Friday, April 27, 2007

standing for a talmida chachama vs. standing for the wife of a talmid chacham

In the book “The Legacy of R’ Ahron Kotler” by R’ Yitzchok Dershowitz, the author records the advice of R’ Ahron given to someone who was going to teach in a Bais Ya’akov. I had to return the book to its owner so I cannot quote word for word (the exact story is around p. 215 or so if you want to check), but the gist of it was that although the halacha demands that one stand in respect for an eishes chaveir, the wife of a talmid chacham, there is no obligation to stand for a girl who herself may know every Ramban in chumash. The implicit message as to the goals of B”Y education are clear, but what left me perplexed was the halachic source for the statement. While the gemara clearly states (Shavuos 30b) that there is an obligation to stand for an eishes chaveir, I could not think of a source or understand why indeed there should be no chiyuv to stand for a woman who knows every Ramban. Since the mitzvah appears in parshas hashavua I checked the Minchas Chinuch last night and discovered he writes based sevara alone that the definition of “zakein”=zeh shekanah chochma or talmid chacham applies only to those obligated to learn Torah, to the exclusion of a women who may be learned or avadim, such as Tevi, the slave of Rabban Gamliel who the gemara says was a chacham. The footnotes of the new edition of the M.C. quote a dissenting view. Interesting.

While on the topic, the M.C. points out that while a talmid chacham can be mochel on his kavod and tell people not to stand in his honor as toraso dilei hu, the Torah being honored is his, an eishes chaveir does not have this option, as the Torah being honored is not hers to be mochel but rather belongs to her husband. Based on the same logic, many Rishonim write that after the death of the talmid chacham, there is no longer an obligation to honor the eishes chaveir, as the honor afforded to her is just an extension of the honor due her husband but not a separate din.


  1. I am almost certain that I remember a teshuva from R' Ovadiah Yosef in which he states that one is in fact obligated to stand up for a knowledgeable woman. I need to try to locate the source.

  2. Yehaveh Daat, Heleq 3, Teshuva # 72.

    It's right there in black and white.

    From the concluding summary: "It is a mitsvah to rise in the presence of a woman who is knowledgeable in Torah wisdom, as well as in the presence of a woman over 70 years old. And a student is obligated to rise for and respect her teacher from whom she studies Torah, and it is prohibited for her to call her teacher by her first name without the title 'Morati'...."

    Fascinating teshuva.

  3. Thanks for the mareh makom!