Rebbe (Hebrew: רבי: /ˈrɛbɛ/ or /ˈrɛbi/) is a Yiddish
word derived from the Hebrew word rabbi, which means "master, teacher,
or mentor". Like the title "rabbi" it refers to teachers of
leaders of Judaism.
In common parlance of modern times, the term "The Rebbe" is often used
specifically by Hasidim to refer to the leader of their Hasidic
1 Terminology and origin
4 The hasidic rebbe
4.1 Relationship of hasidim to their rebbe
Rebbe as tzadik
Rebbe as conduit
4.1.4 Hasidic followers of a rebbe
4.2 Functions of a hasidic rebbe
4.2.2 Tish and farbrengen
5 See also
7 External links
Terminology and origin
Yiddish term rebbe comes from the Hebrew word rabbi, meaning "My
Master", which is the way a student would address a master of Torah.
It was an honorific originally given to those who had
Smicha in the
Pharisaic and Talmudic era. Since vowels were not written at the time,
it is impossible to know historically whether it was pronounced
rah-bee (/ˈrɑːbi/) or r-bee (/ˈrɛbi/). The English word rabbi
(/ˈræbaɪ/) comes directly from this form. In Yiddish, the word
became reb-eh (/ˈrɛbɛ/)—now commonly spelled rebbe
(/ˈrɛbə/—or just reb (/ˈrɛb/). The word master רב rav
[ˈʁäv] literally means "great one".
The Sages of the
Mishnah known as the Tannaim, from the 1st and 2nd
centuries of the common era, were known by the title
Rabbi Akiva and
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochoy).
HaNasi, the leader of Jewry in Mishnaic Times, was simply called Rabbi
(/ˈræbi/), as being the rabbi par excellence of his generation.
The Sages of the
Talmud known as the Amoraim, from the 3rd, 4th and
early 5th centuries, those born in the Land of Israel, are called
Rabbi (/ˈræbi/); those born in the diaspora are known by the title
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Today, rebbe is used in the following ways:
Rabbi, a teacher of
Yeshiva students or cheder (elementary
school) students, when talking to their Teacher, would address him
with the honorific Rebbe, as the Yiddish-German equivalent to the
Rabbi (רַבִּי rabi [ˈʁäbi]).
Personal mentor and teacher—A person's main Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva
teacher, or mentor, who teaches him or her
Torah and gives
religious guidance, is referred to as rebbe (/ˈrɛbə/), also as
an equivalent to the term "rabbi".
Spiritual leader—The spiritual head of a Hasidic movement is called
a rebbe (/ˈrɛbə/). His followers would address him as "The
Rebbe" or refer to him when speaking to others as "the Rebbe" or "my
Rebbe". He is referred to by others as the
Rebbe of a particular
Hasidut. In Hebrew, a hasidic rebbe is often referred to as an AdMoR,
which is an abbreviation for Adoneinu, Moreinu, veRabbenu ("Our
Master, our Teacher, and our Rabbi"). In writing, this title is placed
before the name of the Hasidut, as in "Admor of Belz"; while the title
Rebbe comes after the name of the Hasidut when used as an adjective,
as in "Lubavitcher Rebbe", "Amshinever Rebbe", and every rebbe of
every Hasidic Dynasty. In the
Litvishe world, when not referring to a
hasidic rebbe (/ˈrɛbə/), the word can be pronounced "rebbee"
Jews can pronounce it as "Ribbi" (/ˈriːbi/).
The Lubavitcher hasidim have a tradition that the Hebrew letters that
make up the word rebbe (/ˈrɛbi/) are also an acronym for "Rosh Bnei
Yisroel", meaning "a spiritual head of the Children of Israel".
An ordinary communal rabbi, or "rebbe" in Yiddish, is sometimes
distinct from a "Rav" (/ˈræv/, also pronounced "Rov" /ˈrɒv/ by
Jews of Eastern European or Russian origin), who is a more
authoritative halakhic decider. A significant function of a
Rav is to
answer questions of halakha (corpus of Jewish law), but he is not as
authoritative as a posek. The short form "Reb" is an honorific for
Orthodox Jewish men, who are most likely to have profound knowledge of
Talmud and Torah, as opposed to Reconstructionist, Reform or
Conservative Judaism. Originally, this title was added to the names of
Jews at the time of the schism with the Karaite sect, as a sign of
loyalty to the original rabbinic tradition, known today as Orthodox
As a rule, among hasidim, rebbe (/ˈrɛbə/) is referred to in Hebrew
as "Admor" (pl. admorim), an abbreviation for Hebrew "Adoneinu Moreinu
V'Rabeinu", meaning "our Master, our Teacher, and our Rabbi", which is
now the modern Hebrew word in
Israel for "rebbe".
Hasidim use the term "rebbe" (/ˈrɛbə/) also in a more elevated
manner, to denote someone that they perceive not only as the religious
leader or nasi of their congregation, but as their spiritual
adviser and mentor. "The Rebbe" or "My Rebbe" in this sense is a rav
or rabbi whose views and advice are accepted not only on issues of
religious law and practice, but in all arenas of life, including
political and social issues. Sometimes a hasid has a rebbe as his
spiritual guide and an additional rav for rulings on issues of
Hasidim use the concept of a (non-hasidic) rebbe in the simple sense
of rabbi, as the Yiddish-German equivalent to the Hebrew word
רַבִּי rabi [ˈʁäbi]. For example: "I will ask my rebbe
(/ˈrɛbə/), rabbi (/ˈræbaɪ/) Ploni (so-and-so), for advice about
this personal matter."
The hasidic rebbe 
A hasidic rebbe (/ˈrɛbɛ/) is generally taken to mean a great leader
of a Hasidic dynasty, also referred to as "Grand Rabbi" in English or
an ADMOR, a Hebrew acronym for Adoneinu-Moreinu-veRabbeinu ("our
lord/master, teacher, and rabbi"). Outside of Hasidic circles the term
"Grand Rabbi" has been used to refer to a rabbi with a higher
spiritual status. The practice became widespread in America in the
early 1900s when Hasidic rebbes began to emigrate to the United States
and was derived from the German Grossrabbiner.
Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, is regarded by
Hasidim as the first Hasidic rebbe. During his lifetime he was
referred to mainly as "The holy" rather than as "Rebbe", and his
disciples were "magidim" or "preachers", such as the Magid of
Chernobyl or the Magid of Mezritsh.
The first "rebbe" to be known as such was the Baal Shem Tov's
Rabbi Boruch of Mezhibozh, who was referred to as "The
Rebbe" during his lifetime. After him, those who rose to positions of
leadership and their successors began to be called rebbe. The title
gradually came to suggest a higher spiritual status.
Each Hasidic group refers to its leader as "the rebbe".
Rachel Verbermacher, also known as the
Maiden of Ludmir or the
"Ludmirer Moyd", was the only female rebbe in the history of the
Hasidic movement; she lived in the 19th century in Ukraine and
Relationship of hasidim to their rebbe
Rebbe as tzadik
According to Maimonides, a tzadik is "one whose merit surpasses
[his/her] iniquity", and every person can reach the level of a Tzadik.
According to the Tanya, a tzadik has no evil inclination, and only a
select few predestined to attain this level can attain it. According
Kabbalah (and particularly the hasidic understanding of Kabbalah),
the world is sustained on the "shoulders" of Tzadikim Nistarim,
divinely predestined exceptionally righteous people in a generation.
Nobody has knowledge about who was such a tzaddik, even one of these
exceptionally righteous people would not know that they really are
such a tzadik. These people are understood to have perfected their
personal service of God to such an extent that they become literally
and physically aware of God. These righteous people's perception (of
both spiritual and physical, not to mention temporal matters)
transcends the apparent boundaries of existence.
However, a hasidic rebbe is generally said to be a righteous person,
called a "tzaddik". Furthermore, a rebbe is said to be able to
affect divine providence, and a rebbe is said to be able to "see the
future", or at least have strong insight into the life and trials of
As a result, hasidim in some hasidic circles seek their rebbe's advice
for a variety of concerns: spiritual, physical, and even business
concerns. Furthermore, many people seek the blessing (bracha) of a
rebbe (and a hasid will specifically seek the blessing of his own
rebbe) for anything from minor (and all the more so major) physical
troubles, to grand spiritual concerns. Many famous and common stories
of a rebbe's intervention involve women who successfully seek a
rebbe's blessing for fertility so that they can conceive after having
been barren for many years.
Kabbalah describes an extension of
Moses in each generation,
alternately identified with the
Tzadik of the generation, and the
potential Jewish Messiah of the generation. In Hasidism, each person's
soul essence relates to the level of Moses.
In some movements the hasidim believe that their rebbe is the "tzadik
hador" (tzaddik of the generation) and would regard any thought that
detracts from his perfection and holiness as heresy. Other sects
lessen this idealization to some degree or another. Since many rebbes
are sons-in-law or students of other rebbes, it makes sense that they
would view themselves as subordinate to those other rebbes.
Nonetheless, their hasidim remain loyal to them because of their
special loyalty, a family connection, or a belief that a specific
tzaddik or Nasi HaDor (although others might have greater spiritual
stature) connects best with one's soul. For example, the Kosover Rebbe
makes yearly pilgrimages to the Tosher Rebbe. Nonetheless, his
followers remain very loyal to him.
Rebbe as conduit
Unlike rabbis or non-hasidic rebbes in other Jewish movements, hasidic
Judaism considers a 'hasidic rebbe' to be a conduit between
God. On the basis of traditional Kabbalistic concepts and
Hasidic philosophy bridged deveikut, a Jewish concept
referring to closeness to God, to the hasidic rebbe, embodying and
channeling the Divine flow of blessing to the world, because Creation
is dependent on the continuous flow of Divine lifeforce, without which
it would revert to nothingness.
Hasidic followers of a rebbe
Given a rebbe's physical awareness of God, and the rebbe's
transcendent perception of Godliness, many hasidim take special care
to observe the specific and sometimes minute practices of their rebbe.
Even things that seem mundane may nonetheless be seen by hasidim as
incredibly significant. For example, Lubavitcher hasidim frequently
shape their fedoras to match the way that the Lubavitcher
his hat-which was more flat than many others. Many Skverer hasidim (of
Rebbe in New Square) wear their peyos identical to those
of the Skverer Rebbe. While hasidim do not always follow the specific
practices of their rebbe, the rebbe is able to create practices that
may be specific and unique to his hasidim. For example,
Roth (Reb Areleh, as he was called) the first rebbe of Shomer Emunim,
told his hasidim to pause frequently while eating their meals in order
to keep them from overindulging. A hasid will usually love his rebbe
like a close family member, if not more so. The degree and nature of
this belief varies, however, depending on the movement.
Functions of a hasidic rebbe
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There are some functions which are exclusively the domain of hasidic
Running a tish or leading a farbrengen
Others are not exclusive to Hasidic rebbes, but are often an important
part of their role:
Participating in family celebrations of the hasidim, such as weddings
and brisim (circumcision ceremony)
Performing mitzvos, etc. in the presence of their hasidim, such as
Chanuka lights and drawing water with which to bake
Leading the prayers on Shabbos, Holy Days, and other special occasions
Delivering learned or inspirational discourses (in
this is one of the main roles of a rebbe)
Build educational, social and religious institutions 
Main article: kvitel
A rebbe has times when Hasidim (and other petitioners) may come for a
private audience. A kvitel (
Yiddish for "note", plural kvitlach) is a
note with the name of the petitioner and a short request for which the
rebbe is asked to pray. The formula in which a person's name is
written is one's own Hebrew name, the son/daughter of one's mother's
Hebrew name, such as Shimon ben Rivkah (Simeon the son of Rebecca).
Hasidim believe that rebbes read supernaturally "between the lines" of
a kvitel, and in every Hasidic movement there are numerous anecdotes
relating how the rebbe saw things that were not written in the kvitel.
In most Hasidic groups, the kvitel is written by the rebbe's gabbai
(secretary), however sometimes the petitioner writes it on his own.
Usually, but with some exceptions, a pidyon (redemption) of cash is
customarily handed to the rebbe under the kvitel, but this is not
obligatory. This is considered to be the conduit through which the
blessing is given, and a redemption for the soul of the petitioner.
("A gift makes its receiver glad" is given as an explanation: a
blessing only comes from a joyous heart.) It is also customary to tip
the gabbai, although this too is not obligatory.
Tish and farbrengen
Tish (Hasidic celebration)
Tish (Hasidic celebration) and Farbrengen
Rebbe feert tish, lit. "runs [a] table" in his synagogue
in Beitar Illit
A rebbe conducts a tish (Yiddish: פֿירט טיש: feert tish,
literally, "to run [a] table") or a farbrengen—a communal festive
meal with highly mystical overtones—on
Shabbat and other occasions.
At a tish, the rebbe distributes shirayim (lit. remnants) to the
Hasidim seated at or gathered round the table. When a gathering
similar to a tish is led by a rabbi who is not a rebbe, it can be
referred to as a botte (esp. amongst groups from Romania) or sheves
List of Hasidic dynasties
^ a b c d Oxford Dictionary of English, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate
^ a b c d Heilman, Samuel. "The
Rebbe and the Resurgence of Orthodox
Judaism." Religion and Spirituality (Audio). UCTV, 20 Oct 2011. web.
31 Jul 2013.
^ a b Schneerson,
Rabbi Menachem Mendel. "The Head".
Kabbalah and the
Lubavitch Media Center. Retrieved 25 August
Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Halikhot Shlomo 1:370–373;
Salo Wittmayer Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, vol.
5 p. 283
^ Tractate Yevamot of the Babylonian
Talmud 49b–50a: "One whose
merit surpasses his iniquity is a tzadik". Mishneh Torah, Sefer Madda,
Laws of Repentance 3:1
^ God and the Zaddik as the two focal points of Hasidic worship Ada
Rapoport-Albert, in Essential Papers on Hasidism edited by Gershon
Hundert, NYU Press 1991
^ "Vienna Celebrates 'the Most Influential
Rabbi of Modern History'".
Alexandria, VA. Connection Newspapers. May 7, 2014.
Jewish Center will present Paradigm Shift: Transformational Life
Teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, a new six-session course by the
Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. The course will be offered as part of
a series of local activities in Northern Virginia marking 20 years
since the passing of "the Rebbe",
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of
righteous memory. The
Rebbe was a visionary religious leader who
inspired countless individuals during his lifetime and established a
global network of educational, social, and religious institutions to
revive the post-holocaust Jewish landscape.
Over 1,000 videos of rebbes
The Role of a
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