Halacha for Tuesday 3 Tevet 5780 December 31 2019

Honoring One’s Primary Rabbi

  מרן זצ"ל עם האדמו"ר מגור שליט"א

In the previous Halachot we have discussed that regarding the laws of honoring Torah scholars, there are three categories of Torah scholars discussed within these laws. The rabbi to whom all of the laws of honoring apply and who is on the highest level regarding the type of honor he must be afforded is one’s primary rabbi, which is the rabbi from whom one has studied most of one’s Torah knowledge under. For instance, if one has no prior Torah knowledge and then learn all of the Torah he knows from one Torah scholar, this Torah scholar will retain the law of a primary rabbi for such an individual.

We have also written that a leader of the generation who is famous for his Torah expertise retains the law of a primary rabbi for the entire Jewish nation. In the future we shall, G-d-willing, discuss the laws of honoring one’s non-primary rabbi and honoring a Torah scholar who is not one’s rabbi at all.

Calling One’s Rabbi by His Name
A student may not call his primary rabbi by his first name either during his lifetime or after his death, as we have explained within the laws of honoring one’s parents. One may not even call him by his name with the edition of the title “rabbi”. Nowadays, it is forbidden to call any Torah scholar by name, for this is considered an affront to the honor of the Torah scholar. For instance, if his name is “Yosef,” one should not call him “Yosef”; however, one may call him “Rabbi Yosef” as this is not at all demeaning. Nevertheless, one may not call one’s primary rabbi by name even with the additional title of “rabbi”.

Greeting One’s Rabbi
One may not greet one’s primary rabbi by saying “Hello” or “Shalom” or respond to the rabbi’s greeting in the way one would to anyone else; rather, one must bow slightly and exclaim respectfully and reverently, “Shalom unto you, my rabbi.” Similarly, if one’s rabbi has greeted him by saying “Shalom,” one should respond, “Shalom unto you, my rabbi and mentor.” (One may likewise respond, “Shalom (or Hello), honorable rabbi.”)

If the rabbi absolves the student of his honor and permits him to greet him as he would anyone else, the student may just greet him with a “Shalom” or “Hello”. We have already written that Maran zt”l has ruled likewise for his grandson and student, Hagaon Harav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a.

Sitting Next to One’s Rabbi
One should not sit next to one’s rabbi until the rabbi instructs one to sit. When departing from one’s rabbi, one should not turn one’s back to the rabbi; rather, one should step backwards while still facing one’s rabbi.

Several years ago, the Gerrer Rebbe Shlit”a arrived at the home of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l to discuss a certain important matter accompanied by his personal emissary, Rabbi Yaakov Litzman (who is also currently a Kenesset member and Deputy Minister of Health). The custom in the Chassidic court of Gur is not be seated at all in the presence of their Rebbe. Thus, even when the Rebbe sat next to Maran zt”l, Rabbi Litzman remained standing. Maran turned to him and said, “Come sit down,” however, he decided to remain standing out of respect for his Rebbe. Several minutes later, Maran zt”l turned to Rabbi Litzman again and told him to sit down, however, he still remained standing. At this point, the Rebbe turned to Rabbi Litzman and told him, “If the honorable Rav tells you to be seated, do so!”

When May One be Seated?
One must rise for one’s rabbi immediately upon seeing him even from a distance and one may not be seated again until the rabbi passes and disappears from one’s sight. Indeed, when Maran zt”l would enter a Bet Midrash or hall, the entire audience would remain standing until he was seated in his place. Once, Hagaon Rabbeinu Ezra Attieh zt”l instructed the students of Yeshivat Porat Yosef to rise when Maran zt”l entered the Yeshiva and not to be seated until Maran zt”l was seated.

Upon mentioning one’s primary rabbi who had said a certain Halacha or Torah thought within twelve months of the rabbi’s passing, one must recite the words “I am an atonement for his rest” after saying his name, as we have discussed regarding the laws of honoring one’s parents.

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