Daf 32a continued

  • Rav Michael Siev


Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev

Kiddushin 15

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Our past few shiurim have dealt with issues relating to kibbud av va-em, honoring one's parents. The gemara we will study today continues that theme.

We are six lines from the end of the short lines on 32a.

Elazar son of Matya says: Father says give me water to drink,

and [there is a] mitzva to do,

I leave the honor of father and do the mitzva,


for I and father are obligated in the mitzva.

Isi son of Yehuda says: If the mitzva can be done by others


it should be done by others, and he should go to the honor of his father.

Rav Matna says: The halakha is like Isi son of Yehuda.

אלעזר בן מתיא אומר: אבא אומר השקיני מים,

ומצוה לעשות,

מניח אני כבוד אבא ועושה את המצוה,

שאני ואבא חייבים במצוה.

איסי בן יהודה אומר: אם אפשר למצוה ליעשות ע"י (על ידי) אחרים

תיעשה על ידי אחרים, וילך הוא בכבוד אביו.

אמר רב מתנה: הלכה כאיסי בן יהודה. 

This gemara compares the obligation one has to honor his parents with one's obligation to fulfill other mitzvot. Elazar ben Matya raises a case of one who is confronted with two mitzvot: getting a drink for his father, which is a fulfillment of kibbud av, and a different mitzva. Which mitzva takes precedence? He rules that in such a situation one should perform the other mitzva, because mitzvot are incumbent not only upon the son but upon his father as well. Since the father himself is subject to other mitzvot, his own honor is given lower priority, and his son must involve himself in the other mitzva.

Isi ben Yehuda qualifies this ruling. In his view, it depends upon the circumstances: if the other mitzva can be fulfilled by someone else, the son should take the opportunity to fulfill kibbud av, leaving the second mitzva for others to perform. If he is the only one who can fulfill this other mitzva, he should devote his time to that mitzva and not to kibbud av.

Our gemara must be viewed in the context of a derasha that the gemara in Bava Metzi'a (32a) makes with regard to the interplay between kibbud av va-em and other mitzvot. The gemara there expounds on the verse: "Each man, his mother and father you shall fear and my Sabbaths you shall observe; I am Hashem your God" (Vayikra 19:3). Based on the juxtaposition of the law of fearing one's parents and the law of keeping Shabbat, as well as the fact that the pasuk expresses the command of fearing one's parents in the singular and the command of Shabbat in the plural, the gemara derives the rule that a parental demand which directly conflicts with Halakha should be ignored, for "you are all obligated to honor Me." Thus, the gemara explains, if a father commands his son to do something which would entail his becoming tamei (impure) despite the fact that he is a kohen (priest), the son is not permitted to obey his father. Our gemara takes this ruling one step further. The fulfillment of kibbud av va-em in our gemara does not entail a direct violation of Halakha; the son is simply confronted with a choice of dedicating his time to the mitzva of kibbud av va-em or to a different mitzva. It is in this circumstance that Elazar ben Matya and Isi ben Yehuda argue about whether other mitzvot always take precedence or if we will try, ideally, to bring about a situation in which both mitzvot will be fulfilled.

The Ran (Rabbenu Nissim, 14th century Spanish scholar) writes that the discussion of our gemara refers specifically to a case in which one is confronted with both mitzvot simultaneously. If one has already begun to perform one of the two mitzvot, we apply the rule that "ha-osek be-mitzva patur min ha-mitzva," "one involved in a mitzva is exempt from a mitzva" (Sukka 25a), meaning that one should not interrupt the first mitzva in order to fulfill a different mitzva.

Back to the Gemara

The gemara addresses yet a further aspect of kibbud av va-em. We are up to the first long line at the bottom of 32a.

Rabbi Yitzchak son of Shila said in the name of Rav Matna in the name of Rav Chisda:

The father that forgave his honor - his honor is forgiven;

the teacher that forgave his honor - his honor is not forgiven.


And Rav Yosef said: Even the teacher who forgave his honor - his honor is forgiven,

for it says: "And God went before them by day."

Rava said: So now (let us consider this):

there the Holy One blessed is He - the world is His and the Torah is His,

He can forgive his honor;


here is the Torah his?

Rava returned and said: Yes, the Torah is his, for it is written: "And he studies his Torah day and night."

א"ר (אמר רבי) יצחק בר שילא א"ר מתנה אמר רב חסדא:

האב שמחל על כבודו - כבודו מחול;

הרב שמחל על כבודו - אין כבודו מחול.

ורב יוסף אמר: אפי' (אפילו) הרב שמחל על כבודו - כבודו מחול,

שנאמר: ויי' הולך לפניהם יומם.

אמר רבא: הכי השתא,

התם הקדוש ב"ה (ברוך הוא) עלמא דיליה הוא ותורה דיליה היא -

מחיל ליה ליקריה,

הכא תורה דיליה היא?

הדר אמר רבא: אין, תורה דיליה היא, דכתיב: ובתורתו יהגה יומם ולילה. 

The gemara discusses whether or not people who are deserving of honor can "forgive their honor," meaning if they can exempt those who should honor them from doing so, an act called mechila. Rav Chisda rules that a father can forgive his honor, while a teacher cannot. Rav Yosef argues that even a teacher can forgive his honor. His proof is from Shemot (13:21), where the Torah describes how, as the Benei Yisrael left Egypt, "God went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them on the way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel day and night." Rav Yosef views God as having forgiven His honor, so to speak, in order to lead the way for Benei Yisrael; if God can forgive His honor, certainly a human teacher can forgive his own honor.

Rava challenges Rav Yosef's proof: Since God is Creator of everything, all is His, and He can forgive His honor. When it comes to a teacher, the reason he is deserving of honor is because of the Torah he has studied and internalized and which he now represents; essentially, one honors Torah by honoring those who excel in Torah. Since the Torah does not belong to a Torah scholar, he has no right to forego the honor due him as a representative of Torah!

Rava himself reconsiders his position, and actually affirms Rav Yosef's ruling based on a pasuk in Tehillim (1:2). That pasuk refers to a righteous person as being constantly immersed in "his Torah." Rava understands that this means that one's Torah does in fact "belong" to him. Thus, one can forego the honor that is due him because of his Torah scholarship.

The gemara continues by challenging Rava's conclusion that a teacher can forego his honor. We are on the third line of 32b.

Is this really so?

But Rava was serving drinks at the wedding of his son,

and he poured a cup for Rav Papa and for Rav Huna the son of Rav Yehoshua and they rose in front of him,


for Mari and for Rav Pinchas the son of Rav Chisda and they did not rise in front of him;

he was indignant and said: "These rabbis are rabbis and these rabbis are not rabbis?!"

And also, Rav Papa was serving drinks at the wedding of Abba Mar his son,

and he poured a cup for Rabbi Yitzchak the son of Rav Yehuda and he did not rise before him, and he was indignant!

Nevertheless, honor they should have [given].


והא רבא משקי בי הלולא דבריה,

ודל ליה כסא לרב פפא ולרב הונא בריה דרב יהושע וקמו מקמיה,

לרב מרי ולרב פנחס בריה דרב חסדא ולא קמו מקמיה;

איקפד ואמר: הנו רבנן - רבנן, והנו רבנן לאו רבנן?

ותו, רב פפא הוה משקי בי הלולא דאבא מר בריה,

ודלי ליה כסא לר' יצחק בריה דרב יהודה ולא קם מקמיה, ואיקפד!

אפ"ה (אפילו הכי), הידור מיעבד ליה בעו.

The gemara here cites an incident in which Rava himself apparently held that a Torah scholar cannot forgo the honor that he deserves. At his son's wedding, Rava poured drinks for some of the guests, a clear case of a great scholar forgoing his honor. Nevertheless, he criticized the rabbis who did not rise in his presence, essentially saying: "Do you consider yourselves so important that you need not stand for me while the other rabbis are less important and do need to stand for me?" The clear implication is that Mari and Rav Pinchas should also have stood as a sign of respect for Rava, despite the fact that Rav was clearly forgoing his honor! As further support, the gemara cites a similar incident with Rav Papa. From these stories it seems that even when a scholar forgoes his honor, others are not relieved of their obligation to show him respect. The gemara answers that the mechila really does take effect but that nevertheless, the others should have at least given some indication of respect toward the great scholar. Rashi explains that even if they did not need to stand in his presence, they should at least have motioned as though they were going to stand. 

With regard to the mechila of one's honor, we must distinguish between two different scenarios. There are some aspects of kavod that one must give to a scholar, teacher or parent that are objectively defined by Halakha. Thus, for example, one must stand when one's parent or teacher walks into the room and may not refer to him by name. Other aspects of kavod are actually subjective. For example, the Gemara (31b) states that kibbud av va-em requires one to help his parents eat or drink. Clearly, these obligations are defined by the parent. If a parent is not hungry or is otherwise disinterested in eating, for example, there is certainly no mitzva for a son to bring the parent food.

Although our gemara teaches that a parent may forgo his honor, and the halakha also follows the view that a Torah scholar may forgo his, there may be a halakhic difference between the two types of kavod that we outlined above. Many authorities claim that even if a parent or scholar forgoes his kavod, there is still a mitzva for others to honor him. The mechila is significant, in their view, only in that one would not be culpable for a lack of such kavod; however, if one does honor the parent or scholar, one would still fulfill a mitzva. It is quite clear that this holds true only for areas of honor which are objectively defined by Halakha. In the example we gave earlier, if a parent is not hungry, that is not a mechila of his kavod; that is a definitional statement which determines that bringing the parent food is not considered an act of kavod at all.

This being the case, it seems likely that this could apply, at times, even to areas of kavod that appear to be more objective. If a parent says that he does not mind if his child remains sitting when he walks into the room, the authorities we made reference to above would hold that while there is no absolute obligation for the child to stand when his parent enters the room, he would still fulfill the mitzva of kibbud av va-em by doing so. On the other hand, if the parent says that he dislikes it when his son stands as he enters the room, this is not called mechila of his kavod but rather a definition of what is considered to be showing honor to him in the first place. The son would thus not only be permitted to sit as his father enters the room, but required to so; it would be a violation of his parent's honor to stand in such circumstances.