3. If there were 12 *mil* (about 7 miles) between him and
his teacher and someone asked him a Halakhic question, he
is allowed to respond. [Moreover], to prevent a violation
of the law, he is allowed to respond even in front of his
teacher. *Keitzad*? (How so?) - For instance, if he saw
someone performing a prohibited act, either because he
wasn't aware of the violation or because of his wickedness,
he should restrain him and say: "This matter is forbidden"
- even in front of his teacher, even without his teacher's
permission, because, anywhere there is *hillul hashem* (a
desecration of God's Name - i.e., a sin), we do not give
deference to the teacher's honor. When does this apply? To
an incidental case. However, it is forbidden to establish
himself for *hora'ah* (Halakhic instruction), sitting and
responding to all questioners - even if he is on the other
side of the world from his teacher - until either: a) his
teacher dies or b) the student receives permission from his
teacher. Not every student whose teacher dies is permitted
to sit and instruct in matters of Torah; only one who is
ready for *hora'ah*.
Q1: What is the meaning behind the "distance" issue of 12
JB (Jay Bailey): According to the
Gemara in Eruvin (55b), 12 mil, (=3 Parsahs =24,000 cubits)
was the width of the Israelite camp, and we see in Exodus
33:7 that whenever a person had a question, they went
straight to Moshe with it.
Q2: If his teacher didn't see fit to restrain the
violator, why is the student doing so? Isn't that also a
violation of the teacher's honor?
JB: Picture the two men sitting face to face, and the
violator is behind the teacher and is busily placing
stumbling blocks before blind people or something. The
teacher might not necessarily see what was going on.
YE (Yitz Etshalom ): Besides Jay's
*uqimta* (circumstance/situational explanation), there is a
more general issue here: If the teacher saw the violation
taking place and didn't intervene, then there are two
a) the teacher did not feel capable of properly preventing
the violation (see Torat Kohanim on Vayyiqra [Leviticus]
19:17 - where the ability to reprove (which may be
connected to the ability to prevent and restrain a
violation) is directly tied to the characteristics of the
reprover and the relationship between him/her and the
(potential) violator). In that case, it becomes a Mitzva
which is incumbent upon the student (or anyone else), if
he/she feels capable of restraining/reproving.
b) the teacher chose not to restrain - which is itself a
transgression. In that case, the student has an overriding
obligation - almost as if, in this particular case, the
teacher has forfeited his position.
If, on the other hand, the teacher did not see the
violation, the student must intervene (to stop the
violation) and there is no disgrace or usurpation of the
teacher's position, as he was not aware (as in Jay's
Q3: Why the two examples - "because he wasn't aware of the
violation or because of his wickedness"?
JB: Because the implication is that the sinner was either
committing his crime on purpose on by accident. Now the
punishment is different depending on that question, to the
point that one who violates Shabbat WITH a warning (as well
as other details) can be killed! Perhaps if it is done by
accident you might think that you can let it go, but only
risk putting down your teacher if the sinner is malicious.
I'm not sure exactly where to take this, but I think those
are the considerations.
YE: I agree with Jay that those are the considerations - so
I'll try to take it further. Each type of violation (from
ignorance, intentional and malicious) has a perspective
which may make it less "worthy" of the student's
intervention in our case -and for that reason, R needs to
Ignorance: As Jay pointed out, this type of violation,
which often carries no punishment (and, when it does, is
always less severe than a malicious crime) - may be so
"light" that it isn't "worth" possibly disgracing the
teacher by restraining. In addition, the classic model for
this restraint (in the presence of one's teacher) is Pinhas
(Bamidbar [Numbers] 25:6-8) who killed two people in
Moshe's presence (see Rashi there) - and that case was
certainly intentional and evil violation. One additional
point - the tenet upon which this Halakha is based is
"Anywhere there is *hillul hashem* (a desecration of God's
Name) we show no preference for the honor of the teacher" -
and we might think that *hillul hashem* only occurs when
the violation is intentional with malice aforethought.
Deliberate: We might think that the only value of
restraining someone from a violation is educational -
he/she is unaware that action X is a violation, so we stop
and thereby inform them. But if someone is intentionally
transgressing, we might think that this is someone for whom
the informational/educational input is meaningless - so why
intervene? In addition, there is room to think that such a
person has moved himself out of the pale of our concern
and, if he/she violates a law of the Torah, we have no
responsibility to intervene. (by the way, it should be
obvious that these possible distinction would only apply to
a violation in ritual areas - but if someone was about to
steal, assault etc. someone else, we all have a [qualified]
responbility to intervene - here, the violator's intent is
Therefore, R needs to include both types of violation.
Q4: Isn't the last clause superfluous? The death of one's
teacher doesn't automatically qualify the student as a
JB: No - you might take that as a blanket statement. You
can just see an unqualified buffoon sitting as a rabbinic
advisor, and when challenged, say that R allows one to
advise as soon as his teacher dies! True, it does not give
him much credit, but it is R's way of being precise.