Question: Must a girl give the same respect to her morah as a boy must give to his rebbe muvhak?
Short Answer: While many poskim rule that a woman’s morah does not have the same status as a rebbe muvhak, it is proper for the girl to treat her morah with respect, including by standing up for her.
I. Even a Woman
Rav Shmuel Dovid Munk zt”l, in his sefer P’as Sadecha (1:112), was asked whether a woman is obligated to honor her rebbe. Rav Munk responded that he doesn’t understand the question; of course a woman must honor talmidei chachamim, as this obligation is not a time-dependent obligation and therefore there is no reason for women to be exempt. Indeed, the Gemara (Moed Katan 16b) recounts a story where a woman did not act respectfully to a talmid chacham and she was punished.
Rav Munk suggests that perhaps the questioner thinks that women should not be obligated to honor their rebbeim because women are not obligated to learn Torah except as a “hechsher mitzvah” to perform mitzvos (i.e., they need to know what to do in order to perform mitzvos). Rav Munk, however, rejects this suggestion, as women make a Birkas HaTorah, as they are, at the very least, no worse than a person who is not obligated in a mitzvah but performs it anyway. Even Sefardim, who do not allow women to recite brachos on mitzvos because women are not able to say “v’tzivanu,” nevertheless allow them to recite Birkas HaTorah.
The P’as Sadecha’s ruling – that women are obligated to honor their male rebbe (and may have a rebbe muvhak), fits nicely with the Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 257) who rules that the obligation to stand for a talmid chacham applies to both men and women.
Similarly, the Yechave Daas (3:72) writes that there is no difference between a woman and a man: Both need to stand up in respect for their primary teacher (male or female), as this teacher “brings them to Olam HaBa” (see Bava M’tzia 33a) through teaching them Torah.
II. No Rebbe Muvhak
The T’shuvos V’Hanhagos (2:451) discusses whether a woman needs to stand up for her rebbe or morah. He notes that there is no obligation for her to stand for a female morah, as the morah doesn’t have the status of a “chacham.” Moreover, a woman does not need to stand for a male rebbe, as a woman fundamentally does not have a rebbe muvhak. As explained previously (see Article #2), the Rama (Yoreh Dei’ah 242:30) holds that a rebbe muvhak is the rebbe who teaches p’sak halachah and sets the student on the right path. A woman does not have such a rebbe. Even the Shunamis woman, whom the Navi (II M’lachim 8) records used to visit Elisha frequently, did not consider Elisha her rebbe muvhak, but simply went to hear his Torah and guidance.
The sefer Kavod V’Hidur (p. 328) notes that the P’nei Yehoshua (Rosh HaShanah 16b) agrees that a woman does not have a rebbe muvhak, as a woman is not obligated to be “m’kabeil p’nei rabbah” (i.e., go visit her rebbe muvhak) on Yom Tov, as is the rule for a man.
Nevertheless, the T’shuvos V’Hanhagos rules that a woman should stand up (and honor) a female morah or male rebbe simply because of the proper kavod it would generate. Indeed, doing so teaches the student proper midos. This is likewise the opinion of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l and Rav Benzion Abba Shaul zt”l, cited in the sefer Birkas Naftali, as cited in the sefer Kavod V’Hidur (ibid). This is also the opinion of Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l, cited in the sefer Kimah V’Hidur (4:1).
III. Difference Between Rebbe and Morah
The sefer B’eir Shlomo (Moadim, p. 143) cites the sefer V’Hadarta P’nei Zakein (p. 14) who distinguishes between a woman standing up for a male rebbe and standing up for a female morah. A woman may have a male rebbe muvhak, and thus would need to stand up for him, but it is unclear whether a female morah can be a “rebbe muvhak.”
IV. A Husband
There is an interesting discussion in the poskim, see P’sakim U’T’shuvos (242:32), whether a wife must give her husband the respect of a rebbe muvhak, as he often teaches and guides her in areas of halachah. While outside the scope of this article, the upshot is that she is not obligated to treat him as such, and even if she was, the husband is (or should be!) mochel (i.e., waive this right).
Next Week’s Topic: May a student lean at his rebbe’s Seder table on Pesach?