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יום הכיפורים תשפ"א באתר ישיבה
Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Simchat Torah and Shmini Atzeret

Elevated Priorities

Rabbi Daniel KirschTishrei 21 5779
22
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Rabbi Asher Weiss, shlita relates an incident that happened one year, during the Simchat Torah dancing. Rabbi Yisrael, a respected, learned older man, was greatly enjoying the exalted atmosphere. He sang along heartily with the rest of the congregation, savoring the opportunity to display his great love for the Torah. One of the other congregants approached Rabbi Yisrael, and handed him a Torah scroll. Rabbi Yisrael’s heart leapt, at the opportunity to dance with the Torah on this special day. He clutched the scroll tightly, as teared welled up in his eyes.
Unbeknownst to Rabbi Yisrael, he was standing perilously close to a taffy, which had fallen on the floor. The taffy did not escape the notice of little Menachem, however, who was dancing together with his father, a few feet away. Menachem let go of his father’s hand, and raced over to the spot where the taffy lay. Unfortunately, in his hurry, he bumped into Rabbi Yisrael, who was suddenly thrown onto the floor, together with the Torah scroll!
The singing and dancing stopped immediately, as dozens of men rushed over to the scene. First they picked up the fallen Torah scroll, and then the shaken Rabbi Yisrael.
Were their actions correct? Was it proper to first pick up the scroll, and only then pick up Rabbi Yisrael, or should they, perhaps, have helped Rabbi Yisrael first?

Answer:
Rabbi Asher Weiss, shlita:

In practice, there was no need to determine whether the Torah scroll or Rabbi Yisrael should take priority. There were certainly enough men present to have lifted both of them, simultaneously. They should have upheld the commandment to "grasp this and also not remove your hands from that."
Regarding the actual question, as to whether a Torah scholar or a Torah scroll takes priority, it is necessary to examine two statements in the Gemara, which appear to contradict each other. The Gemara Kiddushin (33) states "if one must stand before a Torah scholar, [isn’t it obvious that one must stand] before a Torah scroll, even more so?" This statement seems to imply that the Torah scroll takes priority. However, Gemara Makot (22) states "how foolish are those who stand for a Torah scroll, yet don’t stand before a Torah scholar." This statement seems to imply that the Torah scholar takes priority.
There are a number of ways to resolve the contradiction, however, in my opinion, there is no contradiction at all. The second Gemara states that one who rises before a Torah scroll, and not a Torah scholar is a fool, however, this does not mean that the Torah scholar takes priority. Rather, the obligation of honoring the scroll and the scholar are two sides of the same coin. By honoring the physical embodiment of the Torah, as well as the scholars who learn it, we are demonstrating how much we honor and cherish the words of the holy Torah.

In summary: Honor for the Torah scroll and for the Torah scholar are one and the same. In our case, the congregants should have lifted both the Torah scroll and Rabbi Yisrael simultaneously
Rabbi Daniel Kirsch
Rabbi Daniel Kirsch studied for many years at the famed Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem. He currently lives in Kedumim in the Shomron, where he studies at the yeshiva and teaches classes for adults. In addition, he teaches at an elementary school.
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