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RABBI: The American Sign Language (ASL) sign for "rabbi"
 

Often you will see the concept of "rabbi" fingerspelled.

A common sign for rabbi moves "R-hands" downward a bit near the upper body to show the tallit or prayer shawl worn by a rabbi or perhaps the hair sidecurls (payos or a payot) worn by some.

(Also see:  Jewish)
 




In being further educated on the etymology of this sign I've made a mental note that the next time I redo any graphics for the rabbi page I want to do the sign using a somewhat smaller movement to better reflect that it is based on a shawl rather than a robe.

However, (the plot thickens), after investigating this sign a bit from an international perspective, I'm sort of convinced that the sign may not be about the overall shawl either. When I look at international signers I'm seeing a movement that uses index fingers pointing up and moving down in a curly pattern that seems more reflective of what I believe are called tzitzits.

Or there is even a chance that the sign is related to sidecurls (of hair) that I believe are called 'Payos.'

In either case, the "R" hand (in the ASL version) probably isn't representing the letter "R" in rabbi (and certainly not the "r" in robe --ha!) but rather is likely showing the twisted strands of the hair and or tzitzits. The overlap with the "r" in rabbi might just be serendipitous but folk etymology causes us to erroneously (wrongly) assume the "R" handshape is mapped to the English spelling of rabbi.
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Note: In an earlier version of this page I (Bill) referred to this sign as representing the robes worn by a rabbi.  An ASL Hero was kind enough to write and let me know that a better term would be "tallit" (or prayer shawl). 

3/25/2022: A comment from the Lifeprint-ASLU Facebook group commented:
"Just wanted to let folks know that I think this is referring to a tallis / tallit, or prayer shawl.
Rabbis don't have specific robes that they wear, or really any other unifying piece of clothing besides the kippot. Thank you!
Edit for clarity: The sign is definitely for Rabbi, but where the text says it's referring to their robes, I think it should say tallit or prayer shawl, since rabbis don't wear robes.
Thank you!" 
(Comment source: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Lifeprint.ASLU/posts/4761206967311793/ )

3/25/2022: An other ASL Hero in that same thread wrote:
"This is the sign for rabbi. It is the same as the one used in Canada. It is an established sign. Sometimes it is spelled."


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Interestingly, in a White House video on YouTube titled "President Biden and Vice President Harris Attend the National Prayer Breakfast" (Feb 3, 2022) (See: https://youtu.be/Yvwf8UeoUzI?t=1224 ) at the 20:26 time stamp (and throughout much of the rest of the video) the interpreter does a sign for "rabbi" that uses (loose) "C" hands as if depicting a scarf hanging down on both sides of someone's neck. That sign actually looks like one of the (several) signs for "lungs."  I am NOT advocating the use of that sign. I'm simply documenting that it has been used by an obviously skilled interpreter in a video of national importance and relatively high viewership -- since it was likely broadcast nationwide before being archived on YouTube.

 

 

 

 



Notes: 
index-old.htm

 

matrix-for-sign-pages (_matrix.htm)




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