Friday, May 20, 2022

Chagigah 6: “It is No Small Matter”

This daf discusses the minimum age of chinuch.

When someone asked the Brisker Rov when chinuch of a child begins, he explained that it begins with netilas yodayim: “Education of one’s sons and daughters begins with washing their hands to remove their defilement. Know that it is no small matter to be careful in this regard…”

The Chida, too, held that one should wash his very young children’s hands: “It is certainly fitting to wash one’s children’s hands, since when they touch their mouth or other orifices, they are defiled by the impurity that rests on their hands. Since this is a spiritual danger, the rule that danger is more stringent than a prohibition should take effect.

“Most people are not careful in this regard, but I do not know why…”

After bringing this Chida, the Kaf Hachaim concludes, “One who is careful to always wash his child’s hands from the day of his bris will be called holy…”

When Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky was asked about this, he answered differently: “The precise age from which one is halachically obligated to wash his child’s hands does not seem clear at first glance. It is obvious that one is not obligated to wash his baby’s hands even though they touch their nose, mouth, and the like, which is a sakanah. We must say that in this regard, they are likened to non-Jews who do not impart defilement. Although Jews are born holy, this has no relevance to the impurity which rests on Jewish hands. This impurity only rests on the hands of a child who has a connection to actual holiness. For example, if a child says, ‘Torah tzivoh…,’ learns the Alef-Bais, or even says amein, he is required to wash his hands” (Kaf Hachaim, 4:22; Emes L’Yaakov, 4, Note 10).

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