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The Shach: Honoring a Rebbi-Father Print E-mail

HalachaThe 1st of Adar is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Shabsai (ben Meir) HaKohen Katz, (Shach) author of Sifsei Kohen, recognized as one of the most basic and authoritative commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch (1622-1663).


Born in Vilna. He learned in Tyktizin, Cracow and Lublin. He married a great grand-daughter of the Rema. In 1648 the communities of Russian Poland were devastated by Chmielnicki, and Rav Shabsai haKohen was among the sufferers. He authored selichos in tragic memory of the events. He was niftar at the age of 41 in Holleschau, Germany, having completed his commentary to 2 of the 4 sections of the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah (at age 24) and Choshen Mishpat. Among his other works are Sefer Ha’Aruch on the Tur, Poel Tzedek on the 613 mitzvos, Takfu Cohen on the sugya of the same name in Bava Metzia, and Gevuros Anashim, on cases in which a wife can legally compel her husband to give her a get.

A person is more obligated in the honor and fear of his Rebbi than he is for his father. (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, 242:1)

If his father is only a rebbi (one of his teachers), but not his Rebbi Muvhak (Absolute Rebbi), he should refer to him as, “father.” (Rema)

We must understand why this does not seem to be the common practice. We must say therefore, that although the obligation of honoring a Rebbi is greater than the obligation to a father, nevertheless, is more appropriate to refer to him as “father,” for that has been his role since birth. We can also assume that the father is willing to forgive the higher level of under that is required of a Rebbi. (Shach) My father zt"l followed this Shach, and instructed me to refer to him as "Father," and as "My father zt"l, rather than My Rebbi.

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