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I understand that A"H is translates to "may he/she rest in peace," which is indeed closer to what non-Jews say in gentile societies. However, I also understand Z"L is also an honorific for the dead, which translates to "may his/her memory be a blessing" or "of blessed memory." Which is more common among Jews? Which is more proper, and for what occasions?

  • On most Jewish sites I've run across, Z"L is the one used. Somebody here knows why and lots more, I'm sure. – Gary Mar 30 '18 at 3:25
  • Welcome to MiYodeya AviG. Hope to see you around! – mbloch Mar 30 '18 at 3:30
  • I think both are used. For example, it's always Moshe Rabbeinu a''h but Ari z''l. I'd say zichrono livracha is more common though. – ezra Mar 30 '18 at 4:54
  • So Ezra, are you saying that only prophets and biblical figures get A"H? – AviG Mar 30 '18 at 7:05
  • @ezra that's because Moshe and not the Ari was referred to in Tanakh as עבד השם – Double AA Mar 30 '18 at 8:42
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Great rabbis and other figures -- other than Moses, see below -- tend to get zichrono livracha (or zecher tzadik livracha). Alav hashalom is something you'll hear colloquially about a parent or something who wasn't necessarily a great scholar. (Though it's still acceptable to reverse those.) And then there's Moses, for whom the phrase alav hashalom was coined!

Alav haShalom actually arrived at Hebrew via the Arabic! Islam refers to their central prophet as "peace [and blessings] be upon him", so when Maimonides (who lived in Muslim lands almost all his life) wrote in Judeo-Arabic, he wrote "Moses our Teacher -- peace be upon him!" Those works were later translated into Hebrew, and the phrase alav hashalom stuck.

  • Actually ע"ה originally meant עבד השם and was used for biblical greats only. Later with the influence of Islam people reinterpreted the acronym to mean Peace Be Upon Him, but that's not really a Jewish thing – Double AA Mar 30 '18 at 8:40
  • You also quite often hear Avraham Avinu alav hashalom, especially in the context of brit milah – Joel K Mar 30 '18 at 8:50
  • @joel another instance of אברהם אבינו עבד השם being corrupted – Double AA Mar 30 '18 at 9:29
  • I'm seeing on a lot of websites from synagogues, religious websites, etc. that Z"L is used way more than A"H – AviG Mar 30 '18 at 22:28

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