Monday, January 14, 2008

Kevod Rabo Komplications Return

I recently learned in masekhet Sanhedrin, in the last chapter — Pereq "Hheileq", with all the theological/philosophical statements and crazy aggadas — that according to Rav Nahhman, one definition of an epiqoros who 'has no share in the Coming World' is one who calls his rav by his name, even when just referring to him in third person, as the proof-text from the Prophet Elisha‘'s unworthy assistant, Geihhazi, indicates.

Various Jewish legal texts (in .doc format), including the ‘Arukh Hashulhhan, delineate the obligations and prohibitions that one has to their rav. Most, but not all, are the same for your parents, including the prohibition on using their name [instead of title] to refer to them (name+title is fine for non-parents).

So it's asur to call your rav by their name, even when refering to them in talking to other people. And not only that, but if you do such a disrespectful act, you can lose your share in the Coming World!?

This is quite a dilemma when your rav is a friend of yours, who you had sort of already met in purely social situations once or thrice back before the world fell apart. If I hadn't suddenly needed a rabbi to get me through all this aveilut (mourning) stuff, we probably would have just ended up hanging out more with all our mutual friends and getting to know each other anyway, as did actually happen, except it would have been on a purely peer level instead of on an awkward mix of the peer paradigm and the pseudocongregant/rabbi or inquirer/decisor paradigm.

Luckily, all the laws about respecting one's rav only really apply to a rav muvhaq from whom you've learned most of your Torah knowledge — and not to just any teacher, poseiq or communal rabbi you may have. So that at least deals with the strictly legal and eschatological problems, if not the awkward relational issues.


Blogger Phillip Minden said...

There's a question if he's able to waive this, though, IIRC.

Sociolinguistically, both constantly referring to "old stinker Yankl" and to "my master and teacher, the rosh yeshive shlite" often is bragging, even in the same situation.

In fact, people sometimes even stress their familiarity with a person by davke being a bit more formal. Everybody might talk about Yankie and he's fine with that, but only his parents and a few close friends like you call him Yakov. And if you refer to Rav Lastname instead, you indicate you really call him Stinky when you're among peers.

1/17/2008 9:37 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

as far as i can tell, he's definitely able to waive it (and pretty much has waived everything), though, since it only really applies to a rav muvhaq and not just stam one's rav.

interesting point about the sociolinguistics... another complication is knowing how to refer to people in various contexts and environments, depending on the relations between not the speaker and the referent, but between the various listeners and the referent.

of course, since my rav has told me multiple times to not worry about such things, this post is a violation of his instructions, and where's the kavod there? :-P

1/17/2008 8:00 PM  
Blogger Lion of Zion said...

man i am going to hell.
when i was in yeshivah in israel we were on a first name basis with most of our teachers

1/18/2008 3:05 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

i was under the impression that the social norm in Israel was to call rabbi-type teachers Rav [FirstName], title included, and sometimes even only talk to them in third person (which is, in my opinion, very weird)

1/18/2008 6:40 AM  
Blogger Lion of Zion said...

oh no. i mean first name without a title.

the truth is i'm not sure if they all had formal "semikhah." but some of them certainly did.

shabbat shalom

1/18/2008 7:53 AM  

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