Education: Whose Responsibility is it?
Taste of Talmud
King Yannai had a dilemma. He had murdered all of the Rabbis in his area and now he did not have anyone to lead him in Birkas Hamazon! It just so happened that his queen was the sister of the great sage Rav Shimon ben Shetach whom she had whisked away in order to save him from her husband’s treachery. (Those were difficult times!)
So, she told her husband, King Yannai that if he would not kill her brother she would bring him to recite Birkas Hamazon. Now, the question became: How could he say the blessing for Yannai, if he had not eaten? How could he say, “Blessed is The One Whom we have eaten from His goodness,” when, he did not partake of anything? (Brachos 48a) In clarifying this story, the Talmud relates the rules governing when one Jew may say Birkas Hamazon for another Jew. The Talmud says that as long as one has eaten an amount of grain the size of an olive he may say the blessings for his friend. Rashi asks,
“Why is an amount of grain the size of an olive sufficient to obligate him? This amount only causes a Rabbinic obligation. How could someone who has only a Rabbinic obligation say the blessings for someone who ate a larger amount and therefore has a Biblical obligation? Why is this different than a child who, also, only has a Rabbinic obligation to say Birkas Hamazon, yet, he may not say the blessings on behalf of others?” (Ibid. 20b)
Taste of Halacha
In answering this question, Rashi lays down a fundamental principle in Chinuch (education). Rashi writes that the Rabbinic obligation for a child to say Birkas Hamazon, is not his own; it is his father’s! It is the father’s obligation to train his children to perform Mitzvos. That is why a child may not say the blessing for others, because he does not have any obligation at all. This is different from a man who has his own Rabbinic obligation. Since he does have his own obligation he may say the blessing for others. Tosafos is not satisfied with this answer. He categorically disagrees with Rashi as to the nature of the Mitzvah of Chinuch. Tosafos is of the opinion that it is a child’s own Rabbinic obligation to fulfill all Mitzvos which he is capable of performing. Furthermore, he asks, “How could a person with a lower level obligation cover a person with a higher level of obligation?” Therefore, Tosafos answers, that the difference lies in the fact that an adult has a Biblical obligation to help another Jew fulfill his Mitzvos, which a child does not have. Therefore, as long as he is in a position where he can technically recite the words, “Blessed is The One Whom we have eaten from His goodness,” due to his having eaten an olive size of grain, he may say the blessing for others because of the mitzvah of Arvoos (responsibility for a fellow Jew).
Taste of Parasha
What made Yitzchak the quintessential ben (son) of Avraham Avinu? The word Chinuch means so much more than the transferring of information from one person to another. Rav Shlomo Wolbe, in his ‘must read’ handbook for parents and educators, writes what the fundamental goals of Chinuch are. He refers to them as Tz’micha (growing) and Binyan (building). The information that is transmitted builds the child’s mind and gives him a structure within which to grow. If, however, the child is not shown love and is not given the opportunity to develop his unique talents, then what you have is a robot. Chinuch must include a planting of the seeds of love for learning. This will lead to a lifelong process of development and discovery. It will create a lifelong learner. This is why Yitzchak excelled. He was able to first uncover the physical and metaphorical wells of his father and then discover new ones. He took the love of G-d which Avraham Avinu planted within him and let it grow to new heights. He lived with the Middah of Chessed and developed the Middah of Yirah, service of G-d with awe and reverence.