YESHIVAT HAR ETZION
ISRAEL KOSCHITZKY VIRTUAL BEIT MIDRASH (VBM)
Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev
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Two of the main topics we have studied so far this year have been kibbud av va-em (honoring parents) and kevod ha-rav (honoring teachers and scholars). The gemara we will study today contrasts these two mitzvot.
We begin sixteen lines down on 33b.
It was asked of them:
his son and he is his teacher, what is it (the law regarding his obligation) to stand in the presence of his father?
Come and listen, for Shemu'el said to Rav Yehuda:
"Sharp one, rise before your father."
Rav Yechezkel is different, for he was a man of [great] deeds,
for even the Master, Shemu'el, would also rise in his presence.
What, then, did he (Shemu'el) tell him (Rav Yehuda)?
This is what he told him:
"Sometimes, he (Rav Yechezkel) comes after me; stand in his presence and do not be concerned with my honor."
בנו והוא רבו, מהו לעמוד מפני אביו?
ת"ש (תא שמע), דאמר ליה שמואל לרב יהודה:
שיננא, קום מקמי אבוך.
שאני רב יחזקאל, דבעל מעשים הוה,
דאפילו מר שמואל נמי קאים מקמיה.
אלא מאי קאמר ליה?
הכי קאמר ליה:
זימנין דאתי מאחורי, קום את מקמיה ולא תיחוש ליקרא דידי.
We have already established that one should rise in honor of one's parents and that one should rise in honor of one's teacher. What is the law if a son is the teacher of his father? Should the son stand for his father? On the one hand, he should be obligated to do so, as the law generally dictates. On the other hand, perhaps it would violate the honor due a teacher if he were to stand for his father.
The gemara attempts to resolve this quandry by mentioning the advice that Shemu'el gave to Rav Yehuda. We have already learned the gemara on 32a, which makes clear that Rav Yehuda was actually the teacher of his father, Rav Yechezkel. Shemu'el instructed Rav Yehuda to rise in honor of Rav Yechezkel; this proves that even if a son is his father's teacher, he should still rise in honor of his father.
The gemara rejects this proof: perhaps the case of Rav Yehuda and Rav Yechezkel was different, as Rav Yechezkel was a man of great deeds, and thus independently worthy of honor; therefore, this incident cannot serve as a model for other cases, in which the only reason the son would have to stand for his father is the father-son relationship itself. The gemara further supports its claim that Rav Yechezkel was independently worthy of honor by pointing out that Shemu'el himself would rise in honor of Rav Yechezkel.
In light of the gemara's contention that the reason Rav Yehuda had to rise in honor of Rav Yechezkel was due to the latter's status as a man of great deeds, the gemara asks why it was necessary for Shemu'el to instruct Rav Yehuda to do so; why would we have thought that Rav Yehuda should not rise for Rav Yechezkel? The gemara answers that Shemu'el meant to teach Rav Yehuda that in the event that Rav Yechezkel was entering a room behind Shemu'el, such that rising in honor of Shemu'el would preclude the possibility of Rav Yehuda doing so in honor of Rav Yechezkel (as he would already be standing), Rav Yehuda should not rise when Shemu'el would enter so that he could rise in honor of Rav Yechezkel.
It seems clear from our gemara that one who is a man of great deeds is worthy of honor. The commentators debate the reason for this policy. The Ramban (quoted in Ran, 14a in the pages of the Rif, s.v. Amar) argues that good deeds by themselves do not make one worthy of honor. However, if one is worthy of honor for another reason, such as if he is an old person, those who would nevertheless be exempt from honoring him (such as other elders who are also scholars) are not exempt if the person is a man of great deeds. Thus, good deeds simply prevent others from being exempt from honoring a person, but do not actually create an honored status to begin with.
The Ran himself (ibid.) disagrees. In his view, good deeds themselves make one worthy of honor. In fact, he argues, the only reason the Torah obligates one to honor scholars is because their wisdom presumably leads them to do good deeds. In essence, good deeds are the primary factor that makes one worthy of honor; however, since it is difficult to determine who actually is a person of good deeds, the Torah legislates that one must honor scholars. If, however, a person is not a scholar but is widely known to be a person of good deeds, he would certainly be worthy of honor as well.
We continue on in the gemara, five lines from the end of the short lines on 33b.
It was asked of them:
His son and he is is teacher, what is it (the law regarding if) his father should stand in his presence?
Come and listen, for Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said:
"For me - it is not fitting for me to stand before my son, but for the honor of the house of the nasi;"
the reason is that I am his teacher, but if he were my teacher I would stand before him.
This is what he [meant to] say:
It is not fitting for me to stand in the presence of my son and even if he is my teacher,
for I am his father,
but for the honor of the house of the nasi.
בנו והוא רבו, מהו שיעמוד אביו מפניו?
ת"ש (תא שמע), דאמר ר' יהושע בן לוי:
אני איני כדי לעמוד מפני בני, אלא משום כבוד בית נשיא;
טעמא דאנא רביה, הא איהו רבאי קאימנא מקמיה.
ה"ק (הכי קאמר):
אני איני כדי לעמוד מפני בני ואפילו הוא רבאי,
דהא אנא אבוה,
אלא משום כבוד בית נשיא.
The gemara here raises the other side of teacher-father dilemma: if a son is his father's teacher, must the father stand in his son's honor as he would any other teacher? The gemara attempts once again to prove that one would have to grant honor in this situation: Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi remarked that he would not otherwise have to stand in honor of his son, but for the fact that he married into the family of the nasi and was therefore worthy of honor. The gemara suggests that the reason Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi would not otherwise have had to stand for his son is because Rabbi Yehoshua was his teacher; however, if his son would have been his teacher, Rabbi Yehoshua would have been obligated to stand. Presumably, this inference is based on the language of Rabbi Yehoshua's statement: he seems to imply that for him it would not be necessary to stand for his son, implying that there may be others who would have to stand in honor of their sons; if the son is his father's teacher. The gemara rejects this proof; it is still possible that Rabbi Yehoshua meant to say that no father really has to stand for his son under any circumstances, due to the mere fact of the father-son relationship, if not for the unusual circumstance of the son being related to the nasi.
The Rishonim are in dispute over how to rule on these issues in a practical sense. The Rambam (Hilkhot Mamrim 6:4) rules that a son is always obligated to stand in honor of his father, while a father need not do so for his son, even in a situation in which the son is the teacher of the father. The Rosh (1:57) disagrees, and argues that since the Gemara does not come to a clear decision on the issue and the obligations to honor both a teacher and a father are of biblical status, we must be stringent; therefore, both the son and father must stand for each other. This is based on the principle of safek de-oraita le-chumra, that when we have an uncertainty regarding a biblical statute, we must be stringent.
The Shulchan Arukh (YD 240:7) rules in accordance with the Rosh, though the Rema adds that the son may forgo his honor, in accordance with the rule that any teacher may forgo his honor. This does not apply, however, if the son is a renowned scholar and people do not recognize his father; the father's failure to honor his son, the great scholar, will look like a blatant disregard for the honor of the Torah. The Shakh (s"k 10) disagrees entirely, and quotes other authorities who rule in accordance with the Rambam.
Back to the Gemara
We resume with the second long line on 33b.
It was asked of them: Is one who rides comparable to one who walks or not?
Abayei said, "Come and listen:
'If one who is impure sits under a tree and one who is pure stands - he (the one who was pure) is impure;
if one who is impure stands under a tree and one who is pure sits - he is (remains) pure;
and if the impure one sat - the pure one is impure;
and so with a stone that has been stricken [with tzara'at].'
And Rav Nachman bar Kohen said, 'This says (teaches): one who rides is comparable to one who walks.'"
Hear from it.
איבעיא להו: רכוב כמהלך דמי, או לא?
אמר אביי, ת"ש (תא שמע):
טמא יושב תחת האילן וטהור עומד - טמא;
טמא עומד תחת האילן וטהור יושב - טהור;
ואם ישב הטמא - הטהור טמא;
וכן באבן המנוגעת.
ואמר רב נחמן בר כהן, זאת אומרת: רכוב כמהלך דמי.
ש"מ (שמע מינה).
The gemara here further explores the issue of standing for a parent or teacher. One is required to stand when the authority figure approaches, but not when the parent or teacher is seated in one's presence. What is the law if a parent or teacher passes by while riding an animal? On the one hand, as Rashi (s.v. Rakhuv) explains, the parent or teacher is actually sitting; on the other hand, he is moving. Is he considered to be sitting, consistent with his actual physical position, or walking, consistent with his fluid relative position in space?
Abayei attempts to prove that one who rides is comparable to one who walks, based on a comparison to a beraita regarding the rules of tuma (ritual impurity) and tahara (purity). The beraita refers not to any impure person, but to a metzora (often translated imprecisely as a leper), who is someone afflicted with tzara'at. Tzara'at is an ailment that comes as a punishment for various sins related to interpersonal relationships and manifests itself as particular types of skin discolorations or baldness. If someone who is tahor (pure) is under the same covering (roof, branches, etc.) as a metzora, he becomes tamei (impure). However, this is only the case if the metzora sits under the same covering as the one who is tahor; if he stands under the same covering, the one who is tahor does not become impure.
In this context, the beraita presents the different cases: 1) If the metzora sits under a tree and the tahor stands under the same tree, the tahor becomes tamei; he is under the same roof as a metzora who is sitting. 2) If the tahor is sitting and the metzora is standing, the tahor retains his pure status, as he is not under the same roof as a metzora who is sitting. Of course, if the metzora were to sit, the tahor would become tamei.
The beraita concludes that the same is true of a stone that has been stricken with tzara'at. In addition to striking people, tzara'at can also afflict one's clothes or the stones of one's home. As Rashi (s.v. Ve-khen) explains, if one carries a stone that has been afflicted with tzara'at, a tahor who is located under a tree will become tamei if the person carrying the stone sits. Based on this ruling, Rav Nachman bar Cohen rules that one who rides is comparable to one who walks. Just as the stone is considered to have the same status as the one carrying it, such that it will not make a tahor impure unless the one carrying it sits down, so one who rides an animal has the same status as the animal; if the animal is moving, he is considered to be walking. The gemara accepts this proof. Thus, if one's parent or teacher approaches while riding an animal, one is required to stand. (Note that this ruling is consistent with the stories about Abayei himself that we learned in the gemara on 33a; Abayei would stand when his teacher, Rav Yosef, would approach on his donkey, and also demanded that his students stand for him when he himself rode by on a donkey.)