Rava later changed his mind—the Torah does belong to the sage, and therefore should he decide to forgive his honor, the honor due him is forgiven.
In this story Rava gets angry with R. Mari and R. Pinchas who do not stand up before him. This seems to mean that even though he forgave his honor by serving them drinks, they still must honor him.
Again, a rabbi gets angry when others do not show him respect.
The resolution is that when a rabbi forgives his honor, others are not technically obligated to honor him. Still, they should show him some respect.
Seems like the Talmud is walking a thin line, but such is the nature of people forgiving other’s the honor due them. Sort of reminds me of people who say they don’t want a big fuss made over their birthday. Often, this means that they really do want a big fuss over their birthday, but feel a bit uncomfortable about it. [I, however, really do not want a fuss over my birthday. But it’s July 16, if you are curious).
Today’s section continues to discuss who is allowed to forgive their honor and who is not.
The “Nasi” was the political leader of the Jews in Eretz Yisrael and in Babylonia during the Talmudic period. The role of this leader is hard to pin down, but he seems to have held some real power over the Jews. According to R. Ashi, the Nasi cannot choose to forgive his honor. His honor comes from his office and there is general utility to it—it is important for people to respect their political leaders. I’m sure that this is true in many countries. One cannot call the President by his first name, one cannot touch the queen (I think they forgot to tell that to Trump). There are rules and these rules were not created by the people who currently inhabit the office.
R. Eliezer does not want Rabban Gamaliel, the Nasi, to give him drink even at his own son’s wedding. But R. Joshua says that it is okay—after all Abraham served drinks to his guests. Thus we see that according to R. Joshua, a Nasi can forgive his own honor.
R. Zadok one-ups R. Joshua—even God, in a sense, serves people. So why shouldn’t we allow R. Gamaliel to pour us drinks?
The Talmud now emends R. Ashi’s statement. There are those who allow the Nasi to forgive his honor, but no one allows the king to forgive his honor.
Since we have been discussing honor, the Talmud moves on to a discussion of the Torah’s commandment that one stand before an elder. The full verse from Leviticus 19:32 reads, “Before a hoary head you shall stand, and you should show deference to an elder; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.”
Two tannaim use two different prooftexts to prove that the obligation to stand in front of an elder refers to a sage, and not just any old person.
The baraita teaches four things:
1) One does not need to rise in front of a sage who is far away since this does not really honor him.
2) One does not need to honor the sage by giving him money (although I’m sure he’d be delighted to receive it).
3) One does not rise in a place like a bathroom or bathhouse. These are not places of reverence.
4) It is not okay to pretend one did not see the elder and thereby avoid rising. This is why the Torah states, “and you shall fear your God.” God will know whether you’re telling the truth or not.
R. Shimon b. Elazar adds that the elder should not put himself into a position whereby he forces others to rise.
Issi b. Judah disagrees with the definition of an “elder” from the beginning of the baraita. He holds that one must rise before any old person, even if he is not an elder.
R. Yose the Galilean and the first opinion in the baraita seem to hold the same opinion but merely derive it from a different source. Both hold that the word “elder” means “sage” and not just an old person.
The Talmud posits that they disagree about a young sage. According to the first opinion, for the mitzvah to apply the sage must also be an elder. In other words, they read two things into the word “elder”—sage and old.
R. Yose the Galilean holds that one must stand even in front of a young sage.
R. Yose the Galilean bases his opinion on the fact that the Torah uses two phrases—the first referring to the hoary head, and the second to the elder. This implies that they are different, and that the commandment to honor includes even a young sage.
The first Tanna responds to R. Yose the Galilean—the reason that the Torah split them up was to make sure that the word “you shall fear” is near the elder. This teaches us that the elder (sage) should not make things difficult for others.
The rabbis claim that had the verse referred to two different people it should have applied both verbs to both types of people—the young and old sage. The fact that one verb applies to each implies that they are identical.
We should note that the Talmud spends a lot of time discussing honoring the young sage. It seems to ignore the opinion that the verse refers to any old person, even one who is not a sage.