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Talmud Torah - Chapter Five

Talmud Torah - Chapter Five

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Halacha 1

Just as a person is commanded to honor his father and hold him in awe, so, too, is he obligated to honor his teacher and hold him in awe.

[Indeed, the measure of honor and awe] due one's teacher exceeds that due one's father. His father brings him into the life of this world, while his teacher, who teaches him wisdom, brings him into the life of the world to come.

[Accordingly,] if he saw a lost object belonging to his father and one belonging to his teacher, the lost object belonging to his teacher takes precedence. If his father and his teacher are both carrying loads, he should relieve his teacher's load, and then his father's. If his father and his teacher are held as captives, he should redeem his teacher, and afterwards, redeem his father. However, if his father is [also] a Torah sage, he should redeem his father first.

[Similarly,] if his father is a Torah sage - even if he is not equivalent to his teacher - he should return his lost article, and then that belonging to his teacher.

There is no greater honor than that due a teacher, and no greater awe than that due a teacher. Our Sages declared: "Your fear of your teacher should be equivalent to your fear of Heaven."

Therefore, they said: Whoever disputes the authority of his teacher is considered as if he revolts against the Divine Presence, as implied [by Numbers 26:9]: "...who led a revolt against God."

Whoever engages in controversy with his teacher is considered as if he engaged in controversy with the Divine Presence, as implied [by Numbers 20:13]: "...where the Jews contested with God and where He was sanctified."

Whoever complains against his teacher is considered as if he complains against the Divine Presence, as implied [by Exodus 16:8]: "Your complaints are not against us, but against God."

Whoever thinks disparagingly of his teacher is considered as if he thought disparagingly of the Divine Presence, as implied [by Numbers 21:5]: "And the people spoke out against God and Moses."

Halacha 2

What is meant by disputing the authority of one's teacher? A person who establishes a house of study [where] he sits, explains, and teaches without his teacher's permission in his teacher's lifetime. [This applies] even when one's teacher is in another country.

It is forbidden to ever render a halachic judgment in one's teacher's presence. Whoever renders a halachic judgment in his teacher's presence is worthy of death.

Halacha 3

If a person asked [a student] regarding a halachic question and there were twelve mil between him and his teacher, he is permitted to answer. [Furthermore,] to prevent a transgression, it is permitted to give a halachic judgment even in the presence of one's teacher.

What does the above imply? For example, one saw a person perform a forbidden act because he was unaware of the prohibition or because of his perversity, he should [try to] prevent him [by] telling him: "This is forbidden." [This] applies even in his teacher's presence and even though one's teacher had not given him permission. Wherever the desecration of God's name is involved, no deference is paid to a teacher's honor.

When does the above apply? With regard to a matter that came up incidentally. However, establishing oneself as a halachic authority to sit and reply to all who ask concerning halachic matters is forbidden, even if [the student] is at one end of the world and the teacher at the other, until either:
a) the teacher dies; or
b) the student receives permission from his teacher.

Not everyone whose teacher dies is permitted to sit and render judgment concerning Torah law; only one who is a student worthy of rendering judgment.

Halacha 4

Any student who is not worthy of rendering halachic judgments and does so is foolish, wicked, and arrogant. [Proverbs 7:26:] "She has cast down many corpses" applies to him.

[Conversely,] a sage who is worthy of rendering halachic judgments and refrains from doing so holds back [the spread of] Torah and places stumbling blocks before the blind. "How prodigious are those she slew" [ibid.] applies to him.

These underdeveloped students who have not gathered much Torah knowledge, seek to gain prestige in the eyes of the common people and the inhabitants of their city [by] jumping to sit at the head of all questions of law and halachic judgments in Israel. They spread division, destroy the world, extinguish the light of Torah, and wreak havoc in the vineyard of the God of Hosts. In his wisdom, Solomon alluded to them [as follows, (Song of Songs 2:15)]: "Take for us foxes, little foxes that spoil the vineyards, [our vineyards are blooming.]"

Halacha 5

It is forbidden for a student to refer to his teacher by name, even outside his presence. He should not mention his name in his presence, even when referring to others with the same name as his teacher - as he does with the name of his father. Rather, he should refer to them with different names, even after their death.

The above applies when the name is unusual, and all will thus know to whom it refers.

[A student] should not greet his teacher or respond to the latter's greeting, as is customary when two friends exchange greetings. Rather, he should bow before him and say with awe and reverence: "Peace be upon you, my master." If his teacher greeted him, he should respond: "Peace be upon you, my teacher and master."

Halacha 6

Similarly, he should not remove his tefillin in the presence of his teacher, nor should he recline in his presence. Rather, he should sit before him as one sits before a king.

A person should not pray either in front of his teacher, behind his teacher, or at his teacher's side. Needless to say, one should not walk by his side. Rather, he should distance himself behind his teacher without standing directly behind him and then pray.

One should not enter a bathhouse together with his teacher or sit in his teacher's place. One should not side against his teacher's opinion in his presence or contradict his statements.

One should not sit in his presence until he tells him to sit. One should not stand before him until he tells him to stand or until he receives permission to stand.

When one departs from his teacher, one should not turn his back to him. Rather, one should walk backwards while facing him.

Halacha 7

A person is obligated to stand before his teacher from the time he sees him - as far away as he can see - until [he passes beyond his field of vision] and is hidden: his figure no longer visible. Then, [the student] may sit.

A person is obligated to visit his teacher during the festivals.

Halacha 8

Deference should not be shown to a student while in the presence of his teacher, unless it is customary for his teacher also to show him deference.

All the services which a servant performs for his master should be performed by a student for his teacher. [However,] if [the student] was in a place where he was not recognized and was not wearing tefillin - should he suspect that people will say he is a servant - he need not put on [his teacher's] shoe or remove it.

Whoever prevents his student from serving him withholds kindness from him and takes away his fear of heaven. Any student who deals lightly with a matter related to the honor of his teacher causes the Divine Presence to depart from Israel.

Halacha 9

[A student who] saw his teacher transgress the words of the Torah should tell him: you have taught us such and such.

Whenever he mentions a teaching in his presence, he should tell him: "You have taught us the following, master." He should not mention a concept which he did not hear from his teacher unless he mentions the name of the person who authored it.

When his teacher dies, he should rend all his garments until he reveals his heart. He should never mend them.

When does the above apply? To one's outstanding teacher from whom one has gained the majority of his wisdom.

However, a person who has not gained the majority of his wisdom under a teacher's instruction is considered to be both a student and colleague. He is not obligated to honor him in all the above matters. Nevertheless, he should stand before him, rend his garments at his [death], as he does for all the deceased for whom he is obligated to mourn. Even if he learned only one thing from him, whether it be a small or great matter, he should stand before him and rend his garments at his [death].

Halacha 10

Every student with a proper character will not speak in front of anyone who is wiser than he is, even though he has not learned anything from him.

Halacha 11

An outstanding teacher may, if he desires, forgo his honor with regard to any or all of the above matters to any or all his students.

Even though he forgoes [these honors], the student is obligated to respect him at the time he forgoes [respect].

Halacha 12

Just as students are obligated to honor their teacher, a teacher is obligated to honor his students and encourage them. Our Sages declared: "The honor of your students should be as dear to you as your own."

A teacher should take care of his students and love them, because they are like sons who bring him pleasure in this world and in the world to come.

Halacha 13

Students increase their teacher's wisdom and broaden his horizons. Our Sages declared: "I learned much wisdom from my teachers and even more from my colleagues. However, from my students [I learned] most of all."

Just as a small branch is used to light a large bough, so a small student sharpens his teacher's [thinking processes], until, through his questions, he brings forth brilliant wisdom.

Commentary Halacha 1

Just as a person is commanded to honor his father and hold him in awe - Exodus 20:12 commands: "Honor your father and mother." Leviticus 19:3 commands: "A man shall fear his mother and father." (See Hilchot Mamrim, Chapter 6, for a discussion of these mitzvot.)

so, too, is he obligated to honor his teacher and hold him in awe. - All the particulars of this halachah apply only regarding rabo hamuzhak, a teacher from whom one has learned the majority of one's wisdom (Bava Metzia 33a.) (See also the commentary on the next halachah.) However, every teacher under whom one has studied Torah deserves a certain measure of respect (Halachah 9).

[Indeed, the measure of honor and awe] due one's teacher exceeds that due one's father. His father brings him into the life of this world - i.e., he sired him and provided him with his fundamental necessities

while his teacher, who teaches him wisdom, brings him into the life of the world to come. - A person's Torah study and the mitzvot it motivates are the means through which he will attain a portion of the world to come.

The reason given by the Rambam has its source in Bava Metzia, ibid. Keritot 28a states a different reason: "He and his father are both obligated to honor his teacher." The Rambam quotes this in Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Mitzvah 209).

[Accordingly,] if he saw a lost object belonging to his father and one belonging to his teacher, the lost object belonging to his teacher takes precedence. - Therefore, he should tend to his teacher's article first. Only after returning it should he tend to his father's.

If his father and his teacher are both carrying loads, he should relieve his teacher's load, and then his father's. - In his Commentary on the Mishnah, Keritot 6:9, the Rambam equates removing a load with returning a lost article and redeeming a person from captivity in all respects. Accordingly, as explained below, if one's father is also a Torah sage, he should be given priority. However, the Kessef Mishneh explains that where there is no danger to life or property, and only honor is involved, priority should be given to one's teacher, even if one's father is a Torah sage of equivalent stature.

If his father and his teacher are held as captives, he should redeem his teacher, and afterwards, redeem his father. - Note Hilchot Matnot Ani'im, 8:10-18, for a discussion of this important mitzvah.

However, if his father is also a Torah sage - even if he is not equivalent to his teacher (Kessef Mishneh)

he should redeem his father first. - This decision is disputed with regard to the return of a lost object, as explained below. Nevertheless, with regard to the redemption of captives, all agree that because of the life-and-death nature of the question, one's father is given priority if he has achieved some level of scholarship.

[Similarly,] if his father is a Torah sage - even if he is not equivalent to his teacher - he should return his lost article, and then that belonging to his teacher. - The commentaries have noted the apparent contradiction between this statement and Hilchot Aveidah 12:2, which states:

[The following rule applies when] one sees a lost object belonging to his teacher and a lost object belonging to his father: If his father was equal in stature to his teacher, his father's [lost article] is given precedence. If not, his teacher's is given precedence.
This applies only to a person's primary teacher, from whom he learned the majority of his wisdom.

The text of Bava Metzia (ibid.), the source for this decision, is closer to the text in Hilchot Aveidah. Indeed, on that basis, the Hagahot Maimoniot and others maintain that our text contains a printing error. However, that conclusion is difficult to accept, since in his Commentary on the Mishnah, Keritot ibid., the Rambam gives a father who is a Torah sage priority over a person's teacher, without requiring that the father be of greater stature.

The Lechem Mishneh explains that our text refers to a situation when it is possible to retrieve both lost objects, and the only question is whose is given priority. In contrast, Hilchot Aveidah refers to a situation where it is possible to return only one of the lost objects.

Alternatively, the Tashbaytz (Responsa, Vol. III, 275) and the Radbaz (Responsa, Vol. V, 1493) explain that here we are referring to a father who has also instructed his son (albeit, not to the same degree as his teacher). In contrast, Hilchot Aveidah refers to a father who has not instructed his son at all.

There is no greater honor than that due a teacher, and no greater awe than that due a teacher. Our Sages declared - Avot 4:15

"Your fear of your teacher should be equivalent to your fear of Heaven." - In his commentary on that Mishnah, Rashi notes that Pesachim 22b equates the deference due a Torah sage to that due God. Surely, that applies to a sage under whom one has studied.

Therefore, they said - Sanhedrin 110a. The Rambam quotes the entire passage that follows below in Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Mitzvah 209, in his description of the commandment to honor a Torah sage.

Whoever disputes the authority of his teacher - i.e., "comes out against his decisions...teaching and granting decisions, without his permission" (Sefer HaMitzvot, ibid.). (See the following halachot.)

is considered as if he revolts against the Divine Presence, as implied [by Numbers 26:9]: "...who led a revolt against God." - This verse describes Korach's revolt. Though ostensibly, the revolt was directed against Moses, the Torah considers it as directed against God, Himself.

Whoever engages in controversy with his teacher is considered as if he engaged in controversy with the Divine Presence, as implied [by Numbers 20:13]: "...where the Jews contested with God and where He was sanctified." - Numbers 20:1-3 describes how, because of a lack of water, the Jews began quarreling with Moses. As above, God interpreted their controversy as being directed against God Himself.

Whoever complains against his teacher is considered as if he complains against the Divine Presence, as implied [by Exodus 16:8]: "Your complaints are not against us, but against God." - When the Jews complained against him and Aaron because of a lack of food, Moses gave them this reply. On this verse, the Mechiltah comments: "Whoever speaks against the shepherds of the Jewish people is considered as if he spoke against God."

Whoever criticizes his teacher - explaining his statements and actions in an unfavorable light (Sefer HaMitzvot, ibid.)

is considered as if he criticized the Divine Presence, as implied [by Numbers 21:5]: "And the people spoke out against God and Moses." - In this case as well, the people directed their criticism over a lack of food and water to Moses; however, the Torah considers it as being directed against God.

Commentary Halacha 2

What is meant by disputing the authority of one's teacher? - As mentioned in the commentary on the previous halachah, Halachah 9 states:

When does the above apply? To one's outstanding teacher (rabo hamuzhak ), from whom one has gained the majority of one's wisdom. However, a person who has not gained the majority of his wisdom under a teacher's instruction is considered to be both a student and colleague. He is not obligated to honor him in all the above matters.

A person who - studied under a teacher and then

establishes a house of study [where] he sits, explains, and teaches - and renders halachic decisions. The Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 242:7 (see also Kessef Mishneh) explains that the prohibition applies only to rendering halachic decisions on matters directly related to practice. There is no difficulty involved in teaching on a merely theoretical level. However, it is not clear whether the Rambam would accept this view.

The Rishon Letzion explains that this prohibition applies even to establishing a house of study under one's own direction, even though one does not render any halachic decisions.

without his teacher's permission - A person granted permission by his teacher is allowed to render halachic decisions outside his teacher's presence. The Ramah (Yoreh De'ah 242:14) equates a teacher's granting permission to a student to render halachic decisions to the concept of semichah within its present context (in contrast to its definition in Talmudic times).

in his teacher's lifetime. - It is a mark of disrespect to one's teacher to set oneself up to be an equivalent authority.

Eruvin 62b relates that as long as Rav Huna was alive, Rav Chisda, his disciple, would not render any decisions, even those concerning as obvious a matter as dipping "an egg in a mixture of sour milk and bread."

After the teacher's death, there is no restriction, provided one is fit to render Torah judgments. (See Halachot 3 and 4.)

[This applies] even when one's teacher is in another country. - This can be derived from Eruvin 63a, which states that Rav Hamnuna would not render judgments in Rav Huna's lifetime, even though they lived in different cities.

Even though a person has been granted permission by his teacher to render halachic judgments...

It is forbidden to ever render a halachic judgment - except in the instances mentioned in the following halachah. The Vilna Gaon explains that this includes even teaching a halachic concept incidentally, outside the context of a house of study.

in one's teacher's presence. - The Rambam defines this term in the next halachah.

Ketubot 60b relates that, without considering the question of respect due one's teacher, there is an additional problem. Spiritual influences will cause a student who renders a halachic judgment in his teacher's presence to err.

The Maharik (Responsum 169) states that if a student has reached a stature approximate to that of his teacher, he is permitted to render halachic judgments even in his teacher's presence. He points to many Talmudic passages which record halachic decisions given by Resh Lakish in the presence of Rabbi Yochanan (his teacher).

Siftei Cohen (Yoreh De'ah 242:12) explains that it is possible to say that the Rambam would accept this decision. However, there is no intimation of such a concept in the Rambam's words.

Whoever renders a halachic judgment in his teacher's presence is worthy of death. - Eruvin 63a explains that Nadav and Avihu, Aharon's sons, died (Leviticus, Chapter 10) because of this sin. (See also Berachot 31b.)

Rendering a judgment outside one's teacher's presence without his permission and rendering a judgment in his presence with his permission, although forbidden, are not deserving of such a punishment.

It must be emphasized that today, when most of our Torah knowledge is gained from the study of texts and not from personal instruction, many authorities maintain that this entire concept does not apply. (See Hagahot Maimoniot, Lechem Mishneh, Halachah 5.) However, this opinion is not accepted by all authorities. (See Maharik, Responsum 169.)

Commentary Halacha 3

If a person asked [a student] regarding a halachic question and there were twelve mil - A mil is 2000 cubits, approximately a kilometer in modern measure.

This distance was derived from the measurement of the camp of Israel as they journeyed through the desert. There, all halachic questions were posed to Moses, as alluded to by Exodus 33:7: "All those who sought God would go the Tent of Meeting" (Rashi, Sanhedrin 5b). (See also Hilchot Sanhedrin 20:9.)

[Exodus, Chapter 18, relates how Moses appointed judges to render halachic judgments concerning cases that did not require Moses' knowledge. Nevertheless, since these judges were appointed by Moses by Divine decree, the judgments they rendered were permitted.]

between him and his teacher, he is permitted to answer - even though he was not granted permission by his teacher, as explained below.

[Furthermore,] to prevent a transgression, it is permitted to give a halachic judgment even in the presence of one's teacher. - This applies both in his actual physical presence and within a radius of twelve mil.

What does the above imply? For example, one saw a person perform a forbidden act because he was unaware of the prohibition or because of his perversity, he should [try to] prevent him [by] telling him: "This is forbidden." - Eruvin 63a relates that while Ravina was in the presence of Rav Ashi, his teacher, he saw a man tie a donkey to a date palm on the Sabbath. At first, he shouted at him [so that he would know it is forbidden]. When he did not respond, he placed him under a ban of ostracism.

When Rav Ashi saw this, he questioned Ravina, because the latter's actions appeared to be disrespectful. Ravina explained that since a transgression was involved (making use of a tree on the Sabbath), he was obligated to take these steps.

[This] applies even in his teacher's presence and even though one's teacher had not given him permission. Wherever the desecration of God's name is involved, no deference is paid to a teacher's honor. - Eruvin, ibid., derives this from Proverbs 21:30: "There is no wisdom, no understanding, and no counsel against God."

The teacher's honor stems from the honor of the Torah and the honor of God. Hence, in all cases, priority is given to the Torah.

When does the above apply? - This refers to the first clause, which mentions the license to respond to a question outside one's teacher's presence.

With regard to a matter that came up incidentally. - Since this is a casual occurrence and his teacher is not present, the student's response is not considered to be disrespectful.

However, establishing oneself as a halachic authority to sit and reply to all who ask concerning halachic matters is forbidden - for this clearly applies that the student considers his authority as equivalent (or at least, similar) to that of his teacher. Doing so without permission is considered to be an affront to his teacher's honor.

even if [the student] is at one end of the world and the teacher at the other - i.e., geographic distance is not a factor.

until either: a) the teacher dies - at which point the honor due him takes on a different dimension.

or b) the student receives permission from his teacher. - Since the teacher has given permission for the student to answer questions, doing so is not considered to be an affront to the teacher's honor.

Though a student who was not granted permission by his teacher to render halachic decisions during the latter's lifetime, he may do so after his death. Nevertheless,...

Not everyone whose teacher dies is permitted to sit and render judgment concerning Torah law; only one who is a student worthy of rendering judgment. - Avodah Zarah 19b requires a student to be forty years of age before he is considered to be worthy of rendering halachic judgments. In summation of that entire passage, Rabbenu Nissim writes that a Torah sage is not entitled to render a halachic judgment until he reaches 40, unless there is no sage of equivalent status in his city. He questions why the Rambam makes no mention of this requirement.

Among the resolutions offered for the Rambam's decision are:
a) The Rambam interprets the passage from Avodah Zarah to mean that only until he is forty years old can a worthy student hold himself back from rendering judgment because of his humility. He does not mention this law here, since the unworthy students have become so numerous, and at present, no worthy student should hesitate from rendering judgment at all (Kessef Mishneh).
b) The Talmud's decision refers only to a student who received his instruction from an individual teacher. At present, since students gain their knowledge from texts which are always available, there is no such restriction (Lechem Mishneh).
c) The Rambam places the entire emphasis on a student's capability and does not pay attention to the age factor (Merchevat Hamishneh).

Though the latter paragraph is included in this halachah in the published texts of the Mishneh Torah, many manuscripts include it in the following halachah.

Commentary Halacha 4

Any student who is not worthy of rendering halachic judgments and does so is foolish, wicked, and arrogant. - The Rambam's statements are based on Avot 4:9, which uses these adjectives to describe a person who "renders halachic judgments casually." In his commentary on that Mishnah, the Rambam states that this applies to one who "does not worry about rendering a judgment and proceeds to do so without fear or proper consideration."

[Proverbs 7:26:] "She has cast down many corpses" applies to him. - This concept can be derived because the word hipilah (cast down) is related to neifal, a stillborn baby (Kessef Mishneh).

[Conversely,] a sage who is worthy of rendering halachic judgments - Almost parenthetically, in the midst of his critique of the underdeveloped who render halachic judgments too casually, the Rambam explains that, nevertheless, a person who is qualified should not hesitate from rendering halachic judgments. On the contrary, if he does hesitate, he is also guilty of improper conduct.

[A teacher once told a student to serve as the Rabbi of a particular community. The student protested, claiming that he was afraid of the responsibility of rendering halachic judgments for such a large community.

The teacher responded: "Whom should I send? Someone who is not afraid?"]

and refrains from doing so holds back [the spread] of Torah - In Hilchot Sanhedrin 20:8, the Rambam makes similar statements, except that there he qualifies his condemnation of "a sage who is worthy of rendering halachic judgments and refrains from doing so" as applying only when "the generation needs him." In contrast, if [the sage] refrains because he knows that there is another individual fit to render halachic judgments, "he is praiseworthy." Similarly, in Hilchot Sanhedrin 3:10, the Rambam praises sages who flee from seeking appointment as judges.

and places stumbling blocks before the blind. - Of course, the Rambam is not referring to those who are physically blind, but rather those who are intellectually unaware or spiritually handicapped, as explained in the interpretation of Leviticus 19:14: "Do not place a stumbling block before the blind."

"How prodigious are those she slew" [ibid.] applies to him. - The word atzumim (prodigious) is related to the word atzum, meaning to close one's eyes (Kessef Mishneh).

These underdeveloped students who have not gathered much Torah knowledge, seek to gain prestige in the eyes of the common people and the inhabitants of their city [by] jumping to sit at the head of all questions of law and halachic judgments in Israel. They spread division, destroy the world, extinguish the light of Torah, and wreak havoc - The Kessef Mishneh notes that although the Mishneh Torah was composed as a timeless book of halachah, the Rambam's harsh criticism here may have resulted from the prevalence of unqualified students who sought rabbinical positions in his time.

in the vineyard of the God of Hosts. - i.e., the people of Israel. (See Isaiah 5:7.)

In his wisdom, Solomon alluded to them [as follows (Song of Songs 2:15)]: "Take for us foxes, little foxes that spoil the vineyards, our vineyards are blooming."

Commentary Halacha 5

It is forbidden for a student to refer to his teacher by name - Sanhedrin 100a describes such a person as an epicurus (nonbeliever). Rashi states that he should state a descriptive phrase before mentioning his teacher's name, following the example of Joshua (Numbers 11:28), who said: "Moses, my master, imprison them."
Compare to Hilchot Mamrim 6:3, which describes the reverence due to a father:

He should not call him by name either in his lifetime or after his death. Rather, he should say, "My father, my teacher."

even outside his presence. - even if he is in a different country entirely.

[The version of the text which follows is based on the Oxford manuscript of the Mishneh Torah. The commonly printed text appears to contradict the passage from Hilchot Mamrim. See also Kessef Mishneh and Taz, Yoreh De'ah 242:4, who have noted difficulties with the printed text.]

He should not mention his name - i.e., his teacher's name

in his presence, even when referring to others with the same name as his teacher - as he does with the name of his father. Rather, he should refer to them - the other people

with different names, even after their death. - as Hilchot Mamrim (ibid.) states: "If his father's or teacher's name resembles the name of others, he should change their name."

We find an example of this in the Talmud. Abbaye's name was actually Nachmani. However, since his teacher, Rabbah, had a father with that name, he coined a new name for his disciple (Ha'Aruch).

The above applies when the name is unusual and all will thus know to whom it refers. - Hilchot Mamrim (ibid.) continues:

It appears to me that one must take care in this regard only when the name is unique....However, if the name is one which many people are called by - e.g., Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Moses - ...one may call others by this name outside his presence.

Thus, if the teacher's name is common, it is permitted to refer by name to another person with the same name. Nevertheless, the Rambam's words raise questions concerning the commonly followed practice of naming a child after one's parent or teacher, even when that name is unique.

[A student] should not greet his teacher or respond to the latter's greeting, as is customary when two friends exchange greetings. - Berachot 27b states: "A person who greets his teacher causes the Divine Presence to depart from Israel." Rashi explains that this refers to greeting him casually without a show of reverence.

Rather, he should bow before him - Note Soferim 18:5, which mentions such a practice.

and say with awe and reverence: "Peace be upon you, my master." - Bava Kama 73b states that it is improper for a student to greet a teacher at all, as implied by Job 29:8: "The lads saw me and hid."

If his teacher greeted him, he should respond: "Peace be upon you, my teacher and master." - Note the interchange between Rabbi Yosse and Elijah, the prophet, quoted in Berachot 3a.

It must be noted that the phrase shalom elecha rebbe has been given halachic significance in totally different contexts. For example, a person who takes an oath is allowed to retract his statements if he changes his mind toch k’dei dibbur (in the midst of speaking). What is considered "in the midst of speaking"? The time it takes to say shalom elecha rebbe (Hilchot Sh'vuot 2:17). Similar laws apply with regard to witnesses who want to retract testimony made in court.

Commentary Halacha 6

Similarly, he should not remove his tefillin in the presence of his teacher - Rav David Arameah notes that this law is found in the Shimusha Rabbah. His version of that text leads him to the interpretation "before," rather than "in the presence of" - i.e., first, the teacher should remove his tefillin, and then the student. However, the Shibbolei HaLeket and others render the Shimusha Rabbah as translated here.

The Kessef Mishneh cites Sanhedrin 101b, which forbids removing one's tefillin in the presence of a king. Since Horayot 13a relates that a Torah sage is more deserving of a honor than a king, there are those who quote this as a source for our halachah.

nor should he recline in his presence. - Note Hilchot Chametz U'Matzah 7:8, which mentions this prohibition even on the Seder night, when it is a mitzvah to recline.

Rather, he should sit before him as one sits before a king. - because, as mentioned in Horayot, ibid., a Torah sage deserves greater honor.

A person should not pray either in front of his teacher - Standing with one's back to one's teacher is a mark of great disrespect. Hence, it is forbidden as long as one can be seen by one's teacher (Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 90, Shulchan Aruch 90:24).

behind his teacher, or at his teacher's side. - Rashi, Berachot 27a, explains that doing so would be an expression of pride, implying a degree of equivalence to his teacher.

The Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 242:16, states that there is no prohibition if one stands more than four cubits away from his teacher. The Beit Yosef (ibid.) also states that these restrictions apply only when praying as individuals and not when participating in communal prayer.

Needless to say, he should not walk by his side. - Yoma 37a states: "A person who walks at his teacher's right is a boor." Compare with Chapter 6, Halachah 5.

Rather - when praying or walking (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah ibid.)

he should distance himself behind his teacher without standing directly behind him and then pray. - i.e., standing slightly to his side and slightly behind him.

One should not enter a bathhouse together with his teacher - for it is not respectful to be together with him while naked. However, if the teacher needs his assistance it is permitted, as the Rambam states in Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 21:16.

or sit in his teacher's place. - This and the following points are taken from the statements in Kiddushin 31b regarding the respect due a father. Similar statements are found in Hilchot Mamrim 6:3.

One should not side against his teacher's opinion - This translation is based on the Rambam's definition of the latter expression in one of his responsa. Others define it as "favor his teacher's opinion," explaining that doing so is a mark of disrespect, because it implies that the teacher needs the student's support.

in his presence - However, if one is in a different place or after the teacher's death, one is allowed to voice a different opinion. Note Hilchot Shechitah 11:10, where the Rambam states that his father held a more stringent view, while he, himself, followed a more lenient perspective. (See also Eruvin 32a.)

or contradict his statements.

One should not sit in his presence until he tells him to sit. - The Midrash Rabbah, Ruth 4:2, makes similar statements, based on Boaz's instructions to the elders of Bethlehem.

One should not stand before him until he tells him to stand or until he receives permission to stand. - Derech Eretz Rabbah, Chapter 5, states: "A person should not depart from a teacher or a colleague unless he takes leave of him or receives permission from him."

When one departs from one's teacher, one should not turn his back to him - for turning one's back to one's teacher is not a sign of respect.

Rather, one should walk backwards while facing him. - Yoma 53a relates that the priests and Levites would follow this procedure when departing from the Temple service. It continues to recommend that the same procedure be adopted by students when departing from their teachers.

Commentary Halacha 7

A person is obligated to stand before his teacher from the time he sees him - as far away as he can see - Contrast to Chapter 6, Halachah 5, which states that a person is not obligated to stand before a sage who is not his teacher until the latter comes within four cubits of him.

until [he passes beyond his field of vision] and is hidden: his figure no longer visible. Then, [the student] may sit. - The above halachah states that as soon as the sage passes him, the person may sit. The requirement to show an extra degree of respect to one's own teacher can be derived from the example of Rabbi Eliezer, who showed such deference to his teacher, Rabbi Yochanan (Yoma 53a).

A person is obligated to visit his teacher during the festivals. - Sukkah 27b relates:

An incident occurred concerning Rabbi Ellai, who journeyed to visit his teacher, Rabbi Eliezer, in Lod during a festival.
He told him: "Ellai, you are not one of those who rests on the festivals,". Rabbi Eliezer would say: "I praise the lazy ones who do not leave their homes during the festivals, because it is written: 'And you shall rejoice on your festivals.’“
That is unacceptable, because Rabbi Yitzchak taught: What is the source for the obligation that a person has to visit his teacher on the festival, it is written: "Why are you going to him today? It is not a day of rest or a new moon." From this we can infer that on a day of rest and on the new moon, a person is obligated to visit his teacher.
There is no difficulty: the [latter reference] applies when he can go back and forth in one day.

The Rambam interprets Rabbi Yitzchak's statement simply, because, in a number of other instances (Sukkah 10b, 26a), the Talmud relates how students would visit their teachers on festivals.

The Nodah Biyhudah, Orach Chayim, Vol. II, Responsum 94, notes that this law is not quoted by the Tur or the Shulchan Aruch. Therefore, he explains that it applies only in the time of the Temple. In contrast, at present, since the Temple is destroyed and the festival pilgrimages are no longer made, it is improper to make a special visit to one's teacher. Doing so would imply that one is showing him greater deference than is shown the Divine Presence.

This view is not accepted by many commentators. Indeed, the Talmudic references to visiting one's teacher during the festival cited above took place in the period after the destruction of the Temple. Based on the statement quoted in Halachah 1, "Your fear for your teacher should be equivalent to your fear of Heaven," Kinat Eliyahu explains that there is a parallel between a visit to one's teacher and a pilgrimage to the Temple.

Commentary Halacha 8

Deference should not be shown to a student while in the presence of his teacher - Honoring a student in the presence of his teacher may be interpreted to be an affront to the latter's position.

unless it is customary for his teacher also to show him deference. - Since the teacher himself shows the student deference, he will not be upset by others doing so (Rashi, Bava Batra 119b).

All the services which a servant performs for his master should be performed by a student for his teacher. - as an expression of the deference and respect he has for him.

[However,] - In one situation, an exception is made to the above principle...

if [the student] was in a place where he was not recognized and was not wearing tefillin - At that time, it was customary to wear tefillin the entire day. Nevertheless, if for some reason, this student was not wearing tefillin

should he - the student

suspect that people - observing his behavior

will say he is a servant - i.e., a "Canaanite servant," who is not considered to be a full-fledged Jew. [His failure to wear tefillin might create such an impression, since tefillin are a time-oriented mitzvah and "Canaanite slaves" are free from its observance.]

he need not put on [his teacher's] shoe or remove it. - i.e., he is freed from the performance of any menial tasks which might create this impression.

Whoever prevents his student from serving him withholds kindness from him and takes away his fear of heaven. - In Hilchot De'ot 5:1, the Rambam writes that a wise man is distinguished, not only by his intellectual achievements, but by the manner in which his understanding is reflected in his everyday behavior. When a student has the opportunity to appreciate not only the intellectual gifts of his teacher, but the totality of his behavior, he becomes aware of how a Torah lifestyle is an all-encompassing commitment, affecting every aspect of his daily activity. This leads to complete fear of heaven.

Any student who deals lightly with a matter related to the honor of his teacher causes the Divine Presence to depart from Israel. - Berachot 27b makes this statement regarding one who prays behind his teacher or who greets his teacher in a casual manner. (See Halachot 5 and 6.) The Rambam extrapolates that the concept also applies regarding other acts of disrespect to one's teacher.

Commentary Halacha 9

[A student who] saw his teacher transgress the words of the Torah should - not rebuke him directly. Rather, he should....

tell him: "Master, you have taught us such and such..." - Kiddushin 32a makes similar statements regarding a situation when one saw one's father transgress Torah law. The Rambam inferred that a similar concept applies regarding one's teacher (Kessef Mishneh).

Others point to Berachot 16a-b, which quotes Rabban Gamliel's students as reproaching him in such a manner after carrying out a number of deeds which appeared to contradict his teachings.

Whenever he - a student

mentions a teaching in his - teacher's

presence, he should tell him: "You have taught us the following, master." - Sanhedrin 99b, 101a states:

Who is an epicurus (nonbeliever)?
A person who relates a concept from another source that occurred to him while he was sitting before his teacher, and states: "This is what is said there," rather than "This is what you taught us, master."

Similarly, Mo'ed Katan 7b relates that once Rabbi Chiyya mentioned a teaching before his teacher, Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, and prefaced his statements with the expression: "You have taught us the following, master."

[From that passage, it appears that Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi had not actually made that statement, and Rabbi Chiyya's remarks were merely a polite token of respect.]

Even when a student is not in his teacher's presence...

He should not mention a concept which he did not hear from his teacher unless he mentions the name of the person who authored it. - In general, there is an obligation to mention a concept in the name of its author (Megillah 15a). However, in this instance, there is a particular obligation to do so, lest it be assumed that this teaching was authored by one's teacher.

The Jerusalem Talmud (Berachot 2:1) mentions the following incident: Rabbi Yochanan was walking, supported by Rabbi Ya'akov bar Iddi. Rabbi Yochanan complained to him that his student, Rabbi Eliezer, never made statements in his name.

Rabbi Ya'akov told him that there was a precedent to such behavior. Rabbi Meir would quote teachings in the name of Rabbi Yishmael, but would not quote teachings in the name of Rabbi Akiva, his teacher.
Rabbi Yochanan answered that there was nothing wrong with that, because everyone knew that Rabbi Meir was Rabbi Akiva's disciple, and most of his teachings came from him.

Rabbi Ya'akov explained that the same concept applied at present: "Everyone knows that Rabbi Eliezer is your disciple, and that most of his teachings are yours."

Thus, were a student to mention a concept without mentioning its source, it is likely for the listeners to assume that it was authored by his teacher. If, in fact, it was authored by someone other than his teacher, and his teacher would not have approved of it, creating such an impression would not be respectful to his teacher.

When his teacher dies, he should rend all his garments until he reveals his heart. - With regard to the rending of one's garments until one's heart is revealed, see Hilchot Eivel 8:3, 9:2 and Mo'ed Katan 22a.

He should never mend them. - Mo'ed Katan 26a equates garments torn over a teacher's passing with those torn over a father's passing, with regard to the latter law. On this basis, the Rambam concludes that the same principle applies regarding the extent one rends his garments.

The Rambam draws this comparison from Elisha's behavior at the death of Elijah, his teacher. II Kings 2:12 relates: "He cried out, 'Father, Father, Chariot of Israel,'....He took hold of his clothes and rent them into two...." (Hilchot Eivel 9:5).

[At present, it is very uncommon to see a student rend his garments at his teacher's passing. Among the rationalizations for the present custom is the opinion of the Hagahot Maimoniot and the Lechem Mishneh mentioned above, that at present we derive most of our knowledge from books. Accordingly, the concept of a rav hamuzhak does not apply.]

When does the above apply? - As mentioned above, the commentaries interpret this to be a reference to all the tokens of reverence and respect mentioned in the previous halachot.

To one's outstanding teacher from whom one has gained the majority of his wisdom.

However, a person who has not gained the majority of his wisdom under a teacher's instruction is considered to be both a student and colleague - of the latter.

Rashi, Eruvin 63a, defines the term talmid chavair (a student and a colleague), as a sage of equivalent stature who has learned some concepts from the "teacher."

He - the student

is not obligated to honor him in all the above matters. Nevertheless - he should show some signs of respect. Therefore...

he should stand before him - when he comes within four cubits of him (Kessef Mishneh)

rend his garments at his [death] - Bava Metzia 33a praises the students of Babylon for showing these tokens of respect to each other.

as he does for all the deceased for whom he is obligated to mourn. - i.e., one's brother, sister, spouse, son, daughter, and parents.

Many commentaries note the apparent contradiction between this halachah, which implies that it is sufficient to rend one's garments a handbreadth, and Hilchot Eivel 9:11, which states that one is obligated to rend one's garments over the passing of a sage (even if he is not one's outstanding teacher) until one reveals his heart.

The Kessef Mishneh writes that the law in Hilchot Eivel applies only to a sage accepted as a city's halachic authority, while the present halachah refers even to a personage of lesser stature. The Lechem Mishneh writes that the law in Hilchot Eivel is incumbent on the common people, while a person who is himself a Torah sage is not obligated to make such a large gesture of mourning.

Even if he learned only one thing from him, whether it be a small or great matter - Pirkei Avot 6:3 states:

A person who learns from a colleague a single chapter, a single law, a single verse...or a single letter must show him honor.
So we find concerning David, King of Israel: He learned from Achitofel only two things, yet he called him his teacher, his guide, and his mentor.

he should stand before him and rend his garments at his [death]. - Bava Metzia 33a relates that Shmuel rent his garments at the passing of a student from whom he learned only one concept.

Commentary Halacha 10

Every student with a proper character - whose intellect and emotions are well trained (Rambam, Commentary on the Mishnah, Avot 5:6)

will not speak in front of anyone who is wiser than he is - Avot (ibid.) states:

There are seven traits that characterize an underdeveloped person and seven [that characterize] a wise man. A wise man does not speak in the presence of anyone who is wiser than he.

even though he has not learned anything from him. - This is the Rambam's own addition.

Commentary Halacha 11

An outstanding teacher may, if he desires, forgo his honor - Kiddushin 32a relates a difference of opinion between the Sages concerning this matter. Rav Chisda maintains that a teacher is not entitled to forgo his honor, because the honor is not due him personally, but to the Torah. Rav Yosef maintains that once he has mastered the subject matter he studies, it is considered as his own. Hence, he is entitled to forgo the honor due him because of it.

with regard to any or all of the above matters - Kiddushin 32b relates that Ravva and Rav Pappa relaxed certain formalities and served their students at weddings.

to any or all his students. - i.e., he may restrict these leniencies to only a small number of students or extend them to all, as he desires.

Note Chapter 7, Halachah 13, which does not allow a sage to forgo his honor after a public display of disrespect towards him.

Even though he forgoes [these honors], the student is obligated to respect him - i.e., he must stand in front of him, refrain from sitting in his place, and the like. The student's failure to do so would be considered an act of disrespect for the Torah.

at the time he forgoes [respect]. - Our translation is based on Avodat HaMelech. That text notes the apparent redundancy in the Rambam's statements and explains that even if the teacher is willing to forgo these minimal tokens of respect, the student is obligated to grant them to him, because it is improper that such respect not be shown to the Torah.

Commentary Halacha 12

Just as students are obligated to honor their teacher, a teacher is obligated to honor his students and encourage them. - Though we should treat all men with respect and affection, a teacher should make a special effort to display these qualities to his students.

Our Sages - Avot 4:15

declared: "The honor of your students should be as dear to you as your own." - Avot D'Rabbi Natan, Chapter 27, quotes as an example of this behavior Moses' instructions to Joshua (Exodus 17:9): "Choose men for us," where Moses equated Joshua with himself.

A teacher should take care of his students and love them, because they are like sons - See Chapter 1, Halachah 2.

who bring him pleasure in this world - first, as described in the next halachah, students deepen a teacher's comprehension of the subject matter. Also, their success and progress generate great feelings of satisfaction.

and in the world to come - for a student's actions and study increase the merit of his teacher, who led him to these righteous paths.

Commentary Halacha 13

Students increase their teacher's wisdom and broaden his horizons. Our Sages declared: - Ta'anit 7a and Makkot 10a quote two different sages who made the following statement.

"I learned much wisdom from my teachers and even more from my colleagues. However, from my students - and their questions, as explained below

[I learned] most of all."

Just as a small branch is used to light a large bough - Ta'anit, ibid., makes these statements within the context of the explanation of Deuteronomy 20:19: "Is man a tree of the fields?"

so a small student sharpens his teacher's [thinking processes], until, through his questions, he brings forth brilliant wisdom. - In order to answer a student's questions, a teacher must probe to the essence of the subject. For himself, he might have been willing to be content with a more superficial understanding. However, when a student questions him, he must penetrate to a deeper comprehension of the matter.

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