IIRC, the word Rav appears in the Tanakh as an adjective ("עצום ורב" or "רב לכם בני לוי". Probably in Jonah 1:6 "רב החובל" it is a name?).

Earlier leaders (Moses, Yehoshua, judges, prophets) and earlier Rabbis (Zugot) weren't called "Rav". All of sudden "Rabbis" appeared in different forms: Rabban, Rabbi, Rav, Rebbi, etc.

Why after Hillel and Shammai, did the tradition break, and the title "Rav" appear?

2 Answers 2


In Lecheker Shemot Vekinuyim Batalmud, on names and nicknames in the Talmud, Rav Reuven Margolies write (2:13):

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That is, before the "Rabbanim Gedolim" had a political power, but no more after Hillel and Shammaï, so they added a title to emphasize that.

  • Can you please take a better picture, I can't read after "במידה...". And how "תואר רבנות" is connected to their political activities?
    – Al Berko
    Mar 29, 2021 at 20:23
  • I don't have the sefer, I screenshoted from here : hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=22322&st=&pgnum=11 I think they added a title that is clearly Torah-y (Rabban) to show that they have no more political power
    – EzrielS
    Mar 29, 2021 at 20:33
  • Can you transcript it to your best? I also do not see a special explanation of the need to add a title as the generations degenerated.
    – Al Berko
    Mar 29, 2021 at 20:56
  • שמותיהם בלבד, ללא כל תיאור נוסף, כמו הנשיאים הקודמים, שהיו להם גם כוח פוליטי. וכותרתו של הרב התווספה מאוחר יותר, כשכוחם פחת והם היו רק מורי תורה (ראו את ספרי יסוד המשנה בעמוד 12), מלבד רבנו הקדוש שכונה "הנשיא" מכיוון שהיה גם הנציג הפוליטי של העם. It's not a real transcription (I wroted in frensh then translated), but it's how I undertood. Maybe the title added was vis a vis of goyim, to "explain" them that they was not political and should not be worried of a revolt (didn't work well with Rabbi Akiva thru)
    – EzrielS
    Apr 2, 2021 at 15:08

You are correct that the sage Hillel had no title. The term “rabbi” was first used by Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai when he inaugurated the idea of rabbis, hakham, “knowledgeable ones." In Israel the rabbis were called rabee while the ones in Babylon were referred to as rav.

  • Rabee? Not Ribbi?
    – Aaron
    Mar 29, 2021 at 22:37
  • @Aaron Yes, Rebbe.
    – Turk Hill
    Mar 29, 2021 at 22:59
  • “Why... did the tradition break?”
    – Alex
    Mar 30, 2021 at 2:12
  • Sorry, again, the question asks why this was instituted, not when or by whom.
    – Al Berko
    Mar 30, 2021 at 18:34
  • @AlBerko It was instituted because when the temple was destroyed in 70 CE the temple no longer existed and Jews had to preserve Judaism some other way, w/out the temple.
    – Turk Hill
    Mar 30, 2021 at 18:49

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