Aspects of Educating Minors
R. Adi Nusbaum
"Say to the kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and say to them: Each of you shall not contaminate himself to a [dead] person among his people." (Vayikra 21:1)
"The son of an Israelite woman went out – and he was the son of an Egyptian man ... and blasphemed." (Vayikra 24:10-11)
This parsha, which deals mostly with the instructions to and the obligations of Aharon and his sons, concludes with the episode of the blasphemer, whose genealogy – "the son of an Israelite woman, " but "the son of an Egyptian man," already foreshadows his actions. The son of an Egyptian – the one who hit the Israelite man in Egypt, and Moshe was forced to kill by uttering the Divine Name; and the son of Shlomit bat Divri – "Shlomit," who would chatter and say to everyone, "Shalom to you, shalom to you;" "bat Divri" – She was very talkative. (Rashi, based on the Midrash) The Torah emphasizes that we should not be surprised that from an abusive father and a garrulous mother, results a son who fights and blasphemes, since he saw it all in his home... Indeed, the home and the education of the next generation is the source of many mitzvot and obligations, whose idea is a proper influence and atmosphere to form an observant and G-d fearing generation.
It is after the death of the two sons of Aharon, who sinned and were therefore punished, that the Torah delineates many obligations emphasizing "Aharon and his sons." The ones who are destined to be the spiritual guides of klal Yisrael – the priests who serve in the Sanctuary – require special preparation in order to properly fulfill their role.
Avraham Avinu was especially praised for the education that he provided for the next generation, as G-d declares about him: "For I have loved him, because he commands his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of Hashem." (Bereishit 18:19) The Torah also commands us on Pesach, in particular, to provide an education tailored to each child based on his unique character, and therefore there is a separate answer for each one based on his actions and level.
About this obligation, that we repeat in the parsha of Shema at least twice a day: "Teach them thoroughly to your children" (Devarim 6:7), we pray daily: "May we, and our descendents and all of the descendents of Your nation Israel – all of us know Your Name and learn Your Torah for its sake." What are the Torah's instructions for the education of children already from their youth?
One aspect is the positive element, the thorough teaching of the child and his learning, as it says, "Make them known to your children and your children's children – the day that you stood ... at Chorev." (Devarim 4:9-10) Rashi translates this into practical terms on the pasuk, "to discuss them" (Devarim 11:19): "From the time that a child knows to talk, teach him, 'Torah tziva lanu Moshe,' so that this should be his accustomed talk. From here our Sages said: When a child begins to talk, his father should speak with him in Hebrew and teach him Torah. If he did not do so, it is as if he buries him." In addition to this, we need to distance the children from negative things and from sins.
The special opening of our parsha, "Say to the kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and say to them" – through the repetition of the word "say" and the usage of the word "emor" instead of "daber," as is usually written – brings our Sages in Masehcet Yevamot (114a) to interpret this phrase as an obligation for the community and the Beit Din: "Emor ... v'amarta – to warn the adults about the minors."
This obligation, the Gemara concludes, is to refrain from actively contaminating the minor kohanim (such as by placing them in a cemetery). In other words, not to directly cause them to violate. This derivation joins two other derivations along the same lines, one regarding the prohibition of insects and the other regarding the prohibition of eating blood. On the pasuk, "Lo tochlum (Do not eat them) for they are an abomination," which is said about insects (shekatzim), the Gemara derives, "lo ta'achilum" (do not feed them to minors). Chazal also derive about the prohibition of blood, "Any person among you may not consume (lo tochal) blood" (Vayikra 17:12) – do not feed to minors. The Gemara explains the need for all three sources, and thus the rule that three distinct sources cannot be extrapolated to other areas does not apply. Since all three are needed, we can extrapolate to all prohibitions of the Torah, and thus we may not actively cause a child to violate any prohibition. (See Beit Yosef Y.D. 343 who explains that according to the Tur there is a requirement to restrain the child from tum'ah. He understands that in these three prohibitions there is also an obligation to restrain, and we do not extrapolate from them to other prohibitions where there is no need to restrain, just not to actively cause, against the simple reading of the Gemara.)
Thus, regarding causing tum'ah, the Rambam rules in Hil. Avel (3:12): "A minor kohen – the adults are warned not to defile him, but if he comes to defile himself of his own accord, the Beit Din is not commanded about him to restrain him." However, the Rambam adds here an additional obligation of the father, something that we do not find in the Gemara in Yevamot: "However, his father has to train him to sanctity." In other words, he has an obligation to train him not to defile himself. All this is part of the mitzvah of chinuch, similar to what we find regarding the Yom Kippur fast (as the GR"A cites there) in Masechet Yoma 82a: "Young children are not made to fast on Yom Kippur. However, they are trained a year or two before [their Bar Mitzvah] in order that they should be accustomed to mitzvot." (The Gemara there has a number of opinions about this training.)
According to the Rambam's understanding, the Gemara in Yevamot addresses only the obligation of the Beit din and the community, emphasizing that they should not cause the minor kohanim to become defiled, but, in addition, the father is obligated to educate and train him in sanctity
This addition of the Rambam is only when when the child is of the age of chinuch. However, even for a child who hasn't reached the age of chinuch, the regular rule will remain not to actively defile him. We should point out that this "warning" of the children should be accomplished with amira, which is softer than dibur, which connotes hard and pointed speech, as the Admor R. Yisrael of Ger cites in his work, "Beit Yisrael." Chinuch must be calm at first, without hitting. Only if the child doesn't listen, then there is need to punish the child. All this he learns from the usage of "ve'amarta" in our parsha.
The Torah emphasizes these obligations specifically in the three prohibitions that have long-term affects on the child. Eating blood acquires the trait of cruelty (Sefer Hachinuch #148); eating insects defiles and seals up the heart (Yoma 39a); tum'ah also remains afterwards. Therefore there is special stringency and emphasis in these particular areas. Perhaps this is the reason that in the end of Hil. Ma'achalot Asurot (17:21) the Rambam emphasizes that even though the court is not required to restrain a minor from a Torah prohibition that he is doing of is own initiative, there is a mitzvah on his father to rebuke him and to prevent him in order to train him in sanctity. The Bach explains even a minor who is below the age of training, already then the father is obligated to educate him in sanctity, because of the adverse effects of non-kosher foodd, similar to the ruling of the Rama (Y.D. 81:7) regarding nursing from a non-Jewish wet-nurse: "A baby should not be nursed from an Egyptian if possible from a Jewish woman, because the milk of non-Jews blocks the heart and causes a bad nature (since the nursing woman eats insects)."
In addition, Rav S.R. Hirsch explains that in contrast to dibbur, which is a brief and concise command, "amira" is a full explanation, as transmitted to us in the oral Torah. Amira in chinuch is not only training to fulfill mitzvot, but rather transmitting the entire idea and its meaning. All this is in order to bring the child to sanctity and the careful observance of the mitzvot in an accustomed manner together with understanding.
How much we must work diligently and continuously stride in chinuch, step after step, in order that the pasuk, "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings You have established strength ... to silence foe and avenger" (Tehillim 8:3), may be fulfilled for us speedily, Amen.
קוד השיעור: 3750