudic sages, in fact, have the cognomen be-ribbi added to their name; cf. Yose b. Ḥalafta (Suk. 26a), Judah b. Ilai (Men. 34b), Eleazar ha-Kappar (Av. Zar. 43a), and Joshua b. Levi (Kid. 80). Rashi explains be-ribbi as "a scholar of outstanding acumen" (Suk. 26a) and Samuel b. Meir as "a leading scholar of his generation" (Pes. 100a). Ezekiel Landau (Noda bi-Yhudah, mahadura tinyana, oḤ no. 113) differentiates between be-ribbi as a title added to a name, which means a leading scholar, and biribbi unattached to a name, which refers to an individual. In Babylon, however, where scholars were not ordained, they were only called rav ("master"; see Arukh, s.v. אביי, but cf. Tosef., Eduy. ad. fin.).

The term abba ("father"), originally an address of esteem and affection, came to mean something less than rabbi (Abba Saul, Judah, etc.). The term mar (or mari, "my lord") seems to have had a similar semantic history, though when used in Babylon (Mar Samuel, Ukba, Zutra) probably meant more than just rav. Other appellations of respect are he-ḥasid ("the righteous"; cf. Suk. 52b), and the more technical ḥakham, talmid ḥakham ("scholar") and others.

titles of office

The biblical nasi ("prince") was used in tannaitic times to designate the president of the Palestinian community. In Babylon, the exilarch was called resh galuta (lit. "head of the Diaspora"). The head of the Sanhedrin was entitled av bet din, and members of the court zekenim ("elders"). There were also the following Palestinian titles: rosh keneset ("head of a synagogue"?); *parnas ("communal administrator"); and gabbai ẓedakah ("public collector and distributor of charity"). A ḥazzan was a synagogue sexton (Suk. 51b), a school superintendent (Shab. 1:3) or, in collegiate debates, a chairman (tj, Ber. 4:1, 7d). In Babylon, the president of the students assembled to study in Adar and Elul was called resh kallah, and was second only to the resh sidra; an assistant teacher was called resh dukhan (bb 21a), a college janitor maftir keneset, and the town guard ḥazzan mata.

Finally, "a member of the order for the observance of levitical purity in daily intercourse" was known as a *ḥaver. However, in amoraic times, both in Palestine (tj, Ta'an. 1:6, 64c: "fellow of the rabbis") and Babylon (Beẓ. 25a), it could simply mean a fellow student. Often honorific epithets were assigned to outstanding personalities, but these are descriptive rather than titles proper.

[Daniel Sperber]

In the Middle Ages

Among Jews in the Middle Ages, titles stemmed from community leadership, from scholarship, or from a pious way of life. Titles would be transferred from one of those spheres to express admiration for an individual. Among titles designating both scholarship and office was the *archipherecites or resh pirka, head of the academy, mentioned in the sixth century. From the academies of Babylonia, as well as from participation in the leadership functions of the geonic period, come the titles *gaon, *av bet din (abad), *alluf or *resh kallah, as well as the leadership titles resh golah ("*exilarch") in Babylonia, nasi in other lands, and *nagid in Egypt, Kairouan, and Spain. The community leaders held a variety of titles in many languages. Some of the Hebrew ones are *parnas, kahal, rosh, ne'eman, manhig, tuv, ikkor, *alluf, and *gabbai. The communal functionaries were shoḥet u-vodek, moreh ẓedek, *dayyan, *shammash, *ḥazzan, *rav, rosh yeshivah, and *maggid. Since the 15th century, among Ashkenazi Jewry the titles ḥaver, morenu, and rav appear in connection with the Ashkenazi *semikhah. The rabbi of the local community is defined as the mara de-atra. In the 15th century the title manhig ("leader") for rabbis appeared, only to disappear in the 16th, and for a short period rosh golah reappeared as an honorific title. Appellations denoting special attributes were ha-navi, he-ḥasid, ha-sar ha-gadol, ha-go'el ha-malakh, ha-kadosh ("martyr"). For Sephardi Jewry *ḥakham and marbiẓ torah are the main functional titles for scholars. Among the ḥasidic appellations are *admor (adonenu morenu ve-rabbenu), and ba'al shem tov. Among the Sephardi Jews *ḥakham bashi was in use for the Turkish chief rabbi. In modern times the appellation rav rashi ("chief rabbi") appears.

[Isaac Levitats]


A. Orenstein, Enẓiklopedyah le-To'orei Kavod be-Yisrael (1958– ); Allon, Meḥk, 1 (1957), 253–5. in the middle ages: Baron, Community, 3 (1942), index; Eisenstein, Yisrael, s.v.To'orei Kavod.


views updated May 23 2018

titles Formerly hereditary designations corresponding to rank within a well-defined social hierarchy under an emperor or monarch. Modern-day hereditary titles may still be passed on, but most titles are conferred by a head of state for the lifetime of the recipient only. In the English-speaking world, formal hereditary titles are (in descending order of consequence): king, prince, duke, earl, viscount, baron.


views updated May 17 2018

ti·tled / ˈtītld/ • adj. (of a person) having a title indicating high social or official rank.