QUESTION: TOSFOS (DH Beno) asks that if a minor (Katan) is required to observe the Mitzvos because of the Mitzvah d'Rabanan of Chinuch, why does the Gemara in Yevamos (114a) question whether Beis Din must stop a Katan from transgressing an Isur? The general obligation of Chinuch requires that every Jewish child be taught to fulfill the Mitzvos and refrain from Aveiros. Why should the obligation of Chinuch not obligate Beis Din to stop a Katan from committing a transgression?
(a) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Ma'achalos Asuros 17:28, and Hilchos Avel 3:12) explains that the Gemara in Yevamos is discussing the specific obligation of Beis Din. Beis Din has no obligation of Chinuch for a child. The obligation of Chinuch is the exclusive responsibility of the child's father (or parents; see Insights to Chagigah 6:1). When the father is present he certainly is obligated to stop the child from committing the Aveirah. The Gemara's question is whether Beis Din must stop the child when the father is not present (or when he is present but does not stop the child himself). This approach is cited by TOSFOS and the TOSFOS YESHANIM in Yoma (82a) in the name of the RI.
(b) The RASHBA and RITVA in Yevamos, and TOSFOS in Shabbos (121a, DH Shema Mina), suggest that the Gemara is discussing a Katan who has not yet reached the age of Chinuch ("Katan she'Lo Higi'a l'Chinuch"). No obligation of Chinuch applies for such a Katan. Nevertheless, perhaps Beis Din is obligated to stop him from doing a forbidden act. The point of the Gemara's question is whether an Isur is more severe than a positive Mitzvah, such that Beis Din must prevent a child from committing an Isur even before he reaches the age at which his parents are required to instruct him to fulfill positive Mitzvos.
Although the Ritva accepts this ruling in practice, the Rashba rejects it. The Rashba cites the Gemara in Yevamos (113a) which asks that a Chareshes married to a Kohen should be allowed to eat Terumah because she is like a Katan who is not obligated to observe the Mitzvos, and Beis Din is not required to stop such a person from committing an Aveirah. The Gemara implies that there is no difference between a Ketanah who has reached the age of Chinuch and a Ketanah who has not reached the age of Chinuch -- in both cases, Beis Din is not required to stop the Ketanah from committing an Aveirah.
(Perhaps the Ritva does not accept this proof because he differentiates between a Chareshes and a Ketanah who has reached the age of Chinuch: unlike a Ketanah, a Chareshes will never be obligated to do Mitzvos. See end of Insights to Yevamos 112:2.)
(c) TOSFOS here and the RASHBA in Yevamos conclude that the Gemara there refers to a child who has reached the age of Chinuch. The reason why the Mitzvah of Chinuch does not obligate Beis Din to prevent the child from committing an Aveirah is that the Mitzvah of Chinuch applies only to Mitzvos Aseh. The Gemara's question is whether there is a requirement of Chinuch for Mitzvos Lo Ta'aseh as well. This is also the view of the TOSFOS YESHANIM in Yoma (82a) in the name of RABEINU ELIEZER.
The reason why Chinuch should apply specifically to Mitzvos Aseh and not to Mitzvos Lo Ta'aseh is that more effort is required to teach a child to perform an action than to teach him to refrain passively from doing an action (see TERUMAS HA'DESHEN #94). (See also Insights to Shabbos 121:1.)
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 343) cites the Rambam's opinion (a) that only the father, and not Beis Din, is commanded to stop the child from sinning. The REMA cites the opinion of the Rambam (a) and the opinion of the Ritva and Tosfos (b). He refers to the Rambam's opinion as "Yesh Omrim." The Terumas ha'Deshen favors the opinion of the Rashba and Tosfos Yeshanim (c) who differentiate between a Mitzvas Aseh and a Lo Ta'aseh. (See also Insights to Yevamos 114:1.)
QUESTION: Reish Lakish maintains that only a father may declare his son to be a Nazir for the sake of Chinuch, but a mother may not declare her son to be a Nazir. The Gemara explains that the reason why a mother may not declare her child to be a Nazir is that she is not obligated in the Chinuch of her child.
This also seems to be the intention of the Gemara in Chagigah (6a; see Insights there). The Mishnah there (2a) states that the Mitzvah of Chinuch requires that a child come to the Beis ha'Mikdash for the festival only when he is old enough to ride on his father's shoulders (Beis Shamai) or hold his father's hand and walk (Beis Hillel) from Yerushalayim to Har ha'Bayis.
However, the Gemara in Sukah (2b) implies that a mother is obligated in the Chinuch of her child. The Gemara there relates that the queen Hilni sat with her young sons in a Sukah. The Gemara proves that the Sukah in which they sat must have been valid because her children were of the age of Chinuch at that time, and therefore she was obligated to teach them to fulfill the Mitzvah with a valid Sukah. If the Mitzvah of Chinuch does not apply to the mother, why did Hilni ensure that her sons sat in a valid Sukah? (The Gemara in Sukah implies that Hilni had her children sit in a valid Sukah because of her obligation to do so, and not just because she was conducting herself beyond the letter of the law. See GILYON HA'SHAS there.)
How are these Gemaras to be reconciled?
(a) The Rishonim explain that when a child's father is not present, the obligation of Chinuch rests on the mother (TERUMAS HA'DESHEN #94, based on TOSFOS to Eruvin 82a, DH Katan). (This may be the intention of the TOSFOS YESHANIM to Yoma 82a. See also Yevamos 71b, "his father and mother were in jail [and unable to perform the Mitzvah of Chinuch].") The ME'IRI here similarly states that if a child has no father, his mother is obligated to teach the child how to fulfill the Mitzvos. Only when the father is alive and present is the mother exempt from the Mitzvah of Chinuch.
(b) RASHI in Chagigah (2a, DH Eizehu Katan) writes that the Chachamim obligated the child's father and mother to teach him how to fulfill the Mitzvos. When the Gemara here states that a woman is not obligated in the Chinuch of her child, it refers only to Mitzvos that are not obligatory (such as Nezirus). (The Rosh mentions a similar distinction with regard to the Gemara's statement that a father is not obligated to be Mechanech his daughter.) The mother has no obligation to teach her child how to fulfill such Mitzvos. Alternatively, Rashi in Chagigah maintains that Rebbi Yochanan disagrees with Reish Lakish in Nazir and maintains that the mother may declare her son to be a Nazir for the sake of Chinuch, and the Halachah follows the view of Rebbi Yochanan.
Why, then, does the Gemara in Chagigah imply that the mother is not obligated to bring her child all the way to Har ha'Bayis? Apparently, the Mitzvah of Chinuch applies to a mother only for Mitzvos in which she herself is obligated. Since she is not obligated in Aliyah l'Regel, she is not obligated to help her child fulfill that Mitzvah. (See MENACHEM MESHIV to Chagigah 2a in the name of the YAD DAVID. See Insights to Chagigah 6:1.)
QUESTIONS: Reish Lakish maintains that not only may a father accept an oath of Nezirus on his son's behalf, he may also make Nedarim on his son's behalf. The Mishnah mentions only that a father may accept Nezirus for his son in order to teach an additional Chidush: not only may he make Nedarim which do not involve "Nivul," but he may even make his son a Nazir which does involve "Nivul."
TOSFOS (28b, DH b'Nedarim) explains that when the Gemara says that the father may make Nedarim for his son, it refers only to Nedarim such as vows to bring a Korban or to fulfill a Mitzvah (such as Sukah or Lulav).
The Acharonim question the explanation of Tosfos.
(a) Why does Tosfos mention these two specific types of Nedarim? It seems more logical to say that the Gemara refers to the more common forms of Nedarim, vows to prohibit the son from eating a certain item or from benefiting from a certain object. (Indeed, this seems to be the way the ROSH explains the Gemara.) (ARZEI HA'LEVANON)
(b) How can a Neder obligate a person to perform a Mitzvah? A Neder is an Isur Cheftza, an Isur which takes effect on the object and not on the person. It cannot obligate a person to actively do something. (Although the Gemara in Nedarim (8a) says that if a person accepts upon himself to learn a certain Perek the following day, "he has made a great Neder," the RAN there (DH v'Halo Mushba) explains that the Gemara does not mean a Neder, but a Shevu'ah. It merely calls this Shevu'ah a "Neder." When the Gemara here mentions Nedarim, it refers literally to Nedarim, because otherwise Tosfos would not mention this particular example of a Neder; he would mention an example of a Shevu'ah which a person makes to eat a certain food or do a certain act.) (KEREN ORAH)
(a) The ARZEI HA'LEVANON explains that Tosfos is bothered by the Gemara's reference to making Nedarim for one's son as "Chinuch," which implies that there is a Mitzvah involved when the father makes a Neder for his son. The Gemara in Nedarim (22a), however, states that one who makes a Neder is considered to have built a Bamah and committed a severe Aveirah. How, then, can there be Chinuch for such an act? Tosfos answers that the Gemara refers to Nidrei Mitzvah, which one certainly is permitted to make.
However, according to this logic, Rebbi Elazar ha'Kapar -- who says that a Nazir is considered a sinner (19a, 22a) -- should disagree with the Halachah that a father may make his son a Nazir, but the Gemara makes no mention that anyone disagrees.
It is clear that one who makes an unnecessary Neder is considered to have built a Bamah, as the Gemara in Nedarim says. However, when a person feels himself drawn to sin through excessive indulgence of a certain food or item, it is proper for him to prohibit that item to himself through a Neder. The Mishnah in Avos (3:13) refers to this type of Neder when it says, "Nedarim Seyag l'Perishus." This is similar to the way an oath of Nezirus can be a Mitzvah (when a person becomes a Nazir in order to conquer his Yetzer ha'Ra) as the Gemara describes earlier (2a) and in Nedarim (9b).
Why, then, does Tosfos explain that the Gemara refers specifically to Nedarim to bring a Korban or to fulfill a Mitzvah?
The words of the MEFARESH (DH Lo Miba'i) imply that Tosfos is addressing another question. Why does the Gemara say that Nezirus involves "Nivul" while Nedarim do not involve "Nivul"? Abstaining from wine is called "Nivul" (Tosfos, end of 28a), presumably because any permitted object which a person limits himself from using is considered "Nivul." Accordingly, every Neder should also be considered "Nivul"! Because of this question, Tosfos explains that there are Nedarim which involve positive acts, such as bringing a Korban and doing a Mitzvah, which do not involve "Nivul" at all.
The ROSH (DH Afilu Nedarim) understands that the Gemara refers to ordinary Nedarim. Apparently, he learns that the "Nivul" mentioned here refers to physical "Nivul" such as cutting one's hair at the end of Nezirus (see Tosfos, end of 28b, DH ka'Savar), but not to simple abstinence from a food or other item.
(b) Although the RAN (ibid.) explains that all Nidrei Mitzvah are actually Shevu'os, other Rishonim (TOSFOS and ROSH, Nedarim 8a) learn that Nidrei Mitzvah are Nedarim and not Shevu'os. They compare this type of Neder to a Neder to give money to Tzedakah, which obligates the person to do something active. The source that a Neder to give Tzedakah is valid is the verse which describes Nidrei Hekdesh as a Neder even though such a Neder obligates the person to actively bring a Korban ("Harei Alai..."). This teaches that a person may make a Neder to perform any Mitzvah.
Tosfos here apparently understands that a Neder can obligate a person to do any Mitzvah. The SHITAH MEKUBETZES quotes RABEINU AZRIEL who says that the Nedarim to which the Gemara refers are Nedarim with which a person prohibits an item to himself on condition that he does not do a certain Mitzvah. Rabeinu Azriel apparently follows the view of the Ran that a person cannot actively obligate himself to do a Mitzvah by making an ordinary Neder. The reason why a person can create an obligation of Hekdesh or Tzedakah with a Neder is that ultimately the Hekdesh or Tzedakah will take effect on a certain object (the animal or the money). A person cannot obligate himself with a Neder to sit in a Sukah or to hold a Lulav because there is no object which the Neder will prohibit, and thus such a declaration is a Shevu'ah and not a Neder, as the Ran says.