Insights to Bava Basra 22:
ANSWER: The KOVETZ SHI'URIM distinguishes between the level of scholarship necessary to gain an exemption from paying taxes, and the level of scholarship necessary to obtain a monopoly on trade. In order to obtain exclusive rights to marketing one's merchandise, a higher, more advanced level of knowledge is necessary, because such rights involve depriving the other salesmen of the right to sell their merchandise in the market, causing them a financial loss.
However, this distinction is questionable. Exempting a Talmid Chacham from the obligation to pay taxes also causes a financial loss to others, because it places an additional burden on the rest of the community who will have to compensate for what the Talmid Chacham does not pay!
The answer to this question lies in the statement of the Gemara earlier (8a), "Misfortune comes to the world only because of the unlearned." Accordingly, had all of the members of the community been Talmidei Chachamim, the king would never have imposed the tax on the public. Thus, it is not the Talmid Chacham's exemption from the tax that causes an additional burden on the rest of the people, but rather it is their own lack of merit of Torah study.
However, to be exempt from taxes, it suffices for a Talmid Chacham to spend all of his spare time learning -- the very act of learning prevents misfortune from coming to the world. He does not have to be an expert in all parts of Torah in order to be exempt from taxes. In contrast, a Talmid Chacham merits a trade monopoly only when he has attained a mastery of the entire Torah. (Y. Marcus)
1) Why specifically does mastery of the entire Torah confer an additional privilege on the Talmud Chachum?
2) Can we validly infer that a "Baal Habat" who spends all of his spare time learning also prevents misfortune from coming into the world? Is there an analagous privilege for him similar to the exemption from taxes for the Talmud Chachum?
Yaakov Gruen, Passaic, New Jersey USA
Allow me to deviate from the ways of the Talmid Chacham and answer your second question first.
Although one who learns Torah during the time that he is not otherwise occupied is surely admirable, however that cannot confer on him any special status since what he is doing is meeting his obligations. See Tosfos to Berachos 11b, who explains the reason that one need not repeat Birkas ha'Torah even though he interrupted his learning to involve himself in other pursuits as follows: "Torah is different (than the Mitzvah of Sukah which requires a new Berachah each time one enters) for his mind does not forsake it, for a person is required to learn at all times as it is written, "v'Hagisa Bo Yomam va'Lailah," and it is as if one is sitting (in the Sukah) the entire day uninterrupted." The Rosh adds, "One who generally learns Torah even when he goes out to tend to business will hurry back to his studies and he is constantly thinking of his studies." This is a description of a Ba'al ha'Bayis.
The Rambam includes the Halachah of preference for a Talmid Chacham in the Halachos of Kavod Talmid Chacham (Hilchos Talmud Torah, chapter 6). See Tosfos in Ta'anis 10b regarding the different connotations of "Talmid Chacham" (such as the Gemara in Shabbos 114a which defines a Talmid Chacham as one who can be asked anywhere and will answer).