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Beit Midrash Series Bemare Habazak - Rabbis Questions

Chapter 331

Alerting People to Stand

At our minyan, we take a sefer Torah from a beit midrash in which people are learning and return it to there. Sometimes when we return the sefer Torah, someone bangs so that everyone will stand up for it. Is this necessary?
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Question: At our minyan, we take a sefer Torah from a beit midrash in which people are learning and return it to there. Sometimes when we return the sefer Torah, someone bangs so that everyone will stand up for it. Is this necessary?
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Answer: The Torah commands standing for people who deserve our respect, such as elders and scholars (Vayikra 19:32). The gemara (Kiddushin 33b) reasons: if one stands for Torah scholars, certainly one stands for the Torah itself. There is some question as to whether the obligation to stand for a sefer Torah is a Torah or a Rabbinic law (see Kima V’hidur 13:2). Either way, it is a mitzvat aseh to stand for a Torah when it is being moved (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 282:2).

At what point does one become obligated in a mitzva, such that before that point, the obligation does not apply? The mitzva to stand takes effect when there is a certain proximity between the person showing the honor and the subject of his honor. For a regular talmid chacham, it is when he enters one’s four amot (Kiddushin 33a). For a sefer Torah it is when it is within sight (Shulchan Aruch ibid.) in one’s domain (Rama, YD 242:18). Before that point, standing is not even desired, according to several poskim, because it is then too early to count as a mitzva and when he/it gets closer, one cannot stand up because he is already standing (Shach, YD 224:6; Ben Ish Chai II, Ki Teitzei 13).

Another element is needed to activate the mitzva. There must be awareness that the sefer Torah is being moved in the room – the Rambam (Talmud Torah 6:6) writes: "one who sees …" The gemara (Kiddushin 33a) says that if one closed his eyes after a talmid chacham came close enough as an excuse not to stand, he is a rasha. If he closed his eyes before he gets close enough and becomes obligated to stand, he is not as bad, but the gemara says he still violates the Torah’s words of "takum v’yareita" by intentionally trying to extricate himself from the mitzva.

Now to your specific question – whether one should inform someone who does not know that the sefer Torah is in the room. One reason to do so is if one commits an aveira if the sefer Torah is in his vicinity and he is sitting. Some positive mitzvot provide an opportunity while others include a need to extricate oneself from a spiritually bad situation. Is it only an opportunity to stand or is being seated a bad situation that must be avoided? If the former is true, then there is no requirement to tell the person because without knowledge (or quasi-knowledge if he closed his eyes because the object was approaching) because there is not yet a mitzva. If there is a negative element, then while there is no personal culpability, one who knows should remove another from a bad situation (see Shulchan Aruch, YD 303:1).

Sometimes, a mitzva is such that one should have done the mitzva before the cut-off point; others times, one does the mitzva when (i.e., right after) the cut-off point comes. Sometimes, there is a machloket what the fundamental mitzva is (e.g., is the mitzva to burn chametz before midday of Erev Pesach or after – see Minchat Chinuch #9? Must one put on tzitzit before he puts the garment on (Rambam, Tzitzit 3:10) or after he puts it on (Tosafot, Yevamot 90b). The sources that it is better to stand up after the object enters one’s domain imply that it is not forbidden for the object to be in one’s proximity while he is sitting; we want to positively stand up even if it takes a moment to do so. If so, it is presumably unnecessary to inform one for whom the mitzva has not yet begun due to lack of awareness.

On the other hand, the average shul-goer is presumably happy to have the opportunity to perform the mitzva of standing, so why not tell him (Rabbeinu Mano’ach, cited by the Beit Yosef, YD 282, explains that the sefer Torah’s bells are designed to expand the obligation to stand). If, though, someone is better not disturbed, e.g., he is learning in the beit midrash, it is not worthwhile to tell him (Halichot Shlomo 12:(37)); if he realizes, he will get up.

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