Friday, January 18, 2008

A Child’s Obligation

Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, zt”l, was once spending Shabbos at a man’s home, when the three-year-old son of his host climbed onto the Shabbos table and walked across it to grab a grape. The boy’s father gave him a smack for his misbehavior.

Rav Yaakov told the father that his action was inappropriate. Had the boy been chutzpadik, a smack would have indeed been in order; chutzpah is an ingrained bad middah that must be corrected early. If steps are not taken while the child is young, the boy would be uncontrollably arrogant by the time he reached his teens.

“However,” continued Rav Yaakov, “your son is unlikely to walk across a table when he is a teenager, so you do not need to discipline him so sharply for it now. By all means, explain that it is not correct, but save the smack for something that deserves it!”

Although the father mentioned in this anecdote was unaware of the halachah, there were some Gedolim who understood this concept even as children.

One Yom Kippur, the young boy who would grow to be the Avnei Nezer, zt”l, went home to eat. When he returned after his meal, his father asked if he had made kiddush.

The prodigy responded, “I only do mitzvos because of the rabbinical obligation of chinuch. Since when I will be an adult I will certainly fast on Yom Kippur like all other Jews, there is no reason for me to have made kiddush now. It is not chinuch for me to learn what I will not be doing when I will be grown!”

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