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The halacha requires that on Pesach, when drinking at least the first 2 cups of wine or eating the matzah for the mitzvah, a person leans. The S"A (O"C 472:7) codifies it as

כל מי שצריך הסיבה אם אכל או שתה בלא הסיבה לא יצא וצריך לחזור לאכול ולשתות בהסיבה

But when sitting with certain people, including one's Rav Muvhak, there seems to be the possibility that, if told NOT to lean (or not given explicit permission TO lean -- אא"כ יתן לו רבו רשות), one does not lean.

My Daf Hayomi B'Halacha email wrote these two statements -- the first about leaning in the presence of one's father and the second, in the presence of a Rebbe

  1. The Poskim disagree whether a son is permitted to lean in front of his father if the father insists that the son not do so. Some rule that the son may not lean in opposition to his father’s wishes, while others say that the father’s opinion is negated due to the fact that the average parent has no issue with his child leaning in front of him.

  2. If the teacher permits the student to lean, the student must do so. The permission must be explicit and cannot be assumed.

But if the obligation to lean is on the level of halacha -- so much so that not leaning means one has not discharged his obligation, then being bound by the dictate of the father or the Rebbe would stop someone from being yotzei an obligation. The halacha yomit site writes

The Torah further states (Vayikra 19), “Each man shall revere his mother and father and you shall keep My Shabbat,” to teach us that if one’s father commands him to desecrate the Shabbat, the child may not obey his father, for the father is likewise obligated to honor Hashem who has commanded to observe the holy Shabbat. The same applies to any other Mitzvot in that if one’s parents command him to transgress any of the Torah’s commandments or that of the Sages, one may not obey them, for they are also obligated to keep these commandments.

Among other reasons, I can imagine that the dictate of divrei harav, divrei hatalmid, divrei mi shom'im might also apply.

How can there be any opinion that says that in the face of a particular element which is a sine qua non of proper fulfillment of a mitzvah, one can be forbidden to perform it by someone? Is it because of some difference between an aseh and a lo ta'aseh (or a shev v'al ta'aseh)? The answer here uses the language of ANY commandment.

  • How is this different from a father or teacher telling you you don't need to stand when they walk in? – Double AA May 3 at 19:06
  • I'm not sure, but on one level, this case has the father or rebbe creating a situation where a separate halacha cannot be fulfilled (one unrelated to the question of kavod). The standing case has a father saying "you don't have to follow the command which relates to me because I said so." But the wine at the seder isn't done at the behest (or for the display of respect to) the one who is being mchel. It is a distinct obligation, external to the one demanding the kavod and conflicting with it. – rosends May 3 at 19:49
  • Why do you say leaning not have to do with the parent/teacher? It clearly does since leaning in their presence is seen as somewhat disrespectful – Double AA May 3 at 19:56
  • Because the leaning is an external obligation related to the mitzvah of eating and/or drinking. If I sit when my father enters the room simply because I sit, then my disrespect is not demanded in the pursuit of another mitzvah obligation. – rosends May 3 at 20:18
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The question is assuming that I have a mitzvah to fulfill (leaning) and my rebbe muvhak (or father) is commanding me not to fulfill it. Framed in this way, the question is very strong- we don't listen to our teachers or parents to negate halacha.

But really the assumption isn't correct. This really is a case of two halachos which clash with each other, and the question is which one overrides the other one.

There is a mitzvah to have reverence for one's rebbe which prevents one from leaning in his presence. There's another halacha which requires me to lean in order to fulfill my mitzvah.

We now have a question- which mitzvah takes precedence? This is where the halacha that you quoted from is coming from- the commandment of reverence for one's rebbe takes precedence over the leaning.

The fact that the rebbe can permit the talmid to lean is a separate point. As brought down in Y.D. 240 (for a parent) and Y.D. 242 (for a rebbe) a parent or rebbe can be "mochel" their honor, they are allowed to permit the child/student to not honor them. This is referring to not fulfilling actions to honor them, not actively disgracing them. (that's a separate discussion.)

As the poskim say based on the yerushalmi (quoted by Tosfos in kidushin daf 31b) רצונו זהו כבודו fulfilling a person's desires is honoring them. Thus is a parent can tell a child that they forgo the honor due to them, and the child is allowed not to honor them. (I'm summarizing a big discussion about how mechilas kavod works; Rav Scheinberg zatza"l has a couple of points in Mishmeres Chaim, and there's a lot of points ואכמ"ל)

Therefore, when a parent or rebbe allows a child to lean, they are in effect removing the mitzvah of reverence. Thus, the student/child is left only with the mitzvah of leaning which they fulfill.

This is the way to understand the halacha which you quoted. It's not that the rebbe tells the student to violate halacha, but rather that the normative halacha places reverence for one's teacher above the mitzvah of leaning, absence permission and "mechila" from the rebbe.

Edit: I want to add a detail to further clarify this point. In the famous story brought in sefer Shmuel I chapt. 18, it describes Yonason sitting at a seudah with his father Shaul Hamelech but with Dovid missing. (This is the haftarah of "machar chodesh.")

In verse 25 it says that Yonason sat Avner in place of Dovid, in between himself and his father.

Rashi and the Metzudos bring there that it's not the derech for children to lean next to their father; thus Yonason wanted to have someone in between.

From here the poskim discuss having a child sit next to one's parent. (The Mishna berurah siman 90 brings the chayei adam that child should not sit next to one's parent, the same way a talmid should not sit next to a rebbe muvhak. The minhag is not like this, but rather like the Aruch Hashulchan that I'll bring in a moment.)

The ben ish chai (in his hilchos kivud av v'em, I believe parshas mishpatim shana shniya) discusses this issue. He concludes that it's only a problem of leaning, which is more relaxed. But just sitting next to one's parents is not a problem. (He himself points out that for Pesach when we do lean, it would be a problem to do so next to one's parents.)

The Aruch Hashulchan, in Y.D 240, says that it's only a problem for bnei melachim to be next to their parents. for non-royalty it's not a problem. I saw discussion years back that this could still be a problem for leil Haseder, since on Pesach night we do act as royalty in certain ways.

based on this idea, we can explain why we wouldn't recline next to our rebbeim or our parents at the seder. We recline to show our freedom and cherus. But it's not derech cherus to recline when it would be disrespectful.

Thus when we have a mitzvah to recline leil haseder, but we also have a mitzvah of reverence for our parents and rebbeim, the reverence will win out. It wins out since as long as there is a mitzvah of reverence, there is no custom of leaning and thus no mitzvah to do so.

And of course, once the parents and rebbeim give permission, it goes back to being derech cherus and one must now lean. (Melachim cannot be mochel on their kavod, but parents and rebbeim can as is clear from Y.D. 240, 242, 244 based on the gemara kidushin 32b).

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  • I understand your argument, but isn't the parent (or rebbe), making the statement when he is not mochel, "You cannot fulfill the obligation of wine or matzah"? Can a father (effectively) tell his son that the son is not allowed to fulfill any other mitzvah? – rosends May 3 at 19:47
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    I'm not sure I agree with this analysis. There is no conflict here. Leaning is only obligatory in certain situations. A situation where your parent doesn't give you permission is not one of them. Can you source someone presenting it as you do? – Double AA May 3 at 19:58
  • Think of it like this: We lean because that's the "derech cherus" the way of free men. As the poskim (Ben Ish Chai, Aruch Hashulchan and others) learn out from Shmuel I 18:25 (see rashi there) , Yonason didn't want to sit next to Shaul Hamelech, since it wasn't proper to lean next to one's father. As long as the father isn't mochel, there is no mitzvah to lean. The father's not negating the mitzvah, so much as one mitzvah is precluding the other. – Binyomin May 3 at 20:02
  • You can present it three different ways. Which is it? – Double AA May 3 at 20:20
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    @rosends The SA you quoted says clearly that one is not yotzei without leaning only in a case where one is required to lean – Joel K May 3 at 20:29

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