הרב, מה שלומו?‏

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Ali Smith

Senior Member
Urdu - Pakistan
שלום!

A student at a yeshiva was approached by a rabbi. The former immediately stood up and said, "הרב, מה שלומו?"

Shouldn't it have been "הרב, מה שלומך?"?

Thanks!
 
  • slus

    Senior Member
    Hebrew - Israel
    Yes, it's a sign of respect as Shalom said, but it is not common and not natural to Hebrew. It's like vous in French or вы in Russian.
     

    shalom00

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I don't know about Russian, but when I learned French, I was taught that vous is used for anyone that you do not know well, whereas tu is for someone you have a close relationship with. Also, vous is also second person. In Hebrew, the third person is used in two ways, depending on the speaker. Some use it in a way similar to vous, but others only for someone whom you wish to express respect for, such as a rabbi or a teacher. Either way, today it is mostly limited to Jewish religious circles, though not necessarily ultra-orthodox.
     

    Abaye

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    In many languages 3rd-singular or 2nd-plural are used as a respectful address. English "you" is an example. This doesn't include a certain Asian language on the east Mediterranean shore where even family names are seldom heard, as if everybody is everybody's bff.
     

    GeriReshef

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    I agree: it is not typical to Hebrew, and it was probably imported from the European languages;
    and as such, I don't think it is common to hear it in a Yeshiva.
    It is more common in court.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    When I attended public school in Israel in the 1950s, we addressed our teachers in the third person: "...המורה אמר אתמול ש" ("the teacher said yesterday that...") instead of "...אמרת אתמול ש" ("you said yesterday that ..."). At the time I thought the practice was imported from Europe, perhaps Germany. Using a German form of address, translated into Hebrew, so soon after the Holocaust seemed odd, but I didn't research it any further. I don't know if this is still a common practice.

    At the other extreme, I spent 7th and 8th grades in an experimental school that had been founded by the labor movement during the Mandate, in what was then the north of Tel Aviv. We addressed teachers by their first names there. I don't think we learned any less. Entering high school and having to switch back to third person felt weird. I slipped up occasionally at the beginning. I don't recall any of my teachers getting upset.
     

    Abaye

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    My experience is similar, although of later time. We addressed the teacher in first name, and yet we were exposed to other schools where the teacher was המורה or מורתי, and where pupils had to stand up when the teacher entered the class (as universally done for judge in court). This seemed to us crazy at the time, a subject for jokes.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    My experience is similar, although of later time. We addressed the teacher in first name, and yet we were exposed to other schools where the teacher was המורה or מורתי, and where pupils had to stand up when the teacher entered the class (as universally done for judge in court). This seemed to us crazy at the time, a subject for jokes.
    We stood up too. In fact, I remember a few times when, as a Gadna (גדנ״ע, short for גדודי נוער or "youth battalions," pre-military training that was required in all public high schools at the time) squad leader I had to go into other classrooms to make an announcement. The students all stood up for me. The first time it happened, when I was in the 11th grade, it took me a few seconds to realize why they were standing and that I should tell them that they could sit down.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    You might think it comes from European languages and/or customs, but I think it has its root in halacha.

    The standing certainly has its source in the Babylonian Talmud, Makkot 22b (for any Hebrew learners who are reading this, this is in Aramaic, so don't be confused by it):

    אמר רבא כמה טפשאי שאר אינשי דקיימי מקמי ספר תורה ולא קיימי מקמי גברא רבה
    Rava says, How stupid are other people who stand in front of a sefer torah, and do not stand in front of a great man.

    From this, we derive the halachot of standing before a תלמיד חכם and other classes of important people.

    As far as addressing rabbis in the third person, I believe the source for this is the prohibition of mentioning one's father or rabbi by name, also found in the Babylonian Talmud in a passage discussing the commandment of honoring one's father and mother, Kiddushin 31b (this time in Hebrew, except for the two introductory words, because it's a beraita):

    תנו רבנן חכם משנה שם אביו ושם רבו תורגמן אינו משנה לא שם אביו ולא שם רבו
    Our sages taught [in a beraita]: A sage [when speaking] changes his father's name and his rabbi's name [i.e. replaces the name with another word, such as "my father" or "my rabbi"], but an interpreter does not change neither his father's name nor his rabbi's name.

    This is the source for the halacha that one may not refer to one's father or one's rabbi directly by their name. Even though the Beraita speaks only of a sage and an interpreter, really what's it's doing is giving special cases for a law that one is presumed to already know, and thus it is saying that this applies even to a sage, but not to an interpreter (since he is just repeating the words of the one he is interpreting for).

    Though I do believe that the extension of this to always referring to a rabbi/teacher in the third person happened later, and possibly only in Ashkenazi lands, but I have not looked into this.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    Addressing a rabbi in the third person appears all through the Talmud, even one rabbi to another.
    I'm not sure that's the case. Yes, they usually use titles in place of names, and sometimes in place of overt pronouns as well, but conjugations and suffix pronouns are generally the ordinary second person ones.

    You even find this in Tanach with regard to kings and important officials. For example regarding King David. You even find this phenomenon with the first and third persons, where עבדך and אמתך are used to refer to yourself or other people. For example Yehuda speaking to Yosef (before he knows who he is).

    But my point is you don't find things like הרב, מה שלומו. Instead you'll either find things like מה שלום הרב or הרב, מה שלומך.
     
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