Photo Credit: Dall-E, Open AI

A rabbi is often faced with some uncertainty as to how he should introduce himself to others. One option is to introduce himself by saying, “Hello, my name is rabbi so-and-so.” However, perhaps introducing oneself with one’s rabbinic title may be overly assertive and appear to convey a sense of arrogance. Another option is to omit the title and allow for those present to figure out for themselves that one is to be addressed as “rabbi.” Very often, the manner in which one is dressed or the direction in which the ensuing conversation flows is enough to make others aware that one is a rabbi and should be addressed as such.1

Which is the preferred course for a rabbi to take?


The Talmud and its Sages offer some insight into how to conduct oneself in this situation. Rava points out that two verses in Scripture seem to contradict each other. In one, Ovadia says to Eliyahu: “Your servant has feared Hashem since his youth,2 which implies that there is nothing wrong with asserting one’s spiritual accomplishments. A seemingly contradictory verse, however, says: “Let a stranger praise you, but not your own mouth, an outsider, but not your own lips,3 which clearly indicates that one should not proclaim one’s own accomplishments.4

Rava explains this apparent contradiction by suggesting that the latter verse, “Let a stranger praise you, but not your own mouth…” only applies if there are individuals on hand who could inform others in attendance that one is a rabbi. If there is no one else present who could do so, however, then one may do so oneself. Indeed, there are a number of circumstances in which it is quite legitimate to ensure that those present are aware that one is a rabbi. For example, there is a well-known obligation to honor a Torah scholar. By not informing others that one is a Torah scholar, one would be personally responsible for the sins that they would commit if they were to treat one in a disrespectful or indifferent manner. So too, a rabbi should be given priority in several different situations, and this courtesy cannot be properly extended if those present don’t know that one is a rabbi.5

This idea is further illustrated by an episode involving Rav Huna. Rav Huna once visited the house of Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak. As Rav Huna was unknown in the place where Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak lived, he was asked by those who greeted him what his name was, to which he responded, “My name is Rav Huna.” When Rav Huna was asked why he chose to introduce himself as “Rav Huna” – which could be perceived as arrogant – he simply answered, “Because that’s my name!”6 We learn from the context of the exchange that follows (along with the various commentaries) that Rav Huna felt the need for all those who were present to be informed that he was a Torah scholar, which could not have been possible if he had merely responded, “My name is Huna.” As the Gemara continues, Rav Huna also used the opportunity to make himself known as a Torah scholar in order to teach others about proper conduct and manners. It is also worth mentioning that Rav Huna was noted for his modesty.7 Rav Avira conducted himself similarly.8 We see from this that one is permitted to call a rabbi, even one’s own rabbi, by their first name when it is prefaced by a title.9

It might just be that the use of a rabbinic title should be evaluated differently nowadays when it is no longer used in the manner that it once was. With minor exceptions, the title “rabbi” is rarely used to imply that one is a distinct scholar or spiritual leader, at least not in the same manner that Rav Huna and others used it. Rather, today, “rabbi” is essentially no more than a professional title. Today we have “rabbis” who don’t follow halacha, “rabbis” who are female, and even “rabbis” who proudly declare that they don’t believe in G-d. As such, it is not an act of arrogance for a practicing rabbi to introduce himself as such. It is merely a professional designation, not necessarily a spiritual or scholarly one.10

On the other hand, those who are not practicing rabbis may want to hesitate before introducing themselves as such. This is because when the title “rabbi,” and especially “rav,” is used outside of a professional or working context, it can be interpreted as being overly assertive and arrogant. Doing so might also imply that one is a scholar of note. Most rabbis who are scholars of note have no need to preface their name with “rabbi,” as their reputations precede them. A rabbi should also not feel slighted or offended if others do not address him as “rabbi.” As Rebbe Nachman teaches: “There are some tzaddikim who are never known by the title ‘rabbi.’”11 One would also be well advised to refrain from using one’s rabbinic title when in the presence of senior rabbis and scholars, as doing so might inadvertently minimize the recognition and honor due to them. In such situations, one may be well-advised to conform to the teaching of Rava, above.


  1. Sefer Chassidim 328.
  2. Melachim 1 18:12.
  3. Mishlei 27:2.
  4. Avot D’rabbi Natan 11:2; Pe’at Sadecha 1:115.
  5. Nedarim 62a, Rosh; Pe’at Sadecha 1:115. See also Sefer Chassidim 328.
  6. Pesachim 86b; Tosfot, Pesachim 86b s.v. Ba’al Hashem.
  7. Cf. Megilla 28a; Ketubot 105a.
  8. Chullin 51a.
  9. Rema, YD 242:15.
  10. Pe’at Sadecha 1:115.
  11. Sefer HaMiddot s.v. Tzaddik.

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Rabbi Ari Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He teaches halacha, including semicha, one-on-one to people all over the world, online. He is also the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (9 volumes), the rabbinic director of United with Israel, and a rebbe at a number of yeshivot and seminaries. Questions and feedback are welcomed: [email protected].