Q. In our shul since there are many learners and kollel people that attend, to avoid embarrassing anybody, when we call for aliyos to the Torah, we name everybody “harav.” Since we also have members that are far from fitting that description, some complained that it is not proper to call them horav, as it seems like a joke. What is the correct thing to do?
A. Chashukei Chemmed (Rosh Hashana 26a) mentions a similar question and quotes Talmud (Kesubos 16b), ‘How does one dance before the bride? Beis Shammai say: One recites praise of the bride as she is, emphasizing her good qualities. And Beis Hillel say: One recites: A fair and attractive bride. Beis Shammai said to Beis Hillel: In a case where the bride was lame or blind, does one say with regard to her: A fair and attractive bride? But the Torah states: “Keep you from a false matter” (Exodus 23:7). Beis Hillel said to Beis Shammai: According to your statement, with regard to one who acquired an inferior acquisition from the market, should another praise it and enhance its value in his eyes or condemn it and diminish its value in his eyes? You must say that he should praise it and enhance its value in his eyes and refrain from causing him anguish. From here the Sages said: A person’s disposition should always be empathetic with mankind, and treat everyone courteously. In this case too, once the groom has married his bride, one praises her as being fair and attractive.
He also cites the lenient opinion of the Shaarei Teshuva (3: 178-186) that when no monies are involved, one may lie for a good cause. However, he adds that Tiv Kiddushin (E.H. 65: 2) prohibits calling an ugly bride beautiful, as it is an obvious falsity. But you may use the term attractive or pleasant, since it has a different connotation.
Finally, he quotes Horav Eliashiv zt’l that the Talmud (Rosh Hashana 26a) relates of Rabi Shimon ben Lakish saying: When I went to the district of Kan Nishrayya, I heard that they called a bride ninfi. based on posuk: A “Beautiful view [nof ], the joy of the whole earth, Mount Zion” (Tehilim 48:3), which therefore means beautiful like a bride, even when she wasn’t, because of promoting Darkei Sholom.
He summarizes that we should commend the gabbaim that call all attendants ‘horav,’ and promote Darkei Sholom.
However, Horav Shlomo Miller’s Shlit’a opinion is that when the situation reaches a laughable and absurd stage, it is better to avoid using that title on all present. The Rov also quoted Talmud Kiddushin (49b): If a man says to a woman: Be betrothed to me on the condition that I am a scholar, one does not say that he must be like the scholars of Yavne, like Rabbi Akiva and his colleagues. Rather, it is referring to anyone who, when he is asked about a matter of wisdom on any topic related to the Torah, responds appropriately and can say what he has learned.
The Rov also suggested to use the term ‘rebbe’ instead.
Rabbi A. Bartfeld as advised by Horav Shlomo Miller and Horav Aharon Miller Shlit’a