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What is the significance of the word "Hakatan" after one's surname? If this descriptive is used by learned people and rabbonim, then is it not self-defeating to call oneself "Hakatan"?

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  • Please give some examples.
    – Al Berko
    Jun 25, 2019 at 19:18
  • Some people write this out of modesty, "me the small/modest Reb X etc."
    – mbloch
    Jun 25, 2019 at 19:37
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    R' Menashe Klein signed his name as "Menashe hakatan", which is a play on his surname
    – simyou
    Jun 26, 2019 at 6:59

1 Answer 1

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The Talmud Yerushalmi (Sotah 9:13) asks why Shmuel Hakatan was called "Hakatan", and it provides two explanations:

ולמה נקרא שמו קטן לפי שהוא מקטין עצמו ויש אומרים לפי שמעט היה קטן משמואל הרמתי

And why was his name called "katan" (small)? Because he diminished himself. And some say because he was slightly lesser than Shmuel Haramati.

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