Halacha for Sunday 8 Tevet 5780 January 5 2020

The Obligation to Rise Before an Elderly Man

In the previous Halacha we have discussed the basis for rising before a Torah scholar or an elderly gentleman.

Who is Considered “Elderly”?
The Poskim disagree regarding what age one is considered “elderly” regarding the law of rising before such an individual. Some write that one is considered “old” from the age of sixty. Nevertheless, according to the Tur and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, one is only considered “old” from the age of seventy and on. This is indeed the opinion we maintain as Halacha, as the Mishnah in Masechet Avot states, “At seventy, one reaches advanced age.”

Nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that since the saintly Ari z”l maintains that one must rise before an individual already from the age of sixty, one who acts stringently in accordance with his opinion is certainly praiseworthy; however, this is not the letter of the law, for the Halacha follows the opinion of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch.

When One is in Doubt Whether One is Elderly or a Torah Scholar
We have already explained in previous Halachot that rising before an elderly man is a positive Torah commandment and we have a well-known rule that when in doubt regarding a Torah law, one must act stringently.

Thus, Maran zt”l that if one is in doubt whether or not a certain individual has reached seventy years of age, one must nevertheless rise before him, for rising before an elderly individual is a Torah law. Similarly, if one is in doubt whether or not a certain Torah scholar has reached the level where he has the ability to render halachic rulings, one must rise before him, for when in doubt regarding a Torah law, one must act stringently. However, one need not rise before a young Kollel man who does not know how to rule on halachic matters (although the status of one who sits and toils in Torah is certainly very great).

When Must One Rise?
One is only obligated to rise before an elderly man when he enters one’s four Amot radius (approximately 6.5 feet) similar to the law regarding a Torah scholar. However, regarding one’s father, primary rabbi (from whom one has studied most of one’s Torah knowledge), or the Torah leader of the generation, one must rise for them immediately upon seeing them no matter how far away they are. Even if one is in the same house as an elderly man or a regular Torah scholar, one need not rise before them until they enter one’s four Amot. It is forbidden for one to close one’s eyes so that one does not see a rabbi or elderly man entering one’s four Amot; rather, one must rise for them as prescribed by Halacha and afford honor to the Torah.

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