Question: Are there limitations to the mitzvah of chinuch?
Answer: Last week we cited the Netziv who ruled that children should not be taught to observe mitzvot or customs in a manner that they will not observe as adults.
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In order to resolve this question it is necessary to assess the procedure by which members of a family observe the mitzvah of lechem mishnah on Shabbat when only the head of the household has two challot before him. What should those assembled do after the head of the household makes the beracha of hamotzi (with the intention of including everyone in his beracha)? Should they simply respond Amen? Or should they recite the beracha of hamotzi on their own prior to eating the portion of challah the head of the household gives to them?
The Rambam (Hilchot Berachot 1:10-11) rules that one may be included in someone else’s beracha in one of two ways. Either one says Amen or one says nothing but is included in the beracha by virtue of the principle of “shome’a k’oneh – listening is like saying.” To this ruling, the Kesef Mishnah asks: If one can observe the mitzvah simply by listening to the beracha, why is it necessary to say Amen altogether?
The Kesef Mishnah answers that shome’a k’oneh means that the person who recites the beracha serves as the surrogate of those included in the beracha (essentially it is a matter of shlichut). When, however, one says Amen, it is as if one actually said the beracha himself. (See Rambam, Berachot 1:11.)
Therefore, on Shabbat, those gathered around the table should say Amen since only the head of the household has lechem mishnah in front of him. By saying Amen it is as if they all recited the beracha over the lechem mishnah. If they choose to recite the beracha of hamotzi on the piece of bread given to them, however, they are only making a beracha on a portion of challah, but not on lechem mishnah (see Mishnah Berurah, Orach Chayyim 274:2 and Responsa Ba’er Moshe Vol. V:75 which cites this ruling in the name of the Chatam Sofer).
According to the ruling of the Netziv – that chinuch only applies to teaching a child to observe a mitzvah the way adults do – it appears that it is wrong to train children to recite hamotzi on a piece of bread after the head of the household makes hamotzi on the lechem mishnah.
(To be continued)
Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of several books on Jewish law. His latest, “Shabbat The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas” (Urim Publications), is available at Judaica stores and on Amazon.com.