Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom
Talmud Torah 5:7
7. He is obligated to stand before his teacher from the time he
sees him from afar until he is out of sight and he can no longer
see his figure - then he sits down. A person is obligated to
visit his teacher during the *Regel* (pilgrimage festival -
Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot).
Q1: Why, in general, is there an obligation to stand up in
front of his teacher (and other scholars and parents)?
YE: When it comes to issues of honorific behavior, there are two
approaches (as hinted to in the response to Q1 in Halakha 5
above) to understanding the source.
a) There is a cultural/instinctual model of behavior of respect
which the Torah adopts and channels towards God - and, on a
lesser level, to those objects and persons worthy of respect (the
*Miqdash*, parents & teachers etc.). In that case, we would have
to posit that standing had always been seen as a sign of
deference and honor. (This would likely be R's approach - see
Moreh Nevukhim III:32 ff.)
b) Standing is defined by the Torah as a mode of respectful
behavior (as evidenced in the law of standing up when doing
Avodah - see BT Zevahim 23 & MT Biat Miqdash 5:17 - also, this is
exemplified in Vayyiqra [Leviticus] 19:32 - standing for the
scholar (see Rashi ad loc.) and for the old person). Since it is
particularly emphasized in the case of worship in God's *Miqdash*
(i.e. "in front" of God) - it also becomes a model for the proper
respectful stance in front of teachers and parents.
In general, it would seem that standing is a way of not being -
or showing oneself to be - "at leisure". Being in the presence
of God demands action and readiness for action. (Army stances may
be an interesting model to investigate and correlate here.) This
then becomes the model for associated sanctity or objects/person
worthy of respect.
Q2: To whom is the *Regel*-visit obligation pointed? If it is
a contemporary student, doesn't he see his teacher all the time?
Why the *Regel*? If it is a "former" student - what does that say
about teacher-student relationships?
SR: It seems to me that Parents/Teachers hold a special place in
Judaism in that they are a kind of "reflections of G-d's
presence". Just as G-d created the universe and is responsible
for sustaining the world, so too, the Parents and Teachers assume
that physical presence and are responsible for sustaining both
the physical and spiritual well-being of the world. Insofar as
Parents/Teachers are given such high esteem and responsibility,
it seems fitting that just as G-d requires us to visit the Him in
the Sanctuary on the three "regalim", so, too, we are required to
visit those to whom we owe our physical and spiritual lives.
Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project