. His primary rabbi is the person from whom he gained most of his wisdom. The Rambam implies that this means most of his Torah learning. Maharik 169, explains that the person who showed him the path of truth and integrity and taught him how to decide halachic issues is considered his primary rabbi. The Shach, Yoreh De’ah 242:12, based on the Rivash and the Shulchan Aruch, explains that a person can have a number of primary rabbis in different areas of Torah, such as Tanach, Gemara, and Agadah. Similarly, the Aruch HaShulchan 242:19 writes that a person can have a few primary rabbis, one that taught him his comprehensive knowledge, and another, his sharpness, and a third, how to bring matters to a proper halachic conclusion.
The responsa of Divrei Malkiel
2:74 clarifies that the entire distinction between a primary rabbi from whom one gained most of his knowledge and a non-primary rabbi only applies when he is not learning from him, but during the time period that a person is learning from a certain rabbi, that teacher has the status of his primary rabbi. According to this, the rosh yeshivah
and the ram
who teaches him are thought of as his primary rabbis (see the Rama
, Yoreh De’ah
242:6). Consequently, the Aruch HaShulchan
, Yoreh De’ah
242:29, writes that a primary rabbi who has been appointed the mara d’atra
, the local rabbi to teach and to judge, is considered by the people of that place to be the primary rabbi.
. The Rama 90:24 mentions the opinion of the Sefer HaMeorot and Ohel Mo’ed who say that when his permanent seat is near his rabbi, it is permissible. In practice, the Rama writes that it is good to be stringent and not to pray behind one’s rabbi, in order not to cause him grief. However, the custom is to be lenient, as written in the Mishnah Berurah 77. The Bei’ur Halachah cites the Eliyah Rabbah based on the Levush, that in practice it is correct to be stringent. The Beit Yosef writes that the stringent opinion should be taken under consideration with regard to prayer in a congregation (where there are permanent seats) and he therefore does not mention the lenient opinion in the Shulchan Aruch. This is also what the Kaf HaChaim 143 writes.
If his rabbi is behind him, the Beit Yosef
, Orach Chaim
90:24, writes that one must be stringent even farther away than four amot
, since even then this can be expressed as arrogance (yohara
) towards his rabbi. The Shulchan Aruch
in Orach Chaim
does not mention this, but in Yoreh De’ah
242:16, states explicitly that even when his rabbi is behind him, four amot
are sufficient. That seems to be the opinion of the Rama
as well who refers to Yoreh De’ah
. Therefore, in practice, the Shulchan Aruch
retracted what he wrote in the Beit Yosef
. However, the Kaf HaChaim
144 writes that one should be stringent when he can.Additionally, the ruling regarding one’s father is like the law concerning one’s primary rabbi, as brought by the Mishnah Berurah
73, in the name of the Chayei Adam
. However, fathers are usually happy that their children pray next to them. Therefore, anyone who knows that his father wants him to sit next to him is permitted to sit there and fulfills a mitzvah by doing so, for when a father relinquishes his honor, his honor is relinquished. But one may not pray behind his father or in front of him, unless his father explicitly tells him he may pray there.