1902 Encyclopedia > Rabbi


RAB, RABBI, RABBAN, RABBONI, RABBENU, Jewish titles of honour. Rab (31), "lord," "master," " teacher," is the title prefixed to the name of such a Babylonian teacher of the Law or expounder of the Mishnah as, though authorized to "judge " and to decide other religious questions, has not been ordained, or fully ordained, in Palestine. Rabbi (______, Matt, xxiii. 7, &c), " my teacher," is the title of a teacher fully ordained in Pales-tine. Rabban, "our teacher" or "our lord," but also "their," i.e., all Israel's, teacher (p"j, later form of D3"i), was the title of the prince (president of the synedrium) from the time of Gamliel I. (the Gamaliel of St Paul) and onward. If a prince-president sprang from any other house than Hillel's, who was a descendant of David through the female line (as, for example, R. El'azar b. 'Azaryah), he was not called by this highest title of honour. The only ex-ception to this rule was Rabban Yohanan b. Zakkai, to whom Jewish traditional lore owes so much,—nay, its very existence. For he not merely had a distinguished circle of pupils of his own (Aboth, ii. 8, 9), but he saved the lives of the members of the synedrium and secured its free activity. Vespasian, who knew him to have been friendly to the cause of Rome, granted him " Yamnia and its sages" at his request (T. B., Gittin, 56b). In Babylonia, again, Rabbana (Rab-bono) was the title of the Resh Galutha, or "head of the captivity." He who bore it was always the reigning descendant of the house of David in the male line. The only person on whom this title was bestowed, though he was not Resh Galutha, was Rab Ashe (T. B., Keilmboth, 22a), the principal editor of the Babylonian Talmud, who is reported to have united in his person riches, learning, and virtues such as no man had possessed since the time of " Rabbi," the principal editor of the Mishnah (T. B., Gittin, 59a).

RAB, when the title is not followed by an individual name, denotes par excellence Abba Arekha (Arikha), so called either from the place Arekha in Babylonia, or be-cause of his high stature, or his eminence as a man and scholar. Abba Arekha was the most successful teacher of the Law and interpreter of the Mishnah in Babylonia, having brought the latter with him from Palestine, where he had received it orally and directly from Rabbi Yehudah Hannasi; he taught it to more than 1200 pupils, whom he is related to have housed, fed, and clothed (T. B., Ketlmboih, 106a). He introduced many religious and moral reforms, notably in connexion with marriage, which are law among the Jews of all countries to this day. His Hebrew prose approaches the sublimity of the Old Testa-ment poetry, as may be seen from the tripartite " addi-tional service" recited by all Rabbinic Jews on the two days of the " New Year." He is also in Babylonia the sole representative of the sublime Palestinian Agaddth, which so closely resemble the words of the Founder of Christianity. In patience with others, and especially with his shrewish wife, he surpassed Job himself. He died as the first head of the academy of Sura (somewhat later identified with-Matha Mehasya) in 247 A.D., more than eighty years old.

RABBI, when the title is not followed by a proper name, denotes par excellence Rabbi Yehudah Hannasi, the principal editor of the Mishnah (see vol. xvi. p. 504).

The Hellenistic
RABBONI (______, John xx. 16) is the Aramaic ribboni used by a slave of his master, a son of his father, a wife of her husband, a worshipper of his God. (Compare the similar variation of the vowel in pisho = iracrxa.)

RABBENU signifies " our teacher" par excellence, and means in Palestine R. Yehudah Hannasi, and in Babylonia Rab (i.e., Abba Arekha).

Rabbah (_____), also Rubbo and Rnbbob, a title placed in the Palestinian Talmud and Midrashim after the names of certain teachers (T. Y., Berakhoth, i. 1; Kilayim, ix. 3, and elsewhere), corresponds to the Hebrew hum in the same connexion in the Babylonian Talmud (Berakhoth, 6a, and elsewhere), and does not, as has hitherto been supposed, mean "the great" but simply "the elder." Thus many questionable Talmudie magnitudes disappear. (S. M. S.-S.)

The above article was written by: S. M. Schiller-Szinessy, M.A., Ph.D., Reader in Talmudic Literature, University of Cambridge.

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-23 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries