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Living people sometimes have "שליט״א" added after their respective names. This means, roughly, "may he live a good, long life". That seems like a nice blessing for anyone; yet, in my experience, only great people (rabbis and the like) and forebears are so blessed. I wonder why this is.

  • Does anyone know of a source that discusses, specifically, the use of "שליט״א" either only for special people or for all (not unworthy) people? What does that source say?

But I'm guessing there's no such source. In that case:

  • How long has this blessing been in use? Did it start as a blessing only for special people or for all (not unworthy) people? If it started general, when did it become specific?
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    Similar: זצ"ל vs. ע"ה ... and vs. ז"ל, for that matter: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/17723/… – Isaac Moses Aug 12 '13 at 18:27
  • Well I'll call anyone who wants Shelita. @msh210shelita – Double AA Aug 12 '13 at 18:32
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    @IsaacMoses, also זי"ע. – Seth J Aug 12 '13 at 19:40
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    I think because it's a play on words for Shlita - rulership. Normal people get Sheyichye. – Shmuel Brin Aug 12 '13 at 20:48
  • I have a Tzadik friend who writes in his books his name "X X Shlita". It just means live long. – Hacham Gabriel Sep 10 '13 at 16:16
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The Rama (CM 49:7) and the Levush (ibid.) use the expressions שליט"א and שלי"ט as an example of a siman on a document that could be used to distinguish two people of the same name and same father's name if only one of them had a father still living. This example is also mentioned in the works of subsequent acharonim. Apparently, this appellation was even for ordinary people.

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Rabbi David Sperling responds on Ask the Rabbi

Shalom, Thank you for your question. You are absolutely correct that we wish everyone a long and healthy life. The appellation "Shlita" is generally applied exclusively for rabbis only because of common usage – there is no reason other than as a sign of respect (just as I as a boy called all my teachers "Sir"). But in fact it could well apply to everyone – and Rabbi Avigdor Neventsal Shlita, the rabbi of the old city of Jerusalem, uses the term after everybody's name, be they rabbi or not. (Though in practice you might make people feel uncomfortable if you started writing "shlita" after everybody's names, because they will think that you think they are more important than they actually are or think they are).

Blessings - May you live for many good days, amen – Shlita!

  • I'm with this rav, Mr. Gold, Shlita. I'm going to try using shlita for my wife and kids. Now, if I can find a bracha requesting that they all live longer than me. – DanF Jul 5 at 13:19

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