Kiddushin 28 - 34
Why Celebrate a Bar Mitzvah?
Rabbi Yosef was a blind sage; whether he was obligated in the mitzvot he was fulfilling was a matter of dispute between Rabbi Yehuda and the other sages. Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion is that a blind man is exempt from mitzvot, while the other sages held that he is as obligated as a seeing man.
At first Rabbi Yosef used to say that if he would be informed that the ruling is according to Rabbi Yehuda, i.e., that he is exempt, he would make a feast of celebration for all of the Torah scholars, because he would then anticipate the great reward due him for fulfilling mitzvot without being obligated. Then he heard what Rabbi Chanina said about the one who is obligated in a mitzvah being considered greater than the one who fulfills it even though he is not obligated. He thereupon declared that if he is informed that the ruling is according to the other sages, i.e., that he is obligated, he will make that feast.
Tosefot explains that the one who is obligated deserves a greater reward because he has to endure the anxiety over whether he is properly fulfilling his obligation, while the exempt one does not.
Two important lessons are deduced from the first and second statements of Rabbi Yosef. Tosefot cites his first statement as a proof that women may make a blessing on a mitzvah they fulfill although they are exempt. Had Rabbi Yosef been unable to make any blessing on the mitzvot he voluntarily fulfilled, he certainly could not rejoice in his status of exemption. The ruling of Rema is indeed that women can make a blessing on the time-oriented mitzvot from which they are exempt, while the Beit Yosef rules like Rambam that they cannot make such blessings. (See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 17:2.)
Rabbi Yosef’s second statement is cited by Rabbi Shlomo Luria in his Yam Shel Shlomo commentary on Mesechta Bava Kama (7th perek p. 37) as a source for celebrating a bar mitzvah with a feast. If Rabbi Yosef, who was already obligated according to the other sages, was ready to celebrate just for learning that he was obligated, how much more reason is there for celebrating when a Jewish boy reaches the age of bar mitzvah and becomes obligated in mitzvot!
- Kiddushin 31a
Standing for Torah
When the question was posed to Rabbi Chilkiya, Rabbi Simon and Rabbi Elazar whether one is obligated to stand up in honor of a Sefer Torah (since the Torah explicitly orders such respect only in regard to Torah scholars) their response was:
"If we are obligated to stand up as respect for those who study the Torah how much more so must we stand up for the Torah itself!"
This statement seems to be at odds with another gemara (Mesechta Makkot 22b) where the Sage Rava is quoted as saying:
"How foolish are those people who stand up in respect for a Sefer Torah but fail to stand up in respect for a Torah sage. In the Torah it is stated that one who violates a Torah commandment is punished with forty lashes and it is the Sages who interpreted this as meaning only thirty-nine."
Rabbeinu Nisim (Ran) quotes Tosefot as resolving this apparent contradiction in the following way: Since the Torah does not explicitly order standing up for a Sefer Torah and this obligation is only deduced through the logic of the Torah Sages, it makes sense that one must stand up for the Sages themselves!
This approach seems to ignore Rava’s mention of the reduction in the number of lashes. But it can perhaps be understood in conjunction with the resolution which Ran himself offers. Rava, he writes, never intended to suggest that Torah Sages are more important than a Sefer Torah; rather, his intent was to point out that without the Sages’ guidance the Sefer Torah cannot be properly understood. The proof of this is the number of lashes which appears in the literal text and the true number explained by the Sages. Respect for the Sages is therefore respect for the Torah itself. Tosefot’s approach may merely be an extension of this very idea by demonstrating that even the respect required for a Sefer Torah cannot be derived from an explicit text, but rather depends on the interpretation of the Sages.
Maharsha (Mesechta Makkot) offers an entirely different approach. The respect due to the Torah itself is certainly greater than that due to the Sages. Rava’s statement was directed to "those people" — the ignoramuses who scorn the Torah Sages by saying that they never innovated anything with their study beyond what is written in the Torah because "they never made a raven kosher nor a dove non-kosher" (Mesechta Sanhedrin 99b). For this reason they stand up for the Torah itself but do not show this respect for the Sages. Rava exposes the folly of their attitude by citing the example of the lashes in which the reduction by the Sages in the number of lashes could have life and death ramifications, and for such a lifesaving interpretation alone they deserve the respect of these foolish people.
- Kiddushin 33b