Talmud Tips

For the week ending 6 February 2016 / 27 Shevat 5776

Gittin 58 - 64

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

Abayei said, we hold: “If there is no Kohen present, ‘nitparda hachavila’.”

The mishna on amud aleph of our daf teaches the order in which people should be called up to the Torah for the public reading of the Torah in the prayer service — Kohen, Levi, Yisrael. However, what happens if no Kohen is present? Abayei teaches that “nitparda hachavila”, a metaphor for what is done. Rashi translates this phrase as “the connection is broken”, meaning that the normal order for the honor of the aliyot (being called to read the Torah) has been disrupted and does not apply in this case. Rashi offers two explanations as to what this means for the Levi. One, in the name of his elder rabbi teachers, states that a Levi who may be present may not be called up to read, and loses the honor that he normally receives during the Torah reading service since no Kohen is present to read either. A second possibility, which Rashi writes that he heard from one of his students who became a great rabbi, is that there is no longer any need for a Levi to precede a Yisrael, as is the norm; rather a Yisrael may be called for a aliyah before a Levi if desired. Tosefot cites a third opinion, that the Levi should read in the place “that is fitting for him” (presumably second, as usual).

The ruling in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 135:6 is that when there is no Kohen in the synagogue, a Yisrael should read first and a Levi should not be called up after him. If a Levi would be called next, people might very well think that the first person is a Kohen. And despite the fact that the first person is announced to be “in place of a Kohen”, as the Rema states regarding this case when no Kohen is present, perhaps people will come into the synagogue after the announcement and not hear he is not a Kohen. The Rema also writes that the Levi may be called up first, with the announcement of “in place of a Kohen”, if the Yisrael is not a greater Torah scholar than the Levi. The reason for this ruling is that a Levi is no “less” than a Yisrael. (Mishna Berurah)

  • Gittin 59b

“Shalom aleichem, kings. Shalom aleichem, kings.”

With these words the Torah scholar named “Geneiva” walked up to the Sages Rav Huna and Rav Chisda and greeted them. They asked him why Torah Sages are called “kings”. He answered by citing a verse in Proverbs (8:15), “Kings reign with me (the Torah), and rulers legislate righteousness.” This statement on our daf is almost certainly the source of the well-known expression, “Mon malchei? Rabbanan” — Who are kings? Sages who have internalized the wisdom of the Torah are the true kings who can lead the Jewish People in the way of G-d.

Years ago I attended a certain Torah class that was taught by a very great Rabbi. The other students and I sat around a table awaiting his arrival. When he entered the room we all stood up, as is the halacha for students to stand in honor of their Rabbi. As he walked past to the head of the table he said to me, “What is all this fuss for?” I was surprised by his question, but after a second replied that “The Rabbi is our Rabbi and we are showing honor to our Rabbi as we should.” He paused for a moment and said, “Indeed you have a dilemma. I don’t consider myself to be a Rabbi and therefore you have no need to stand. However, since you consider me your Rabbi, you need to act appropriately and stand.” I sheepishly suggested that if our standing bothers him, he may tell us that he forgoes his honor so that we need not stand, based on the halacha that “a Rabbi who forgoes his honor, his honor is given up”. He replied, “That’s the real dilemma. Since I don’t consider myself to be a Rabbi, it doesn’t make sense for me to forgo my honor as a Rabbi. Therefore do whatever you need to do.” Of course we all continued to stand for him each day since he was our Rabbi and we certainly needed to stand for him to display our honor for a Torah scholar. Based on our gemara, however, that a Torah scholar is considered a king, I afterwards wondered if my original suggestion — that he could forgo the honor due to him as a Rabbi — was actually incorrect. As a Torah scholar is a “king”, the halacha is “a king who forgoes his honor his honor is not relinquished.”

  • Gittin 62a

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