Friday, October 18, 2013

the mitzvah of chinuch

1) The Meshech Chochma writes that in addition to the mitzvah of “v’limadtem osam,” to teach Torah to one’s sons, there is an additional mitzvah d’oraysa of chinuch to train them to do mitzvos.  The source he gives is a pasuk in our parsha.  Hashem says that he will tell Avraham about the impending destruction of Sdom because he knows Avraham, “Yitzaveh es banav v’es beiso acharav v’shamru derech Hashem,” (18:19) he will teach his children to follow Hashem’s ways.

I don’t understand.  The Rambam in Peirush haMishnayos in Chulin writes that we don’t observe milah because Avraham did milah, we don’t observe gid h’anasheh because Ya’akov did not eat gid ha’naseh.  The only reason we observe mitzvos is because they were given at Sinai.  How can a description of Avraham’s behavior serve as the source for the mitzvah of chinuch?  Where is the mitzvah given at Sinai?  (Hat tip to Doleh U’mashkeh’s post here that made me think of this.)
2) Our parsha gives us an insight into how to do chinuch.  Avraham welcomed guests into his home and rushed to prepare a meal for them.  Instead of shechting the cows himself, he delegated the job to Yishmael because Avraham wanted to be mechanech Yishmael in mitzvos. 
Chazal tell us whatever Avraham personally did for his guests, Bnei Yisrael received in return directly from Hashem when they needed food and water in the midbar.  Whatever Avraham delegated to others, Hashem gave to Bnei Yisrael indirectly as well.  Why should Bnei Yisrael have gotten a less than ideal reward just because Avraham delegated a job to Yishmael -- he deliberately did it that way for the sake of the mitzvah of chinuch?!
Many answer that chinuch is not done by delegating, by telling a child what to do.  Chinuch is done by setting an example.  Yishmael witnessing Avraham personally tending to his guests would impress the lesson of chessed upon him far more than Avraham telling him to shecht the cows on the guests behalf.


  1. One can definitely argue with that answer at the end because you could have just as much said - it's not enough to watch from the sidelines - you have to DO it yourself (which is what Avraham was training him to do)

  2. a) Meshech Chachma does not subscribe to that view of the Rambam
    b) Mitzva of Chinuch is different - it's more all-encompassing of ALL mitzvos and Hanhagos Tovos - so it didn't need to be repeated as a specific Maaseh Mitzva would (have to be repeated)

  3. Jake its not really the Rambams point of view its the mishnas in chullins. And the question has bothered me for years. If we don't learn mitzvos from the avos how come we bind a Korban oleh the way Yitzchok was bound (as per the gemara in zevachim)? I asked this to Rabbi Schecter he gave me an answer that I didn't love "details we get from the avos but the actual mitzvah is never from before mat an torah" I replied With a unenthusiastic "eh"

  4. I think that it's clear that Meshech Chochma is not adding chinuch lmitzvot to the Sefer Hamitzvot.
    It's a subset of chinuch. *that* we can learn from the maasei avot.

  5. i just happened across a gemara in suka 2b and also suka 28a that chinuch is not deoryasa.

  6. I don't think the Meshech Chochma would just reject such a fundamental Rambam without at least telling us (besides which, he would have to deal with that Mishna in Chulin somehow).

    Nachumj - it says it is d'oraysa and there is no other makor. Not every din d'oraysa gets added to the Sefer haMitzvos, so that doesn't bother me too much.

    Shloma, my son also sked me about all the gemaras that say chinuch is only derabbanan but I don't think it's a good argument. Of course the katan's chiuyuv is only derabbanan (proof: a katan she'higiya l'chinuch cannot be motzi a gadol who has a chiyuv d'oraysa), but the the Meshech Chochma is talking about chiyuvim on the *father,* not the child. The father has a mitzvah d'orasya to educate his child, but that doesn't make the child a bar chiyuva. (See R Akiva Eiger to the Mishnayos in Megillah how the mitzvah of chinuch works and I think there is also a Ch R' Reuvain on this chakira).

    As for details vs. being mechadesh a din, here the chiluk doesn't work because we are being mechadesh a din d'oraysa.

    I think the best answer is found in R' Kopperman's intro to his edition of the Meshech Chochma in ch 6 which bl"n I'll try to post.