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In shul a friend explained to me the moniker Ari actualy stands for Eloki Rav Yitzchak, meaning the Godly Rabbi Yitzchak (Luria). The appellation Godly struck me as odd. How is such a thing permissible? I understand the English connotation is pious, but in Hebrew it would seem to have heretical implications.

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It could also stand for Adoneinu or Ashkenazi – Aryeh Sep 3 '13 at 15:53
@Aryeh I guess it could stand for anything beginning with aleph, but that was the one I was told :) – please remove my account Sep 3 '13 at 15:55
From The Sages of Our Tradition by Cyril Mazansky: "His family originated in Germany and had previously the name Ashkenazi, thus the initials of Ari (Ashkenazi Rabbi Isaac)" – Aryeh Sep 3 '13 at 16:34
@Aryeh, I'm unfamiliar with that source but if it's reliable then I think you have an answer (disproving a necessary assumption of the question). – msh210 Sep 3 '13 at 18:45
I've seen Hatana HaEloki Rabi Shimon Bar Yohai. – Hacham Gabriel Sep 4 '13 at 2:53
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Hokhmah Elohit is the term coined by translators like the ibn Tibbon's to translate the Arabic "al-'ilm al-ilaahiy", which, in turn, was coined by Arab translators from the Greek to translate Aristotle's term for metaphysics/theology. An 'elohi' is therefore a practitioner of metaphysics or theology. See Philosophical Terms in the Moreh Nebukim by Israel Efros, page 49.

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That's really interesting! Can you document this etymology or that this is the title that was applied to the Ari? – Isaac Moses Sep 4 '13 at 19:08
Ahh, I think I know what you're referring to. IIRC the Zohar refers to Kabbalah as Hochma Elohit and therfor some Kabbalists got the name "Elohi". – Hacham Gabriel Sep 4 '13 at 19:24
So it's Elohi not Eloki. – Double AA Sep 4 '13 at 21:09
@Hacham Are you suggesting the author of the Zohar read Ibn Tibbon? – Double AA Sep 4 '13 at 21:10
I could document the etymology as it applies in philosophical literature and ibn Tibbon-style Hebrew. I can't prove and don't know whether this is what everybody had in mind when they applied it to the Ari. I do think though that the the term first entered the Hebrew language with the meaning 'metaphysician'. – paquda Sep 8 '13 at 2:57

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