SHEKALIM 7 (15 Nisan; 1st Yom Tov of Pesach) - Dedicated Dr. A. Pandey l'Iluy Nishmas Harav Alexander Zishe Meyer ben Harav Chanoch Henoch (and Bina Rochel) Blum zt'l of Kew Gardens Hills, N.Y., who passed away on 15 Nisan 5780. A well-known rabbi and educator, Rabbi Blum's warmth and Sever Panim Yafos shaped the lives of thousands of his Talmidim.
1) HALACHAH: A TALMID WHO GREETS HIS REBBI
QUESTION: The Yerushalmi relates that Rebbi Elazar hid from Rebbi Yochanan, his Rebbi, in order not to have to greet him. In defense of his conduct, Rav Yakov bar Idi said that Rebbi Elazar acted in accordance with the practice in Bavel where a Talmid shows deference to his Rebbi by not greeting him.
There seem to be contradictory indications whether a Talmid should greet his Rebbi or not. The Yerushalmi here implies that a Talmid should not greet his Rebbi. Similarly, the Beraisa in Berachos (27b) says that one who greets his Rebbi causes the Shechinah to depart from the Jewish people. The Gemara in Shabbos (89a) says that when Moshe Rabeinu rose to the heavens to receive the Torah, he did not extend a greeting of "Shalom" to Hash-m. When he was questioned about his conduct, he replied, "Does a servant extend a greeting of 'Shalom' to his master?" implying that it is disrespectful for a servant to extend a greeting to his master.
However, the Gemara in Bava Kama (73a) discusses the way a Talmid is supposed to greet his Rebbi. From the Gemara there, it is clear that one is supposed to greet his Rebbi, but he must modify his greeting accordingly. Instead of saying "Shalom Alecha," a Talmid greets his Rebbi by saying, "Shalom Alecha Rebbi."
How are these contradictory indications to be reconciled?
(a) TOSFOS in Bava Kama (73b) explains that a Talmid may not greet his Rebbi with the words, "Shalom Alecha." Since one greets his friend with those words, it is disrespectful to greet one's Rebbi in that manner. He may greet his Rebbi, however, with the words, "Shalom Alecha Rebbi." When the Beraisa in Berachos says that one may not greet his Rebbi with "Shalom," it refers to greeting him with the words "Shalom Alecha."
Moshe Rabeinu did not greet Hash-m, even with the more respectful form of greeting, because his relationship with Hash-m was not that of a Talmid with his Rebbi, but rather that of a servant with his master (as the verse says, "Moshe Eved Hash-m," Devarim 34:5). While a Talmid may extend a greeting to his Rebbi, a servant may not greet his master at all. A servant's reverence for his master is different than that of a Talmid for his Rebbi.
Why does the Yerushalmi here say that Rebbi Elazar did not want to greet Rebbi Yochanan even with the words, "Shalom Alecha Rebbi"? The ROSH (Berachos 4:5) suggests that the Yerushalmi argues with the Bavli and maintains that it is not respectful for a Talmid to greet his Rebbi with any words, even "Shalom Alecha Rebbi." The VILNA GA'ON (in BI'UR HA'GRA and MISHNAS ELIYAHU) suggests that Rebbi Elazar's conduct was only a Minhag Chasidus that was practiced in Bavel and nowhere else.
(b) RABEINU YONAH in Berachos (27b) differentiates between a Talmid who initiates a greeting to his Rebbi and one who returns a greeting to his Rebbi. He explains that one may not initiate any form of greeting to his Rebbi, even with the words "Shalom Alecha Rebbi." One is permitted only to return a greeting when his Rebbi greets him first.
This explains why Moshe Rabeinu did not extend a greeting to Hash-m, and why Rebbi Elazar did not want to extend a greeting to his Rebbi.
(Rabeinu Yonah's text of the Gemara in Berachos differs from the text of our edition. His text did not include the words, "v'ha'Machzir Shalom l'Rabo" -- "and one who returns a greeting of 'Shalom' to his Rebbi." This is also the text of the RIF and ROSH. According to that text, only one who initiates a greeting to his Rebbi causes the Shechinah to depart, but not one who returns a greeting to his Rebbi.)
The Gemara in Bava Kama that discusses the proper way for a Talmid to greet his Rebbi does not refer to the way a Talmid should initiate a greeting to his Rebbi, but rather to the way he should return a greeting to his Rebbi.
(c) TOSFOS in Berachos suggests further that a Talmid may neither greet his Rebbi nor return a greeting to his Rebbi. This is why Moshe Rabeinu did not greet Hash-m and why Rebbi Elazar did not greet his Rebbi. A Talmid Chaver, though, is permitted to greet his Rebbi who is also his colleague. The Gemara in Bava Kama that discusses the way a Talmid should greet his Rebbi refers to a Talmid Chaver. (Although a Talmid Chaver is not required to say "Shalom Alecha Rebbi" and he may say merely "Shalom Alecha," nevertheless it is Midas Chasidus, the preferable mode of conduct, for him to say "Shalom Alecha Rebbi.")
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 242:16) cites the first opinion, that a Talmid may greet his Rebbi as long as he says "Shalom Alecha Rebbi." The REMA cites the second opinion (Rabeinu Yonah), that one may not initiate a greeting to his Rebbi at all.
The BI'UR HA'GRA sides with the Shulchan Aruch. He writes that the practice not to greet one's Rebbi was a Minhag Chasidus unique to the people of Bavel (like Rebbi Elazar). It was not the accepted practice elsewhere. That is why Rebbi Yochanan objected to Rebbi Elazar's conduct and maintained that his Talmid should have greeted him.
(Perhaps the REMA cites the second opinion because the Minhag of Bavel is the source for most Minhagim practiced outside of Eretz Yisrael (see Shulchan Aruch OC 117:1 and Mishnah Berurah 117:5, with regard to "v'Sen Tal u'Matar"). The Shulchan Aruch, in contrast, rules in accordance with the Minhag of Eretz Yisrael. -M. Kornfeld)