Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rambam on Being Paid to Learn or Teach Torah III

The Rashbatz (Responsa 1:147) brings a number of proofs that one is allowed to receive money for learning or teaching Torah, contrary to the view of the Rambam (see these posts: I, II):

  1. Yoma 18a says that we are obligated to make the high priest wealthy so he is "above" his fellows. As implied in Chullin 134b, this also applies to a Torah scholar.
  2. Yoma 72b states that the people of a town are obligated to do a Torah scholar's work for him.
  3. Kesuvos 111b praises someone who uses his money to benefit a Torah scholar, implying that a scholar may receive money simply for his knowledge of Torah.
  4. Kesuvos 105a states that the judges who issued decrees in Jerusalem were paid for their services.
  5. Kesuvos 106a states that scholars who taught the laws of slaughtering to priests in the Temple were also paid for their services.
  6. Gittin 60b says that Rav Yehudah collected money to support his students.
R. Yosef Kafach, in his edition of Mishneh Torah (Hilkhos Talmud Torah 3:10 n. 34), responds on behalf of the Rambam:
  1. There is a difference between someone who studies or teaches Torah and someone who actively serves the community. A high priest works for the community and deserves to be paid for his work. But learning or teaching Torah is different and is not described in the cited passage. Chullin 134b is discussing the "gifts" for a cohen (matenos kehunah) and R. Ami, who was a cohen. It is therefore irrelevant to this matter.
  2. The community is not obligated to do a scholar's work but to do business with him, i.e. to purchase goods from him over another, lesser seller or to use his services over another's.
  3. This is referring to providing housing to a visiting scholar (cf. Hilkhos De'os 6:2).
  4. (Skipped, but perhaps he would consider this to be involved in leading the nation rather than teaching Torah, for which payment is appropriate.)
  5. (Skipped, but perhaps he would consider this to be service in the Temple, for which payment is appropriate.)
  6. The Rambam would explain that collection as being for the poor and not necessarily the students.
Let me reiterate that there is no implication here that it is currently inappropriate to accept money for studying or teaching Torah. No responsible halakhic decisor would agree with such a blanket prohibition in today's situation.

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