The Rabbi,  Israel’s teacher

Rabbi was a title of respect for a Jewish teacher or scholar. Those to whom this title was applied were well-versed in interpreting Jewish law and doctrine. 

The status Judaism has accorded to prominent Rabbis is illustrated by the terms of address used of them, terms like ‘Light of Israel’ and ‘The Chief Pillar’ (Polano c1876, 291).

Rabbis would use a wide range of techniques to communicate their messages. Proverbs, caricatures and metaphors were all employed, but rabbis were also quick to use parables to illustrate their points, doing so far more frequently than was usual in the rest of the ancient Greco-Roman world. For example, when asked about Num 16:22“Will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”, Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai answered with the following typical parable. 

“It is like men sitting in a ship. One took a drill and began boring beneath his seat. His fellow-travellers said, ‘What are you doing?’ He responded, ‘What does it matter to you? It’s my seat I’m boring under!’”

(Lev. Rab. 4:6, from Newman 2000, n.p.)

They would often root their teaching in everyday experience. For example, the Talmud reports that when Rabbi Joshua was asked why God created mankind, despite knowing that they would sin, the rabbi challenged his questioner whether he had rejoiced at the birth of his own children, despite knowing that they would ultimately have to die? (Polano c1876, 289-90).