Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom
Talmud Torah 6:13
13. If a teacher declared *Nidui* for his own honor, all of his
students are obligated to ostracize the *Menudeh* (person under
*Nidui*). However, if a student declared *Nidui* for his own
honor, the teacher is not obligated to treat [the offender] as a
*Menudeh*. Nevertheless, everyone else is obligated to treat him
as *Menudeh*. Similarly, one who is *Menudeh* to the *Nasi*
(Head of the court) is [therefore] *Menudeh* to all Jews.
[Conversely], one who is *Menudeh* to all Jews is not *Menudeh*
to the *Nasi*. One who is *Menudeh* to his city is *Menudeh* to
other cities. [Conversely], one who is *Menudeh* to another city
is not *Menudeh* to his own city.
Q1: Why do the teacher's students have to ostracize the
*Menudeh* of their teacher? Is it part of the honor for their
teacher - or because his rulings have a different level of
authority over them?
YE: Honor for the teacher - the teacher is not operating here as
a *Poseq* (Halakhic decisor) - so their obligation toward
following his rulings - if such an obligation exists at all - is
Q2: Why does the *Nasi* seemingly "represent" all Jews
regarding *Nidui* and his honor?
YE: Since the Nasi is the chair of the court, his honor is an
embodiment of the honor of the court and, indirectly, the honor
of Torah. One who offends him is offending the court and the
Torah - and his *Nidui* applies to everyone.
Q3: What is the rationale behind the "his city/other cities"
HH: Two possibilities: 1) Since his kinsfolk and his friends live
in his city, his city is supposed to be indulgent towards him.
So, if even his own city ostracizes him, he must have done
something really serious. 2) A city has a special level of
authority with regard to its regular inhabitants that it does not
have with regard to foreigners.
Additional questions [AD (Aviva Dayan)]: -
Q4a: How are we to know who is a *Hakham*? YE: See posting at TT
6:6, Question 1.
Q4b: Could there be such a thing as an imposter?
YE: Since the first experience with him which gives us reason to
believe that he is a *Hakham* is a clear demonstration of his
wisdom and knowledge - it's highly unlikely.
Q4c: Could there be such a thing as a 'reverse imposter' - a
person who is a *Hakham* but pretends not to be?
YE: Sure there could - but the Talmud (BT Sotah 22a) warns us
against "the one who is ready for instruction and does not
instruct" - equating him with the one who "is not ready to
instruct and instructs."
Q5a: To what extent does a personÕs public behavior determine
whether or not he/she is a *Hakham/a* (and can a woman be
classified as a *Hakham* at all and why or why not; if not, is
there anything parallel that would apply to her?)
YE: The "public behavior" issue is addressed above. As to the
status of a scholarly woman, such a notion does exist in the
Talmud - where the *Isha Havera* (lit. - "woman-peer" - a
scholarly woman) is compared, in some Halakhic respects, to the
*Haver* (BT Kiddushin 56a, Sanhedrin 8b, 41a). It would certainly
seem that if someone had the great fortune to study with Nechama
Lebowitz, for example, that he or she should treat her with all
of these measures of honor - and, of course, if any of us see her
or meet her, the measures of respect accorded a *Hakham* would be
Q5b: To what extent does a personÕs private behavior determine
whether or not he/she is a *Hakham/a*? How is this private
behavior monitored (if this question is relevant)
YE: See MT De'ot, Chapter 5, for a full presentation of the
"lifestyle" of the *Hakham*.
Q6a: To what extent does a person's attitude determine if
he/she is a *Hakham/a*?
YE: See above (answer to Q4a).
Q6b: If attitude matters, why do we do all these things for
the *Hakham*? Wouldn't all these 'fringe benefits' tempt the
*Hakham* to deteriorate - as in, enjoy the benefits and be lax in
studies, or become full of *Ga'ava* (haughtiness)? Wouldn't it
also tempt imposters?
YE: Just because we do these things "for" the *Hakham*, that
doesn't automatically lead him to the negative attributes
presented in your question. Remember - he doesn't need to accept
all of these "honorifics" - and is encouraged to forgo them (as
we have seen several times in R). Tempting impostors? - maybe -
but they would have a hard time keeping up the act. In reality,
the burdens and responsibilities of the Hakham far outweigh any
privileges he may be afforded. See MT De'ot Chapter 5. See also
BT Yoma 86a, where the responsibity for others' love for God
rests, to a great extent, on his shoulders!
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