I understand the one's father brought you into this world and one's Rebbi brings one into the World to Come. My note to the Mishnah (from the Rambam) says that with regard to providing financial support, one's Rebbi takes precedence over one's father. My teacher says this is more in theory than in practice.
My question is this: If your father and Rebbi both needed food to live on and you only had the means to give to one, which would you actually give to today? Are you really allowed to let your father starve to feed your Rebbi?
Barry Epstein, Dallas, USA
It is clear from many places in Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 242:34, 252:9, and others) that a Rebbi takes precedence over an unlearned father in almost every instance. This is even in life-threatening matters such as who should one redeem first if, Heaven forfend, they are both taken captive. This is because a Rebbi brings his student to Olam Haba, while his father only brought him to Olam Hazeh (as stated in the Mishnah in Bava Metzia 33a). However, the Rema (242:34) Paskens that if one's father pays the Rebbi to teach the person, the person's father comes first. Interestingly, the Shach and Rebbi Akiva Eiger quote a Sefer Chasidim which states that anyone who pays for one's Talmud Torah is before the Rebbi (or his unlearned father) that teaches him, if the Rebbi would only teach for pay. The above statements follow the logic that the one who causes him to be brought to Olam Haba is the most important person in his life. If we really focus on what is important in life, namely serving Hash-m and being able to be with Him in Olam Haba, this makes quite a lot of sense.
All the best,