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Standing Up for a Parent Who is One’s Student

Does the Torah obligation to stand in the presence of one’s parent apply if the parent is the child’s student? Since students bear an obligation to respect their Rabbi, perhaps a Rabbi is not required to stand in the presence of his parent who is his student, and perhaps it would even constitute an infringement upon the Rabbi’s honor if he stands for his parents.

The Gemara raises this question in Masechet Kiddushin, and attempts to draw proof from an incident where the Sage Shemuel instructed Rav Yehuda to stand in his father’s presence, despite the fact that Rav Yehuda was his father’s Rabbi. This would appear to indicate that one must stand up for his father even though the father is his student. The Gemara, however, dismisses this proof, claiming that Rav Yehuda’s situation may have been unique and thus does not establish a general Halachic precedent. The Gemara’s discussion of this issue ends at this point, and the Rishonim note that this issue is left unresolved.

Accordingly, the Rosh (Rabbenu Asher Ben Yehiel, 1250-1327) rules that one must be stringent and stand for his father in such a case, in light of the fundamental rule of "Safek De’orayta Le’humra" – one must act stringently in cases of uncertainty involving a Torah obligation. Since standing in the presence of one’s parent constitutes a Torah obligation, one must stand in situations of Halachic uncertainty as to whether this requirement applies.

The Shulhan Aruch (Yore De’a 240) codifies the Rosh’s ruling, and adds that the father must likewise stand in the presence of his son, since one is required to stand in the presence of his Rabbi. In such a case, then, they must both stand in each other’s presence. The Shulhan Aruch also writes that if the son, the Rabbi, wishes to forego on his honor and allow the father not to stand for him, he may, but only in private contexts, or in places where people recognize his father. When the two are in a public place where people do not know his father, the Rabbi may not excuse his father from standing for him, since people will not realize that that this man is his father. It would thus infringe upon the honor of the Torah when the scholar rises for his father.

In fact, it is recorded that the Maharam of Rothenberg (Germany, 1215-1293) stayed away from his father once he became a Rabbi, in order not to compromise his or his father’s honor. He did not want his father to show him respect, but he knew that if others would see his father not showing him respect, they would not realize that this was his father, thus causing a disgrace to the Torah. He therefore felt it was preferable to him not to see his father at all, so that neither would have to compromise his honor for the sake of the other’s honor.

This demonstrates how seriously the great Rabbis approached this obligation to stand in the presence of parents and Rabbis.

It should be noted that this obligation to stand for a parent applies to both sons and daughters, and requires standing fully upright, and not merely rising slightly from one’s chair.

Summary: If a person is his parent’s Rabbi, he and his parent must stand for each other: he must stand out of respect for the parent, and the parent must stand out of respect for the child, as he is the Rabbi.


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