Question: The custom in our community is to rise every time the rabbi of the synagogue enters the sanctuary. Even if the rabbi enters the synagogue several times, we rise for him every time. Recently though, one of the members of the synagogue raised issue with this and said that the more observant members of the synagogue should not rise for the rabbi more than twice a day. Is this indeed correct?
The Opinion of Rabbi Yannai
Indeed, the point raised by this member of the synagogue has roots in the Gemara in Masechet Kiddushin (33b): “Rabbi Yannai said: A Torah scholar may only rise for his rabbi once in the morning and once in the evening so that the fear of one’s rabbi does not surpass one’s fear of Heaven.” This means that one should only rise for one’s rabbi twice a day similar to how we accept the yoke of Heaven upon ourselves twice a day by reciting Keri’at Shema. It is therefore improper to show greater respect for one’s rabbi than the respect one affords Hashem. The Rambam rules likewise (in Chapter 6 of Hilchot Talmud Torah).
The Opinion of Rabbi Elazar and the View of the Rif
On the other hand, the Rif (Rabbeinu Yitzchak Alfassi, one of the chief halachic authorities among the Rishonim) completely omits the opinion of Rabbi Yannai. He only quotes the continuation of the aforementioned Gemara: “Rabbi Elazar said: Any Torah scholar who does not rise before his rabbi is considered wicked, shall not merit longevity, and shall forget what he has studied.”
The Rosh writes that the reason why the Rif omits the opinion of Rabbi Yannai and only quotes the opinion of Rabbi Elazar is because he understood that Rabbi Elazar disagrees with Rabbi Yannai’s view and he rules halachically in favor of Rabbi Elazar. This is especially true since in the Gemara in Masechet Pesachim (22b), Rabbi Akiva equates the fear of one’s rabbi to the fear of Heaven by saying, “May the fear you have for your rabbi be tantamount to your fear of Heaven.” If this is the case, one must indeed rise for one’s rabbi even several times a day.
The Opinion of the Rama
The Rama writes in his notation on the Shulchan Aruch that even according to the Rambam, there is no prohibition to rise several times a day for one’s rabbi; rather, there is just no obligation to do so.
The Bottom Line
Halachically speaking, Maran Ha’Chida writes in his Birkei Yosef (Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 242, Subsection 21) that Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch actually intends to rule in accordance with the view of the Rif and the Rosh, especially since this follows the ruling of the Rashba as well. It is for this reason that Maran omits the opinion of Rabbi Yannai from his Shulchan Aruch.
Maran Ha’Chida concludes this law as follows: “We, in Israel and Egypt, who have accepted upon ourselves the rulings of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, must rise constantly in honor of a rabbi.” Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules likewise in his Ma’or Yisrael (commentary on the Rambam, page 18).