Chinuch

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There is a rabbinical obligation on every father to educate his children to fulfill mitzvot even before they reach the age of Bar Mitzvah/Bat Mitzvah.[1] The age at which this obligation begins varies according to the Mitzvah. Below are the details of this Mitzvah.

D’Orayta or D’Rabanan?

The Mitzvah of Chinuch - to teach Torah to our children - is clearly a Mitzvah D’Orayta as explicitly stated: V’shinantam L’vanecha.[2] However, is the Mitzvah of chinuch - to instruct children to begin performing Mitzvot before they are of the age of Mitzvot - a D’Orayata or D’Rabanan?

  1. Rav Schneur Zalman of Liadi says that it is clearly a mitzvah D’rabanan because it is never mentioned in the 5 books of the Torah. [3]
  2. However Rav Meir Simchah of Dvinsk, disagrees citing Bereshit “For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him”[4] which he interprets to mean that Avraham is commanded to teach his household and children to perform the Mitzvot.This, however, is a general Mitzvah to teach children to appreciate Mitzvot. The Mitzvah to teach a child to perform every individual Mitzvah is D’Rabanan.[5]
  3. According to Rav Soloveitchik, although teaching children the Mitzvot is D’Rabanan, the Mitzvah of Chinuch is modeled after the biblical commandment of Sippur Yitziat Mitzrayim. This commandment to retell the story of our ancestors is extended, and, while there is a special commandment to tell over the story of Egypt, we must retell all of the Torah and Mitzvot to our children using all of the educational methods we follow in Sippur Yitziat Mitzrayim. [6]

At What Age?

  1. The general age of when one starts to do mitzvos is when the parents think that their child is mature enough to fulfill the whole mitzvah even with its more complicated parts. [7]
  2. The age of chinuch depends on the child's individual intelligence. Usually the age when a child is intelligent enough for mitzvos is 5 or 6 years of age.[8]
    1. For Shabbat some say that the age of chinuch begins at age 4 or 5.[9]
  3. There are some mitzvos in which parents start training their children even before five years of age. But some mitzvos can be more complicated and parents should wait until children are older to train them.[10]
  4. A child can make several of mistakes before they can begin to execute the mitzvah properly. But if one does make a mistake trying to execute the mitzvah, the parents should not get frustrated with their kid and instead they should encourage them to try to execute and fulfill the mitzvah again. [11]

Who is obligated in Chinuch?

  • There is a machloket in the commentaries regarding whether the mitzvah of chinuch is for the parent or the child.
  1. The book of Mishlei says that one should teach his child in a manner which will stick with him forever: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Rashi comments on this pasuk saying that depending on what you teach him those lessons will effect him the rest of his life. He is saying that the adult has the responsibility to correctly teach his son life lessons. This belief would suggest that chinuch is a mitzvah for the father, because he is the one who will have the ability to effect his child's future.[12]
  2. Some rishonim hold that the son isn't obligated in mitzvot at all and it is only father who is obligated to train his son to mitzvot.[13] However, others hold that the child himself is rabbinically obligated in mitzvot.[14]
  3. While the majority of the Poskim hold that Chinuch only applies to the father, some say it also applies to the mother. [15]

How Completly Must the Mitzvah Be Performed?

  • The obligation of chinuch is for a father to train his son to do mitzvot, before he is required. The question that arises is; can a father fulfil his obligation by training his children to learn the basis of the mitzvah, or, must a father teach his son to complete and perfect the mitzvot. There are many different views on how a father should approach this issue.
  1. Just as a woman is not obligated to learn torah, kids are not required to do mitzvot. However, if a woman is to help her husband learn she must be involved as if she was required to learn. This is because her husband's mitzvah is relying on her learning in a certain manner. This is parallel to Chinuch because even though the child is not required to do the mitzvot, his father's obligation is reliant on his son performing the mitzvah adequately. [16]
  2. In Devarim, the pasuk says (וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ, וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם, בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ, וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ) that one must teach their child dilegently and at all times. From this, we can infer that chinuch is so important that the father must make sure his son is fully ready to fulfill the mitzvah. This is so necessary that the father must teach his child at all times. [17]
  3. Others say, the requirement of a father to train his son in the performance of mitzvot, before he is bar mitzvah, is called chinuch. The term chinuch means training. From this we can infer that the child does not need to perfect the mitzvah, or even complete it, for the father's obligation to be fulfilled. [18]
  4. A Psychologist's viewpoint of chinuch is very different. Since there is no concrete explanation of what you must do to fulfill chinuch, when trying to find how to fulfill chinuch a lot of parents seem to make simple mistakes. There are cases where children don't obtain any information on negative mitzvot because the father is so set on teaching mitzvot such as tzitzit or tefillin. From this we can see that the father can fulfill chinuch by being confident that his child will be a well rounded torah observer. An example would be a situation on pesach. Rather than scolding your child on how big the matzah must be in order to be kosher, instead you should be teaching your child the story of pesach and how to appreciate it.[19]
  5. Some examples of cases of chinuch are with a lulav and with tzitzit. While the obligation of chinuch is only fulfilled if you give your child a perfectly kosher lulav and pair of tzitzit, you don’t have to give your child lulav hadar. In addition, you also don’t have to teach your child to have kavanah while performing the mitzvah. From this, we can infer that while it is important to teach your child to not perform the mitzvah in a non-kosher way, it is also not necessary to make your child fully enthralled in all aspects of the mitzvah.[20]
    1. There is a dispute whether a father fulfills his obligation when letting his child use a borrowed lulav for sukkot.[21] This question revolves around whether the nature of the obligation of chinuch was to train the child to do mitzvot when he gets older in which case it would suffice or was it that the rabbis imposed an obligation upon the child to do mitzvot before he becomes Biblically obligated.[22]

Until When?

  1. Although the primary purpose of Chinuch is to train children when they are young so that they continue to perform the Mitzvot during adulthood, the parents' obligations does not end when a child reaches bar or bat mitzvah. A parent must make sure that the child continues to adhere to all biblical or rabbinic laws even after maturity. [23]

Daily Mitzvot

Prayer

  1. Regarding a child's obligation to pray, see the Children's obligation to Pray page.

Berachot

  • Children should be taught to say berachot before food at the age of 5, or when the children are able to say it properly. However many people have different customs to start having children say berachot at an earlier age. [24]
  • Some say that children from the age of 6 should say Birkat Hamazon [25]
  • In order to teach children what berachot they should say, and how they should say them, the parent should show/teach the children by saying berachot in front of the child. A parent of a young child is allowed to help the child say the berachot by saying it with them, including the saying of G-d’s name, and the parent is allowed to answer “amen” to berachot that are said improperly or are incomplete if the child is still learning. [26]
  • Children that are older than five or six, or whatever age the accepted custom says, and get up in the middle of the night, should not eat unless they said the proper berachot before hand. [27]
  • While there is a prohibition in saying G-d's Name (Ado-nai), when it is isn't warranted, the prohibition is waived when being used in the process of Chinuch. Therefore, it is permitted(obligatory, rather) to say the full Bracha, with Shem and Malchut, in order to teach a child how and when to say what Brachot.[28]

Washing for Bread

  1. Children that have not reached the age of bar or bat mitzvah are required to wash their hands before eating bread. Even though washing hands is a mitzvah derabanan, it is a mitzvah of chinuch to teach kids mitzvot that are derabanan. [29]
  2. One opinion is that even when the child is being spoon fed because he does not have the motor skills to feed himself yet, he still is required to wash for bread when he eats more than a Kezayit. [30]
  3. Harav Adir Cohen says that when the child can say the bracha they should wash their hands before eating bread. Since in many kindergarten and nursery classrooms they have posters of the bracha on the wall, they have already memorized it when they are young. Therefore, they should be able to wash by then. [31]

Bringing Children to Shul

There is a lot of controversy over the issue of bringing your kids to shul. Is it a positive thing that will be positive for their future or will it be a distraction to others and a negative outlook on shul for the child?

  1. Some say that bringing a child to shul before they are ready infuses them with spirituality just like a bris milah is given to a child before the age of chinuch because it infuses him with spirituality. [32]
  2. The gemara writes that the reason why children were also supposed to assemble at hakhel was to ‘bring reward to those who brought them’. Tosafot comments that this is the source for bringing children to shul.[33]
  3. The Shla hakadosh was frustrated by people who brought kids to shul who are not yet old enough to be in shul without making disruptions and bothering the shul. This will leave an impression on the child and he will feel distaste towards the shul as an adult because of it. [34]
  4. The Mishna Berura writes that one shouldn’t daven with a young child in front of them as they will likely distract them.[35]
  5. The Shulchan Aruch writes that children should listen to the megilla being read on Purim. The Mishna Berura writes that this is only applicable to children who have reached the age of chinuch. The Chafetz Chaim bemoans the unfortunate reality that many parents bring their younger children who disturb everyone else. [36]

A Kohen Becoming Tamei

  1. Hacham Ovadia Yosef says a kohen’s wife who is pregnant while she knows it's a male is allowed to go to cemeteries while pregnant because the fetus is considered to be a part of the mother. [37]
  2. Rav Elyashiv says that a kohen’s wife who is giving birth to a male needs to make sure the hospital is one where the child won't become tamei after being born. [38]
  3. A kohen must never become Tamei so as a baby it is the parent's responsibility to keep the baby from being near dead bodies.[39]
  4. Once the Kohen is old enough and mature enough to be taught the obligation of not becoming tamei the responsibility to keep the child from becoming Tamei falls off the parents and on the child [40]

Shabbat

Kiddush and Havdalah

  1. When a child is able to understand it is shabbat then he or she must hear kiddush and havdalah. Understanding that it is Shabbos does not mean that he or she only says good shabbos and that’s all; rather a kid must understand it’s the 7th day and it’s the rest day and not a day to do work. [41]
  2. When a child is of that age, parents must make sure to call the child to the table to hear kiddush. [42]
  3. A child should hear havdalah starting at the same age as he or she is responsible to hear kiddush
  4. If a child goes to sleep before hearing havdallah or Kiddush and it is past the child’s normal bedtime, it is not necessary to wake him or her up for Havdallah. [43]

Melacha on Shabbat

  1. On shabbat, a parent cannot tell a kid to do melacha
  2. According to one opinion, you can have a child do melacha for you if it is only an issur derabanan[44]
  3. According to most opinions you may not ask a child to do a melacha for you under any circumstances even melacha derabanan. [45]
  4. Even though one cannot ask a child to do melacha, if a young child is playing with a toy that makes noise on shabbat, you don’t have to tell the kid to stop if they are too young to understand the laws of shabbat [46]
  5. But, if a kid is old enough to understand which action are forbidden and which are allowed to do on shabbat, then you must stop them from doing melacha [47]

Holidays

The Seder

  1. The age a child should be kept up for the whole pesach seder is when he can fully understand the mitzvah and the story of egypt. This of course varies depending on how the child matures, but for most it is between age 5-7.[48]
  2. A child should drink the four cups when he can understand, even just a little bit, the story of Egypt; he does not, however, need to drink the same amount as an adult but rather a child’s size Melo Loogmov (a cheek full) [49]

Lulav

  1. Children are chayav to perform the mitzvah of lulav when they are able to shake the lulav [50]
  2. The Turei Zahav says that a parent should buy his son his own set of lulav if he is able to do it, and the father has the financial means to do it.
  3. if you are going to buy your child a lulav, it is preferable, if they are going to make a bracha on it, that it be kosher. [51]
  4. Although the lulav should be kosher, according to some, on the first day of Sukkot a child does not have to own his lulav like adults do.
  5. According to others, a child should also use a lulav that he owns.
  6. Therefore, the child should use the lulav after all adults have used the lulav, because a child can acquire a lulav from an adult, but cannot transfer it back to the adult’s ownership.[52]
  7. The child is not able to give back the lulav because he is unable to understand the practices of business enough to give back the lulav. [53]
  8. You can have your child use the non-kosher set of lulav but you do not fulfill the mitzvah of chinuch. [54]

Fasting

  1. There is a minhag for a boy to fast 3 fasts prior to his Bar Mitzvah.[55]

Torah Study

  1. The Torah study of pure children is very precious before Hashem and it provides spiritual protection to the whole world.[56]

Chinuch Attitude

  1. A life devoted to Hashem is the most pleasurable and fulfilling one. Therefore, the Chinuch stage must be pleasing and joyful for children. The proper attitude and approach for children to learn is through "Darchei No'am" (pleasant ways). [57]
  2. A parent and/or teacher should generally be careful not to be excessively forceful. There are several cases where Talmudic personalities praised their behavior of not being "makpid"(strict) in their home over their wives and children even though they lived a life filled with mitzvot.[58]
  3. An important lesson about chinuch in general can be learned from a story about trying to teach one’s son to wash before eating. It talks about a little kid who did not wash before eating bread. This infuriated his dad so he went to get something to hit him with. When he wound up to hit his son, his wife immediately stopped him and reminded him that he does not wash before eating bread either, thus he should be the one that is hit. The lesson is that if you want to successfully teach your children mitzvot, you have to take ownership and do the mitzvah as well. [59]

Sources

  1. Sefer Chinuch Yisrael (p. 59) writes that Chinuch is a rabbinical Mitzvah, and quotes the Chaye Adam (66:1) who writes that this is a Mitzvah Midivrei Kabbalah (institution of the Nevi'im).
  2. Devarim 6 pasuk 7
  3. R’ Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Shulchun Aruch Harav Y.D. 246:1
  4. Bereshit Perek 18 pasuk 19
  5. Meshakh Ḥochmah Genesis 18:19
  6. Benjamin Zimmerman, The Educational Experience of Sippur Yitziat Mizrayim
  7. See the examples on Sukkah 42a and Sukkah 28a
  8. Mishnah Berurah 128:123.
  9. Muktzeh: A Practical Guide (Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen p. 138)
  10. Mishnah Berurah 128:123
  11. Mishnah Berurah 343:3.
  12. Mishlei (22:6) and Rashi there as cited in ShortVort written by D. Fine. Ritva Sukkah 2b s.v. amar rabbi yehuda and Mishna Brurah 343:2 cite Mishlei as the source for chinuch.
  13. Rashi (Brachot 20a s.v. ketanim), Ran (Megillah 6b s.v. rabbi yehuda) citing the Ramban, Ritva (Megillah 19b s.v. hakol)
  14. Tosfot (Megillah 19b s.v. vrabbi yehuda), Tosfot (Brachot 20a s.v. vketanim), Rashba (Brachot 20a s.v. nashim)
  15. Mishna Brurah 343:2, Sefer Chinuch Yisrael (p. 61). See further in the Magen Avraham 343, Shulchan Aruch HaRav 343, Mishna Brurah 616:5, Aruch HaShulchan 343, and Pri Megadim E"A 225:5.
    • The Gemara Nazir 28b writes that there is only an idea of a father training his son in being a nazir and not a mother. Reish Lakish understands that this is an example of chinuch. Tosfot Yeshanim (Yoma 82a s.v. ben) explicitly holds that there is no chinuch for a mother. Aruch Lener Sukkah 2b agrees. Ritva (Sukkah 2b s.v. amar rabbi yehuda) assumes that there is chinuch for a mother.
  16. S’dei Chemed, Klallim, Maareches Ches, Klal 60
  17. Devarim 6:7
  18. "The Responsibility for Chinuch." Chabad.org. TheRebbe.org, n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.
  19. Shalem, Baruch, Ph.D, and David Koenigsberg, Ph.D. "Chinuch." Chinuch. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.
  20. Fine, D. "The Mitzvah of Chinuch Explored." Shortvort. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
  21. Mishna Brurah 628:28
  22. Rav Moshe Feinstein in Igrot Moshe YD 1:224. See Ritva (Sukkah 2b s.v. amar rabbi yehuda) who says that a sukkah above 20 amot is invalid for chinuch and concludes that the mitzvah of chinuch has to be fulfilled in a complete fashion.
  23. Children in Halacha pg. 8
  24. "CHINUCH AGE." Ahavsalom (n.d.): n. pag. Dh.ahavasolam.com. Web. 1 Feb. 2016. <http://dh.ahavasolam.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/A-List-of-Chinuch-Ages.pdf>, שלחן ערוך א”ח רט”ו:ג as cited in Singer, Shmuel. "A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children Mitzvot." Google Books. Shmuel Singer, n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2016. <https://books.google.com/books?id=55NdTR7HfYAC&pg=PA20&lpg=PA20&dq=age%2Bchildren%2Bberachot&source=bl&ots=zwGJnqECD_&sig=xSHlovDBimMjahI64ia2ltu_5ho&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjHopOi39bKAhUBLyYKHRqADUEQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q=age%20children%20berachot&f=false>.
    • Yalkut Yosef (Chinuch p. 20) quotes the Chikrei Lev who proves that there is chinuch even on derabbanan mitzvot as the gemara Rosh Hashana 29b indicates that a person should teach his son how to make hamotzei before eating bread.
  25. Rabbi Mansour on dailyhalacha.com writes that parents should ensure that children from the age of 6 say Birkat HaMazon.
  26. Mishnah Berurah (167:93) . See Chanoch L’Naar (14:4). As cited in "CHINUCH AGE." Ahavsalom (n.d.): n. pag. Dh.ahavasolam.com. Web. 1 Feb. 2016. <http://dh.ahavasolam.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/A-List-of-Chinuch-Ages.pdf>.
  27. "CHINUCH AGE." Ahavsalom (n.d.): n. pag. Dh.ahavasolam.com. Web. 1 Feb. 2016. <http://dh.ahavasolam.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/A-List-of-Chinuch-Ages.pdf>.
  28. The Gemara (Brachot 53b) says that one doesn’t say amen after the Bracha of a katan when he is just saying a Bracha as he is being taught the Brachot. The Rambam (Brachot 1:15) codifies as halacha. The Kesef Mishna there writes that it’s clearly implied that the teacher is permitted to say the Brachot with hashem’s name to teach the children how to say the Brachot and when the children repeat the Bracha after him, since the Bracha is only for Chinuch, one doesn’t answer amen. Shulchan Aruch 215:3 rules that if a child is saying a Bracha as he is learning from his teacher one doesn’t answer amen, but if a child says a Bracha in order to exempt himself from some obligation (meaning saying a Bracha when he is obligated to say it), then one should answer amen.
    • Mishna Brurah 215:14 writes that it is permitted for the teacher to say the Brachot with hashem’s name to teach the children how to say the Brachot. Although saying a Bracha for Chinuch is permitted, saying a Bracha as one is learning such as an adult who finds the text of a Bracha in the gemara as he is learning should not say the Bracha with hashem’s name as one is reading the gemara. However, Yalkut Yosef 215:15 writes that in order to teach a child how to say Brachot one may say them with Hashem’s name, however, once the child knows how to make a Bracha and he just needs help in saying the Bracha one should say it without ashem’s name.
  29. Yalkut Yosef Dinei Netilat Yadayim, Birkat Hamazon, Brachot, Mincha and Arvit page 13-14 based on the Yerushalmi in Megilla 2:5 that chinuch of children applies to rabbinic laws as cited in Netilat Yadayim for a Meal.
    An important lesson about chinuch in general can be learned from a story about trying to teach one’s son to wash before eating. It talks about a little kid who did not wash before eating bread. This infuriated his dad so he went to get something to hit him with. When he wound up to hit his son, his wife immediately stopped him and reminded him that he does not wash before eating bread either, thus he should be the one that is hit. The lesson is that if you want to successfully teach your children mitzvot, you have to take ownership and do the mitzvah as well. "חינוך לדורות - חינוך במעשים." <http://raktora.50webs.com/hinuh1.htm>.
  30. הרב אבישלום מונייצר שליטא. "ילדים כהלכה." ילדים כהלכה.
  31. הרב אדיר הכהן שליט"א. " חינוך לנטילת ידים לילדים." חינוך לנטילת ידים לילדים.
  32. Rabbi shraga simmons http://www.aish.com/jl/jewish-law/daily-living/4-Children-and-Halacha.html
  33. Chagigah 3a
  34. Mishnah Berurah 98:3 who quotes the Shla Hakadosh:
  35. Mishna Berura 96:4
  36. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 689:1-3)
  37. dailyhalacha.com
  38. dailyhalacha.com
  39. dinonline.org
  40. dinonline.org
  41. Rabbi Dovid Ostroff, The Shabbos Weekly
  42. Rabbi Dovid Ostroff, The Shabbos Weekly
  43. Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurebach as cited in Rabbi Dovid Ostroff, The Shabbos Weekly
  44. Turei Zahav as cited in A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children Mitzvot: A Halachic Guide By: Samuel Singer
  45. A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children Mitzvot: A Halachic Guide By: Samuel Singer
  46. A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children Mitzvot: A Halachic Guide By: Samuel Singer
  47. A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children Mitzvot: A Halachic Guide By: Samuel Singer
  48. Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim 472:15. Shulchan Aruch Harav 472:25
  49. The Laws of Pesach on www.neveh.org
  50. Gemara sukkah 42a
  51. "Sukkot." A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children Mizvot. Hoboken: Ketav House, 1991.53. Print.
  52. "Sukkot." A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children Mizvot. Hoboken: Ketav House, 1991.59. Print.
  53. "Sukkot." A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children Mizvot. Hoboken: Ketav House, 1991. 53 . Print.
  54. "Sukkot." A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children Mizvot. Hoboken: Ketav House, 1991. 61-63. Print.
  55. Rav Nevinsal (B'Yitzchak Ikara 550:1) comments that the minhag ashkenaz is for a boy to fast 3 times prior to his bar mitzvah, though he doesn't know the basis for this minhag.
  56. The Gemara Shababt 119a quotes Reish Lakish as saying that the world stands on the merit of the children's torah study. Furthermore, says the Gemara, a city which doesn't have its children studying Torah is going to be destroyed.
  57. Rambam in his introduction to Perek HaChelek elaborates on how a child should be given sweets to encourage him to learn, as he gets older he should be given bigger prizes until eventually he will appreciate the value of the Torah itself and be motivated to learn it for no other reason,
  58. Gitin 7a
  59. "חינוך לדורות - חינוך במעשים." Raktora. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Feb. 2016. <http://raktora.50webs.com/hinuh1.htm>.