When speaking to the rav of a community, what title should one use? "Hello, Rabbi X" would surely be acceptable for someone with regular semicha, but perhaps not for a person who is referred to as "Harav X" in the third person. I am pretty sure "Hello, Rav X" is wrong, although I do hear some people say it that way. What, then, is correct?

Related: Okay to address a rabbi with "you"?

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    Why do you think "Hello, Rav X" is wrong?
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 20:19
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    @Scimonster Perhaps he should be addressed in the third person as a sign of respect such as "Would the Rav please explain this problem to me". Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 20:58
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    @sabbahillel There are many possibilities. This depends very much on context, and who is speaking. For example, the same person may be addressed as "rebbi" by a close student, and "rav" by others. Or, the same person may be addressed as "rabbi" in one country and "k'vod harav" in another. In some locations, every male above a certain age may be addressed as "reb", often avoiding this issue.
    – WAF
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 21:13
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    AFAIK, G'dolei Hador (the greatest rabbis of the generation) such as Rav Kamentzky, Rav Pam, Rav Schneerson, Rav Halberstam were all addressed as either "rav" or "rebbe", when you addressed them directly. B"N, the next time I see Rav Kamenetzky's son or grandson, I'll ask him what people did. I have a hunch hat he'd confirm what I've stated. Of course, I know one person who addressed the rav as "Abba" ;-)
    – DanF
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 21:30
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    @DanF My grandson called his rebbe "tattie" at home and "rebbe" when in shiur. Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 22:16

2 Answers 2


The Shulchan Aruch (in Yore De'ah סימן רמב - שלא להורות בפני הרב, ודין רב שמחל על כבודו) discusses greeting one's Rav - and mentions that one doesn't greet him as one does any other person, and possibly one shouldn't greet him at all.

טז לֹא יִתֵּן שָׁלוֹם לְרַבּוֹ וְלֹא יַחֲזִיר לוֹ שָׁלוֹם, כְּדֶרֶךְ שְׁאָר הָעָם, אֶלָּא שׁוֹחֶה לְפָנָיו וְאוֹמֵר לוֹ בְּיִרְאָה וּבְכָבוֹד: (שָׁלוֹם עָלֶיךָ רַבִּי, וְאִם נָתַן לוֹ רַבּוֹ שָׁלוֹם, אוֹמֵר לוֹ) שָׁלוֹם עָלֶיךָ מוֹרִי וְרַבִּי. וְכֵן נוֹהֲגִין. וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים דְּאֵין לְתַלְמִיד לִשְׁאֹל בִּשְׁלוֹם רַבּוֹ כְּלָל, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: רָאוּנִי נְעָרִים וְנֶחְבָּאוּ (אִיּוֹב כח, ט) . (יְרוּשַׁלְמִי הֱבִיאוֹ הַגָּהַת מַיְמוֹנִי פֶּרֶק ה' וְכֵן כָּתַב תא''ו נָתִיב ב' וּבֵית יוֹסֵף בְּשֵׁם רַבֵּנוּ יוֹנָה)‏

Loosely translated:

16: One should not greet one's teacher nor return his greeting the way one does with other people, instead one bows towards him and says - with awe and respectfully: ("Shalom to you, Rebbi", and if one was greeted by him first, one replies) "Shalom to you my teacher and Rebbi". And this is the custom. Some say that a student should not greet his teacher at all, as it says (Iyov 28:9) "The lads says me and hid".

So casually saying "hello" could be a problem.

As to his title - that would depend on local custom. In Sephardi circles the Rav is titled "Chacham", in Yeshivish circles it's either "haRav" or "Rosh haYeshiva" and in many circles a Rabbi is addressed in 3rd person, as in "I didn't understand what the Rav just told me".

  • The language mentioned above seems to refer to one's personal rav. I think the O.P. meant what if you meet a great rav who is in another community or someone such as the Bobover Rebbe who is not your personal rav?
    – DanF
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 20:39
  • Really interesting. So how does one start the conversation, then? (I'd love it if you could perhaps translate your Yore Deah; no pressure!)
    – SAH
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 8:27
  • @SAH - does my transaction answer your question? Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 9:02
  • @DannySchoemann In your last paragraph, with the titles such as "HaRav," how would one use them as forms of address? (Not necessarily greeting.)
    – SAH
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 20:15
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    Supposedly one Talmud (Yerushalmi?) says one shouldn't greet one's rov, whereas the other (Bavli?) provides instructions for doing so
    – SAH
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 15:20

Well, it seems there's a truly definitive answer to this question.

Th ere are two halachic indivisible units of time. When it comes to interruption, or for defining a single statement (e.g. when correcting oneself in davening) the unit is tokh kedei dibbur — within the time it takes to say [“Shalom eilekha Rebbe uMori“], a greeting of 4 words consisting of 10 syllables.


The uMori may be optional.

  • How is this possibly a definitive answer. We see that there is one convention that existed (at least locally) many many centuries ago. Why would this possibly be relevant to the proper way to address a rabbi today, which would presumably be based on contemporary standards?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 0:48

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