Q: Is it too sensitive to ask how the
‘veneration’ of Chasidic rebbes (or just Chabad? I don’t know) is
different than non-Chasidic groups? Is that what defines Chasidic Jews
as Chasidic? Are there some without ANY rebbe? Do non-Chassidic Os
venerate their rabbis? And how is a rebbe different than a rabbi? Which
is what in relation to a rav?
A. My personal (non-Chassidic) relationship with my rabbi is described here. In Chassidic communities, the whole structure of the community centers around the Rebbe (pronounced reh-buh). He is venerated, respected with awe, trust, and love, and consulted on major and minor decisions. He is approached for a blessing before travel, before business dealings, and before matchmaking one’s children. He is approached for prayers and blessings in times of crisis, before a medical procedure, and when marriages falter. He is honored at every milestone, wedding, bar mitzvah, and holiday.
Where the Rebbe is no longer alive, and no successor appointed, as with Chabad or Breslov, the deceased Rebbe is still venerated in memory and via his teachings as the core place of inspiration for the Chassidus (Chassidic sect).
It is a central part of being Chassidic, but it’s not the only thing that defines Chassidic living. Insularity and eschewing of secular culture is another major factor, as well as joy, passion and song.
Chabad is different in that its Rebbe (called “the reh-bee” by the more culturally American adherents or “the reh-buh” by its more Chassidic-oriented adherents) passed away around 15 ago and, childless, did not appoint a successor (as is usually the practice). That’s how Chabad came to be a Chassidus with no living rebbe.
Non-Chassidic Os definitely venerate their rabbis but not to the same degree. Typically it would be either their congregational or community rabbi (called a “rav“) or a rabbi from their educational years at yeshiva (called a “reh-bee“). All of them, in English, are rabbis.
Plurals (I find a lot of people use term one when they mean term two):
1. Rebbeim (ra-bay-im): plural for day school/yeshiva teacher rabbis
2. Rabbanim (ra-buh-nim): plural for congregational or community rabbis
3. Rebbes (reh-buzz): plural for Chassidic rabbis