Kiddushin 33

Torah in the bathhouse.

On yesterday’s daf, we saw that while the rabbis placed much importance on rising in respect when an elder passes by, that value was not unlimited. Specifically, we encountered a beraita which taught that one does not stand up in reverence when encountering a Torah scholar in a bathhouse. On today’s daf, the Gemara presents two examples that suggest otherwise. 

Here’s the first: 

Rabbi Hiyya was sitting in a bathhouse and Rabbi Shimon bar Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi passed by, and he did not stand before him. Rabbi Shimon bar Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi became angry and went and said to his father: I taught Rabbi Hiyya two of the five parts of the book of Psalms, and yet he did not stand before me.

This narrative suggests that Rabbi Shimon felt he is due the same honor in the bathhouse that he is in public, especially from Rabbi Hiyya, who learned forty percent of the book Psalms from him. Rabbi Shimon is so distraught by this that he goes home and complains to his father, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. The Gemara does not record Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi’s response, which may indicate that he concurs that an error had been made, as silence often indicates agreement to the rabbis. 

The second example is parallel to the first, except that it is now Bar Kappara (or perhaps Rabbi Shmuel bar Rabbi Yosei) who neglects Rabbi Shimon in the bathhouse. Just as before, Rabbi Shimon grows angry and tells his father about the snub, which is all the more galling because he taught Bar Kappara two of nine parts of Torat Kohanim, a midrash on the book of Leviticus. Once again, the narrative suggests that Rabbi Shimon does not feel he should forgo the honor he is due in the bathhouse (and that he has a propensity to complain to his father and an odd affinity for fractions). This time, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi weighs in:

Perhaps he was sitting and contemplating (what you taught him).

Rabbi Yehuda’s statement could be read as endorsing the idea that we ought to rise for our teachers even in the bathhouse and provides a reasonable explanation of why it might not have happened in this case. But it could also be read as a sarcastic response from an annoyed father to an entitled son who was always complaining that the other rabbis didn’t play nicely with him. Maybe if you hadn’t done such an amaaaaaaazing job teaching, Rabbi Yehuda might be saying, Bar Kappara wouldn’t have been so preoccupied and could have fed your insatiable ego. 

Not surprisingly, the Gemara adopts the first reading, but this leaves us with a conflict: a beraita that says we do not rise before our teachers in the bathhouse and an incident in which Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi seems to imply that we do. This doesn’t prove too difficult for the Gemara to resolve. The beraita, it concludes, applies to the inner rooms where the baths are and where people are naked. The story is talking about the outer rooms, where people are still dressed. So the rule of the beraita applies, just in a more restricted area than we might have thought.

By the way, adds the Gemara, there is another important restriction related to bathrooms:

Rabba bar bar Hana says that Rabbi Yohanan says: One is permitted to contemplate (Torah) everywhere, except for the bathhouse and the lavatory.

It’s not just that we don’t treat Torah scholars like Torah scholars when we encounter them in the bathroom, we’re not supposed to bring Torah in there with us at all — not even in our thoughts.

Read all of Kiddushin 33 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on September 15th, 2023. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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