Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Positive Chinuch

by Rafi G.

NOTE: no halachic conclusions should be drawn from this article. A competent Orthodox Rabbi must be consulted regarding any practical questions that might arise. The following is a discussion for hashkafic thought alone and has not been fully researched for the purpose of psak.

On daf 82a of Masechet Yoma we have a discussion in the gemara regarding what age a parent must begin training his child to fast on fast days, specifically Yom Kippur.

The Tosefos Yeshanim asks an interesting question: There is a rule in halacha that says if one sees a child eating neveilos (non-kosher food) one must not (or need not) stop him. So what is the big discussion on what age to train him to fast, we should be discussing what age to stop him from actually transgressing something assur!!??

The Tosefos Yeshanim answers the question by bringing the opinion of R' Eliezer from Mitz. R' Eliezer from Mitz is of the opinion that the two issues are completely separate. There is an inyan of "chinuch" which entails training and educating the child to do a mitzva - to do what is right. Then there is an inyan of abstaining from issur. Chinuch, he says, has no bearing on abstaining from issur, only doing mitzvos. That is why we are discussing training him to fast rather than stopping him from issur.

The idea R' Eliezer is telling us is mind boggling (to me). The mitzva of chinuch is only for positive mitzvos, not to stop him from doing something wrong (though that too might be admirable to teach a child when possible). If one sees the candy-man in shul give a child a candy with a questionable hechsher (or even no hechsher), one should talk to the candy-man about no longer providing those candies, but he should not take away the candy from the child! Let the child finish eating it. To me that is an amazing chiddush in chinnuch!

Why is that so?

I was thinking about it and considered this thought. We want to give our children a positive outlook on Yiddishkeit and mitzvos. The obligation of chinnuch incorporates that idea. The obligation to educate your child in mitzvos is, on the one hand, to train the child in the habit of actually doing the mitzvos. On the other hand, it is also to engender within the child the positive attitude towards doing mitzvos. We urge him to do mitzvos, but we do not stop him when he does issurim. We want to give over the positive aspect and not the negative.

Again, this should not be used as a halachic guide. It is simply a thought on an idea presented by R' Eliezer from Mitz in the Tosefos Yeshanim. If the question arises and you need to know whether to stop your child from doign something that is assur, you must consult with your Rav.

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