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33a: Honoring Elders and Scholars (5)

Rav Michael Siev

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Our topic the past few weeks has been the obligation to stand in honor of a teacher or Torah scholar. The gemara we will study this week continues that theme. We resume from the last line on 33a. 


Rabbi Aivo said in the name of Rabbi Yannai:

"A Torah scholar is not permitted to stand in the presence of his teacher except in the morning and evening,

so that his (the sage's) honor will not be greater than the honor of the heavens (God's honor)."

A challenge: Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says:

"From where (do we know) that a sage should not trouble [the public]?

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

and if you say only morning and evening,

why should he not trouble [the public]? It is an obligation!


Is it not the whole day?

No, in fact it is only morning and evening,

and nevertheless as much as he can, he should not trouble [the public].

א"ר (אמר רבי) אייבו אמר ר' ינאי: 

אין תלמיד חכם רשאי לעמוד מפני רבו אלא שחרית וערבית,

כדי שלא יהיה כבודו מרובה מכבוד שמים.

מיתיבי: ר' שמעון בן אלעזר אומר:

מנין לזקן שלא יטריח?

ת"ל (תלמוד לומר): זקן ויראת;

ואי אמרת שחרית וערבית בלבד,

אמאי לא ניטרח? חיובא הוא!

אלא לאו כולי יומא?

לא, לעולם שחרית וערבית בלבד,

ואפ"ה (ואפילו הכי) כמה דאפשר ליה לא ניטרח.

The gemara begins with Rabbi Yannai's qualification of the rule that one must rise in honor of one's teacher: a talmid chakham (literally, "a student of a sage," a term used to refer to Torah scholars) should only rise in honor of his teacher twice a day, in the morning and evening. This is because the honor accorded a teacher should not overshadow the honor that one accords God Himself; since one is obligated to pray twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, one should also stand for one's teacher no more than twice a day. (Halakha rules that men are obligated to pray three times a day. Presumably, the gemara ignores the obligation to pray at night because this obligation is of a lower level than the obligation to pray in the morning and afternoon; see Berakhot 27b and commentaries). Alternatively, this refers to the obligation to recite shema, which actually applies only twice a day (Taz, YD 242:12).

The gemara challenges this ruling on the basis of a statement in the beraita quoted in the gemara on the bottom of 32b. Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar teaches that a sage should try to avoid making the public stand in his honor, and should therefore choose a route that will inconvenience the fewest possible number of people. He derives this principle from the pasuk (verse) that commands us to rise in honor of elders (Vayikra 19:32), which juxtaposes the word zaken (elder) with the command to fear God. Rabbi Shimon understands this to mean that the zaken himself must fear God, meaning that he should be careful about how he acts; he should try not to inconvenience people. However, if Rabbi Yannai is correct that one must stand for one's teacher only twice a day, parallel to one's obligation to pray, why should the zaken try not to make people stand for him? They are halakhically obligated to do stand for him, and doing so twice a day is not a terrible inconvenience. Can we not conclude that Rabbi Yannai is incorrect and the obligation to rise in honor of a teacher or scholar applies the whole day long?

The gemara answers that the two rulings can be reconciled; the obligation to stand applies only twice a day, yet the scholar should nevertheless try to minimize as much as possible the extent to which he inconveniences the public.

The commentators question this ruling: there are many instances in which the Gemara mentions that students stood in honor of their teachers, and we have even seen cases in which sages were upset when their students neglected to accord them this honor; is it possible that all of these were situations in which the student did not stand at least one time in the morning and once in the evening? On the basis of the this question, the commentators present several possible definitions and limitations of this rule: 

1) Tosafot (s.v. Ein talmid chakham) claim that this rule applies only to students who live with their teacher, as they have definitely stood for him once in the morning and once in the evening. Other students must stand every time, in case an outsider will witness their remaining seated and conclude that they do not properly honor their teacher. Even those who live with their teacher must stand additional times if outsiders arrive. This suggestion qualifies the practical application of Rabbi Yannai's ruling while remaining consistent with his principle: the obligation to honor one's teacher obligates one to stand only twice a day. However, there is an additional obligation to stand due to an external consideration; lest other people the wrong idea.

2) Tosafot Yeshanim (s.v. Ein talmid chakham - this is found in the outside column, where Tosafot are generally found; the note ת"י after this piece stands for Tosafot Yeshanim, which means that it is from an old version of the Tosafot commentary) explain that the word rasha'in in our gemara, usually translated "permitted," actually means, in this context, "obligated." Thus, Rabbi Yannai rules that a talmid chakham is only obligated to stand twice a day; he is permitted, however, to stand more often. (This interpretation of the word rasha'in parallels the interpretation of Tosafot on 33a (s.v. Ein) that we mentioned a few weeks ago, regarding the gemara's statement that artisans are not "rasha'in" to interrupt their work in order to stand in the presence of Torah scholars.) This understanding reinterprets the ruling of Rabbi Yannai while maintaining the parallel to prayer: one is permitted to stand more than twice a day but is obligated to do so only twice, just as one is obligated to pray twice a day but may add additional prayers if he so desires.

3) Me'iri explains that the twice a day limit refers to purposely putting oneself in a situation in which one will be obligated to stand for one's teacher or a scholar. If the opportunity presents itself on its own, however, there is no limit to the number of times that one is obligated to stand. We will further analyze this opinion later.

Let us continue with the gemara; we are at the end of the eighth line on 33b:


Rabbi Elazar said: "Any Torah scholar who does not stand in the presence of his teacher

is called an evildoer, and does not have long life, and his learning is forgotten,

as it says: 'And goodness shall not be to an evildoer; and he shall not have long days, as a shadow,

for he does not fear the presence of God.'

I do not know what this 'fear' is; 


when it says, 'And you shall fear your God,'

[we see that] this 'fear' is rising."

And say it is is the fear of usury and the fear of [imprecise] weights!

Rabbi Elazar learned [from the similarity of the phrases] "the presence," "the presence."

אמר ר' אלעזר: כל ת"ח (תלמיד חכם) שאין עומד מפני רבו

נקרא רשע, ואינו מאריך ימים, ותלמודו משתכח,

שנאמר: וטוב לא יהיה לרשע ולא יאריך ימים כצל

אשר איננו ירא מלפני האלהים.

מורא זו איני יודע מהו;

כשהוא אומר: ויראת מאלהיך,

הרי מורא זו - קימה.

ואימא: מוראת רבית ומוראת משקלות!

ר' אלעזר פני פני גמר.

The gemara now quotes Rabbi Elazar, who teaches that a talmid chakham who does not rise in honor of his teacher is called a rasha (evildoer), does not merit to have long life and will forget his learning. He supports this with a pasuk from Kohelet (8:13), which states: "And goodness (tov) shall not be to an evildoer and he shall not have long days, like a shadow, for he does not fear the presence of God." Due to the fact that the evildoer does not fear God, he shall not have "goodness." Rashi (s.v. Ve-tov lo yihyeh la-rasha) points to the Gemara in Berakhot (5a), which derives from a verse in Mishlei (4:2) that "tov" refers to Torah; the verse mentions God's "good (tov) teaching," which is a clear reference to Torah. Thus, pasuk's stating that the rasha shall not have tov means that his Torah learning will be forgotten. Similarly, he shall not have long life; rather, his life will pass quickly, just as a shadow passes quickly.

Rabbi Elazar continues, explaining how he knows that this verse refers to one who does not rise in honor of his teacher. The pasuk indicates that all of this befalls the rasha because "he does not fear the presence of God." In what sense does he "not fear the presence of God?" The pasuk that commands us to rise in the presence of teachers and scholars concludes by warning us to "fear" God. Apparently, one who does not rise in honor of his teachers does not "fear" God, and the pasuk in Kohelet is addressed to him.

The gemara questions this conclusion; there are other commands, after all, which include a warning to fear God. Regarding usury the Torah warns that one may not lend money to a Jew with interest and concludes that we must fear God (Vayikra 25:36), and a similar injunction is used regarding the prohibition of using faulty weights to cheat customers (see Devarim 25:15-18; Tosafot s.v. Ve-eima mora mishkalot). Perhaps the pasuk in Kohelet refers to one who lends money to other Jews with interest or to one who uses faulty weights, and not to one who neglects to rise in honor of his teachers! The gemara answers that the pasuk in Kohelet shares an additional similarity with the pasuk regarding standing for teachers, and it is therefore clear that they go together: both use the word penei, "in the presence." Vayikra 19:32 instructs one to stand "in the presence" of elders, and Kohelet 8:13 accuses the evildoer of not fearing "the presence" of God.


What are the different ways you can interpret the relationship between the teachings of Rabbi Yannai and Rabbi Elazar?

The commentators are divided about the issue of how to interpret the relationship between these two statements. One could easily understand that the two go hand in hand: one is obligated to stand for one's teacher only twice a day, and if he fails to fulfill that obligation he is called a rasha and the punishments spelled out in Kohelet 8:13 apply. Alternatively, one could understand that the gemara places Rabbi Elazar's teaching right after Rabbi Yannai's teaching in order to indicate that Rabbi Elazar disputes Rabbi Yannai's ruling. Rabbi Elazar might reason that rising multiple times a day in honor of one's teacher does not place the honor of a human above that of God: the parallel with regard to one's relationship with God is not the number of times one per day that one is obligated to pray but rather the honor one must show God when encountering Him; and in fact, if one were to pray numerous times a day, one would have to stand each and every time (Rosh, 1:56). (Note that according to the Me'iri's interpretation of Rabbi Yannai's initial ruling, quoted above, Rabbi Yannai himself may agree with this point. However, it is possible that Rabbi Elazar disagrees with Rabbi Yannai for some other reason.)

On a practical level, the poskim are divided on this issue. The Mechabber (literally, the "author," a reference to Rav Yosef Cairo, author of Shulchan Arukh) does not quote Rabbi Yanna's ruling, apparently indicating that he does not approve of it. The Rema (YD 242:16), however, does rule in accordance with Rabbi Yannai. He limits the dispensation to the beit midrash, however; in other places or in the presence of those who do not know that the students have already stood in honor of their teacher, the students must stand even multiple times over the course of one day.


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