1) HALACHAH: A SON MORE LEARNED THAN HIS FATHER
OPINIONS: The Gemara inquires whether a son must stand up for his father even when he is more learned than his father. Does the son stand up for his father, or does the father stand up for his son? The Gemara gives no conclusive answer. What is the Halachah in such a case?
(a) RABEINU CHANANEL (cited by the Ran and Ri ha'Zaken) rules that the son must stand up for his father even though the son has learned more Torah. This is also the ruling of the RAMBAM (Hilchos Mamrim 6:4).
The RI HA'ZAKEN explains that Rabeinu Chananel's ruling is based on the Gemara's proof from Shmuel that a son should always stand up for his father. Although the Gemara rejects that proof, Rabeinu Chananel rules in accordance with the simple reading of Shmuel's statement that a son must always stand up for his father.
However, the Gemara also cites a Beraisa to prove that the son who is more learned that his father does not stand up for his father. How does Rabeinu Chananel reconcile that proof with his ruling?
The RAN explains that Rabeinu Chananel relies on the Gemara's description of Rebbi Tarfon's conduct towards his mother. The Gemara (31b) relates that Rebbi Tarfon honored his mother by having her step on him when she wanted to go up to and come down from her bed (see also the Yerushalmi's description of Rebbi Tarfon's conduct as cited by TOSFOS to 31b, DH Rebbi Tarfon). The Yerushalmi concludes that when Rebbi Tarfon told the Chachamim what he did, they said to him, "You have not fulfilled even half of the honor which the Torah requires." Rebbi Tarfon certainly was a Chacham and yet his colleagues told him that he needed to do more to fulfill the Mitzvah of honoring his parents. If a son who is more learned that his parent is not required to stand up for his parent, Rebbi Tarfon should not have been required to do even what he did. Although the Gemara here does not resolve the question of whether a son who is more learned than his father should stand up for him, it is clear from the Yerushalmi that the son must give honor to his father.
(b) The ROSH (1:57) rules that the Halachah remains a Safek d'Oraisa. Therefore, both the son and the father should stand up for each other.
The Rosh adds that when his Rebbi, the MAHARAM MI'ROTENBURG, was appointed to a position of great honor, he no longer invited his father to come visit him or went to visit his father because of the Gemara's doubt about the obligation for such a son to stand up for his father. The Maharam may have understood that if the father is required to stand up for the son in such a case, the son is prohibited to stand up for his father. The DARCHEI MOSHE (YD 240:2) asks why the Maharam did not simply forgo his honor, in accordance with the Halachah that a Chacham is permitted to forgo his honor. He answers that in the presence of his students a Chacham should not forgo his honor, lest he diminish his respect in their eyes and cause them not to learn as well from him. The Maharam was surrounded by his students at all times and thus he needed to conduct himself in a way which preserved his respect in their eyes. Accordingly, in private the son certainly may stand up for his father who is less learned. The Darchei Moshe adds that if the father lives in the same town as the son and all of the students know that he is their teacher's father, the Chacham may stand up for his father.
2) WHICH IS GREATER: A SEFER TORAH OR A TALMID CHACHAM?
QUESTION: The Gemara derives the obligation to stand up for a Sefer Torah from a Kal va'Chomer: If one must stand up for a Talmid Chacham who learns the Torah, certainly one must stand up for the Torah itself. The Gemara's Kal va'Chomer implies that the honor due to the Torah is greater than the honor due to those who learn it.
However, the Gemara in Makos (22b) quotes Rava who says, "How foolish are the people who stand up before a Sefer Torah but do not stand up before those who learn it!" Rava's statement implies that those who learn the Torah deserve more honor than the Torah itself. How are these two Gemaras to be reconciled? (RAN)
(a) The RAN and CHIDUSHIM KADMONIM write that the Gemara in Makos does not derive the obligation to stand for Talmidei Chachamim from a Kal va'Chomer. Rather, it teaches that since Talmidei Chachamim explain and elucidate the Torah, they deserve as much respect as the Torah itself, because without them the Torah would not be understood properly. This is evident from the continuation of the Gemara there which says that "the Torah says that a person [who is liable for Malkus] should receive forty lashes, and the Chachamim explained that a person receives only thirty-nine." (See also introduction to SHEV SHEMAITSA.)
The Ran apparently means that objectively the Torah deserves more honor than those who learn it, since the Torah is the source of their honor. The Gemara in Makos teaches that people should have a greater will to stand for Talmidei Chachamim because they benefit more from the Talmidei Chachamim who explain and elucidate the Torah for them.
(b) The RAN (in the name of TOSFOS), the TOSFOS HA'ROSH, and the TOSFOS RID explain that the Gemara in Makos means that people who stand for a Sefer Torah but not for Talmidei Chachamim are foolish because the very source for the obligation to stand for a Sefer Torah is the verse which commands one to stand for Talmidei Chachamim. Consequently, people who do not stand for Talmidei Chachamim have no source for standing for a Sefer Torah.
The MAHARIT and PNEI YEHOSHUA ask that the wording of the Gemara in Makos is not consistent with this explanation. The Gemara there says that the reason for why people should stand for Talmidei Chachamim is that "the Torah says that a person should receive forty lashes, and the Chachamim explained that a person receives only thirty-nine."
(c) The KORBAN NESANEL (#100) answers that the Gemara here agrees that Talmidei Chachamim deserve more honor than a Sefer Torah. The Gemara's Kal va'Chomer is to be understood as follows. The Gemara initially assumes that there is no obligation to stand for a Sefer Torah because it is always carried, and an object which is carried ("Rachuv") is considered at rest and is not considered as though it is walking ("k'Mehalech"). The Gemara responds that if a Talmid Chacham who rides a horse is considered "k'Mehalech" even though he is able to walk on his own (as the Gemara earlier concludes), certainly a Sefer Torah which is carried by a person is considered "k'Mehalech" since it cannot walk on its own.
(d) The MAHARIT and PNEI YEHOSHUA suggest that under certain circumstances a Talmid Chacham deserves more honor than a Sefer Torah, and under other circumstances a Sefer Torah deserves more honor than a Talmid Chacham. The Gemara here refers to "Lomdehah," those who learn Torah. This category includes a person who is not yet a Chacham. Such a person does not deserve as much honor as the Sefer Torah itself (since the Torah he has learned is not yet considered "his own" but Hash-m's; see REBBI TZADOK in SICHOS MAL'ACHEI HA'SHARES). The Gemara in Makos refers to Talmidei Chachamim who have reached a high level of scholarship and understanding. Such Talmidei Chachamim are considered greater than a Sefer Torah which, by itself, does not have "Binah," the ability to process information and derive greater levels of understanding ("Mevin Davar Mitoch Davar").