Daf 33a continued

  • Rav Michael Siev


Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev

Kiddushin 20

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Last week, we continued our study of the laws of honoring elders, and concluded with the ruling that one may not close one's eyes before the zaken (elder) gets close enough to require standing in his honor, so as to avoid having to stand. The gemara now continues with a discussion of just how close a zaken must get in order for one to have to stand in his honor.

We are fifteen lines from the bottom of 33a.

It was taught: What is a standing that has honor?

I would say: [when the elder comes within] four cubits.


Abayei said: "It was only stated regarding his teacher who is not [his] primary [teacher],

but regarding his primary teacher - his full [field of] vision."

Abayei, from when he saw the ear of the donkey of Rav Yosef coming,

he would stand.

Abayei was riding a donkey

and went along the bank of the Sagya River.


Rav Mesharsheya and the rabbis were sitting on the other side and did not rise before him.

He said to them: "Am I not your primary teacher?"

They said to him: "It was not on our minds."

תנא: איזוהי קימה שיש בה הידור?

הוי אומר: זה ד' אמות.

אמר אביי: לא אמרן אלא ברבו שאינו מובהק,

אבל ברבו המובהק - מלא עיניו.

אביי מכי הוה חזי ליה לאודניה דחמרא דרב יוסף דאתי,

הוה קאים.

אביי הוה רכיב חמרא

וקא מסגי אגודא דנהר סגיא.

יתיב רב משרשיא ורבנן באידך גיסא ולא קמו מקמיה.

אמר להו: ולאו רב מובהק אנא?

אמרו ליה: לאו אדעתין.

Having previously ruled that one may not close one's eyes before a zaken comes close enough to obligate one to stand in his honor, the gemara now quotes a beraita that explains what exactly is the distance at which one is required to rise in honor of a zaken. The beraita derives this rule from the language the pasuk employs to express the command: the verse (Vayikra 19:32) commands one to rise ("takum") and give honor ("ve-hadarta"). What kind of rising expresses honor for the one passing by? If one rises when the zaken draws within four cubits (approximately six feet); if the zaken is farther away than that, standing does not express honor for him. Rashi (s.v. She-yesh bah hiddur) explains that if the zaken is farther than four cubits, it is not clear to onlookers that one is standing in honor of the zaken.

Abayei qualifies this ruling: it holds true only with regard to standing for someone who is not one's primary teacher (rav muvhak). However, if one's primary teacher, the teacher from whom one has learned most of his Torah knowledge, approaches - one must stand as long as he can see his teacher, even if he is more than four cubits away. The gemara relates that Abayei put his own teaching into practice; when he would see the ear of the donkey of his teacher, Rav Yosef, Abayei would immediately stand - despite the fact that Rav Yosef was still some distance away. Similarly, Abayei held his own students to that same halakhic standard: once he was riding a donkey and saw his disciples on the other side of the river. They did not rise in his honor, and he reprimanded them. They responded that they did not notice him coming.

The rule in this gemara serves as an extension of a principle the gemara has mentioned before. We have already learned in previous shiurim that one need not stand for a zaken in an unclean place, such as a bathroom or bathhouse, as they are places that are devoid of honor. Similarly here, the requirement of standing before a zaken applies only when he comes within four cubits, as that is when there is honor.

How do the two halves of the selection we just learned fit together? Is there any seeming inconsistency between the gemara's initial teaching, as explained by Rashi, and Abayei's qualification of that teaching?

Abayei rules that although one need not stand until a zaken, or teacher, is within a distance of four cubits, one must stand for a primary teacher as long as one can see him. This seems to reflect the higher level of honor that one must accord one's primary teacher above and beyond the standard level of honor one must accord a regular teacher or scholar. However, we mentioned Rashi's explanation of the first ruling in our gemara, which is that standing when a zaken is more than four cubits away does not accord him any honor at all, as it is not clear that one is standing in his honor. If this is the case, why should one have to stand for one's primary teacher when he is more than four cubits away? Even if one must accord one's rav muvhak more honor than a regular teacher or scholar, it seems that standing when he is a good distance away does not accomplish this goal!

Some commentators seem to understand that when the gemara says that standing when a teacher is within four cubits is a "standing that has honor," it does not mean that standing when one's teacher is more than four cubits away is an act that could not possibly accord him honor. Rather, four cubits is the distance at which the honor due a teacher dictates that one must stand. A "standing that has honor" is thus understood to mean a standing that has the honor appropriate for a teacher. Once it has been established that one must stand only when a teacher comes within four cubits, if one were to stand when his teacher was still farther away, that would in fact be devoid of any honor at all: since one is not obligated to stand at that point, doing so seems like it is for one's own purposes and not as a sign of honor for the teacher. In fact, the Shakh (YD 246:6) rules in a practical sense that one may not stand for a teacher or scholar when he is more than four cubits away. A rav muvhak, though is different: one is requried to show a greater level of honor to a rav muvhak, and therefore one must stand when he is even farther than four cubits away.

Rav Yitzchak Ze'ev Soloveitchik (20th century, known as the Brisker Rav) suggests an alternate explanation of the difference between a regular teacher and a rav muvhak. In fact, as Rashi seems to indicate, there is no hiddur (honor) accorded by standing when the zaken is more than four cubits away. However, when it comes to a rav muvhak, one is obligated in kavod (honor) as well as mora (awe or fear), parallel to one's obligation toward one's parents. In fact, the Gemara (Kiddushin 57a) derives from a pasuk (Devarim 6:13) that requires fear of heaven that one must also "fear" Torah scholars; this, claims the Brisker Rav, applies specifically to one's rav muvhak.

If this is the case, we can understand the difference between the obligation to stand for a regular teacher and for a rav muvhak. Regarding a regular teacher or Torah scholar, there is an obligation of hiddur; that is accomplished only by standing when the teacher is within four cubits. However, one must have a sense of awe and reverance regarding one's rav muvhak; that sense of awe precludes one from remaining in one's seat when his rav muvhak is approaching, even if there is no hiddur involved in standing. Similarly, the other laws that the gemara derived from the comparison of takum and ve-hadarta may not apply regarding a rav muvhak, due to the additional requirement of mora. Thus, one would be required to stand in his presence even in an unclean place, such as a bathroom or bathhouse.

Back to the Gemara

We are at the two dots, ten lines from the bottom of 33a.

Rabbi Shimon son of Elazar says: "From where [do we know] that an elder should not inconvenience [others to stand for him]?

Scripture teaches: 'an elder; and you shall fear [God].'":

Abayei said: "We hold that if he takes a circuitous route, he lives."

Abayei would take a circuitous route. Rabbi Zeira would take a circuitous route.

Ravina was sitting before Rabbi Yirmeya from Difti,


a certain man passed in front of him and did not cover his head.

He (Ravina) said: "How insolent is this man!"

He (Rabbi Yirmeya) said to him: "Maybe he is from the town of Mechasya, where rabbis are common."

ר' שמעון בן אלעזר אומר: מנין לזקן שלא יטריח?

ת"ל (תלמוד לומר): זקן ויראת:

אמר אביי: נקטינן, דאי מקיף חיי.

אביי מקיף. רבי זירא מקיף.

רבינא הוה יתיב קמיה דר' ירמיה מדיפתי,

חלף ההוא גברא קמיה ולא מיכסי רישא.

אמר: כמה חציף הא גברא!

א"ל (אמר ליה): דלמא ממתא מחסיא ניהו, דגיסי בה רבנן.

The gemara here continues its line-by-line dissection of the beraita that was quoted at the bottom of 32b. Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar taught in that beraita that a zaken should make sure not to trouble the public by making them stand for him. He derived this law from the juxtaposition of the words "zaken" and "ve-yareita" (and you shall fear) in the pasuk that teaches the obligation to stand for elders. This juxtaposition implies that the zaken must also fear God with regard to something having to do with this law; that is, he must be sure not to unnecessarily trouble the public.

Abayei further emphasizes this teaching, adding that if the zaken takes a circuitous route to his destination in order to avoid making people stand for him, he will merit long life. Abayei himself put this teaching into practice, as did Rabbi Zeira: both would take circuitous routes in order to minimize the inconvenience of people having to stand for them.

The gemara continues by relating an incident that is tangentially related to the issue at hand, as it also addresses the topic of honoring scholars. Ravina was once sitting before Rabbi Yirmeya, and a man passed before him without a head covering, which indicated a lack of honor toward Ravina and Rabbi Zeira. Ravina remarked to Rabbi Yirmeya about how inappropriate this was. Rabbi Yirmeya suggested that perhaps the man was from Mechasya, and was therefore so accustomed to seeing Torah scholars that felt very comfortable around them, and acted as though he was on par with them.

Back to the Gemara

We are six lines from the bottom of 33a.

Isi ben Yehuda says: "'In the presence of an old person you shall rise' -

even any old person is implied":

Rabbi Yochanan said: "The law is like Isi ben Yehuda."

Rabbi Yochanan would rise in the presence of old Arameans;


he said: "How many experiences have come upon these."

Rava would not rise, but would accord them honor.


Abayei extended his hand to old people.

Rava sent his agent.

Rav Nachman sent his officers;

he said: "If not for Torah, there are many Nachman bar Abbas in the markeplace!"

איסי בן יהודה אומר: מפני שיבה תקום -

ואפילו כל שיבה במשמע:

אמר ר' יוחנן: הלכה כאיסי בן יהודה.

ר' יוחנן הוה קאי מקמי סבי דארמאי;

אמר: כמה הרפתקי עדו עלייהו דהני.

רבא מיקם לא קאי, הידור עבד להו.

אביי יהיב ידא לסבי.

רבא משדר שלוחיה.

רב נחמן משדר גוזאי;

אמר: אי לאו תורה, כמה נחמן בר אבא איכא בשוקא!

The gemara here quotes the final line of the beraita on 32b, in which Isi ben Yehuda rules that one must stand in the presence of any old person, even if he is not a scholar (the beginning of the beraita there quotes other tanna'im who hold that one must stand for an old person only if he is also a scholar). Rabbi Yochanan rules in accordance with Isi ben Yehuda.

The gemara continues by relating how various rabbis would treat old people of lower stature than themselves. Rabbi Yochanan would stand even in the presence of old Arameans (non-Jews). He explained that these people had been through a lot over the course of their lives, and were therefore worthy of respect. Rava would not rise, but would accord them honor; apparently (as Rashi seems to indicate on the top of 32b, s.v. Hiddur), he would rise slightly as though he were going to rise completely from his seat. Abayei would give his hand to old people so that they could lean on him for support. Rava would not extend his own hand, but would send a messenger to do so. Rav Nachman, who, as head of the semi-autonomous Jewish court, had officers at his command, would send one of his officers to extend a hand to an old person. He explained why he did not do so himself: his stature and office was not due to personal honor but to his Torah; therefore, negating his own honor entailed a simultaneous belittling of the honor of Torah.