Eruvin 86 - 92
“Rebbie (Rabbi Yehuda the Nasi) honored the wealthy; Rabbi Akiva honored the wealthy.”
a) Why did they show special honor to those who had wealth? The gemara on our daf explains that they honored the wealthy who used their wealth to show kindness and supply food for the needy (Rashi). The gemara quotes Rava bar Mari as deriving from a passuk in Tehillim (61:8) that the existence of the world is sustained by merciful acts of the rich providing food for the poor.
b) Why is Rebbie mentioned before Rabbi Akiva if Rabbi Akiva lived before Rebbie? The Ben Yehoyada writes that Rebbie was very wealthy – as opposed to Rabbi Akiva — and was also the Nasi, a descendant of other leaders — and neverletheless honored the wealthy. The fact that even he honored them is more notable and significant.
c) The Giliyon Hashas on our daf cites the Maharil who heard from Maharam Segel that Rebbie made a special effort to show honor to the wealthy for yet another reason. Since Rebbie was wealthy, when he exhibited special honor to others who were wealthy, if was as if to say, “Look! It is correct to honor them for their wealth alone!” In this way he hoped that people who showed honor to him would do so likewise, due to his own wealth and not because of his Torah greatness. Rebbie did not want to “use the crown of Torah” for his own personal gain.
d) Does our gemara imply that only the wealthy are to be honored? The Meiri says that our gemara does not mean to limit expressing honor to the rich. Rather, if a person is smart he should honor not only the wealthy, but also the wise, the righteous, and virtually anyone who possesses a positive and aspect to his character and way of life. The case of wealth in our gemara is merely an example of honor that is due for a wide variety of worthy reasons.
- Eruvin 86a