Are children obligated to recite the Shema?

Are children obligated to recite the Shema?[1]

Below age of Chinuch:[2] A child who is below the age of Chinuch is exempt from reciting Keiras Shema [by night and day].[3]

Above age of Chinuch: A son who has reached the age of Chinuch is obligated in Shema [of both morning and evening[4], at their correct times[5], with its preceding and posterior blessings[6]].[7] Some Poskim[8], however, rule that even by a son who has reached the age of Chinuch, the father is exempt from educating him to recite Kerias Shema and its blessings.[9] Practically, it is proper to follow the first opinion.[10] The above is only regarding the Shema and its blessings, however, regarding Shemoneh Esrei, the father is obligated to educate his son to Daven Shemoneh Esrei both by night[11] [Maariv] and day.[12] [Accordingly, it is proper for a father to make sure that his son recites the morning Shema before Sof Zman Kerias Shema, and that he Davens the entire Maariv, from when he reaches the age of Chinuch. Some Poskim[13] rule that once a son has reached the age of 12, the father is obligated to educate him in saying Shema according to all. Once one’s son reaches the age of Chinuch, every father should be careful to personally hear his male children recite Shema and its blessings both by night and day, and not rely on that they are doing it on their own.[14]]

Definition of age of Chinuch:[15] The age of Chinuch is from the age that the child understands the meaning of the Mitzvah. [This is approximately from age 6-7.[16] Other Poskim[17] rule it is between age 9-10. Practically, it all depends on the child’s maturity.[18]]

 

Summary:

Once a child has reached the age of Chinuch, it is proper to educate him in the saying of Kerias Shema and its blessings both by day and night. Accordingly, it is proper for a father to make sure that his son recites the morning Shema before Sof Zman Kerias Shema, and that he Davens the entire Maariv, from when he reaches the age of Chinuch.

Q&A

If one’s child who has reached the age of Chinuch is sleeping, must he wake him up to say Shema?

Some Poskim[19] rule that in such a case one may rely on the lenient opinion stated above and not wake him.

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[1] Admur 70:2

[2] Admur ibid; Michaber 70:2; Mishneh Brachos 20a

[3] The reason: Although Kerias Shema contains Kabalas Ol Malchus Shamayim, nevertheless, children are exempt from it just as they are exempt from all other Mitzvos. [Admur ibid; Levush 70:2]

[4] Admur and Michaber ibid in opinion of Rashi

[5] M”B 70:6

[6] M”B 70:6; Admur ibid in second opinion mentions the blessings

[7] Stam opinion in Admur ibid; 1st opinion in Michaber ibid; Rabbeinu Tam in Tosafus Brachos ibid; Rosh Brachos 3:13

[8] 2nd opinion in Admur ibid; 2nd opinion in Michaber ibid; Rashi Brachos ibid

[9] The reason: The Sages did not impose on the father to educate a child to recite Shema and its blessings, being that the father is not found together with his child during the time of Kerias Shema at night, and by morning the child is still sleeping. [Admur ibid] See Biur Halacha 70:2 “Ketanim Peturim” who questions Admur as to why Admur exempts educating the child in the blessings of Shema, if the blessings may be recited until late. He explains that if the father is exempt from educating the son in the Biblical command of Shema, then certainly he is exempt from Birchas Shema.

[10] Admur ibid; Michaber ibid;

[11] Admur ibid “Erev Vaboker”; M”B 106:5; Salmas Chaim 36; Piskeiy Teshuvos 107:2 hat this refers to Maariv [and not Mincha], so is evident from both the wording and the fact Admur writes it prior to Boker.

[12] Admur 106:3; Michaber 106:1; Mishneh Brachos 20a

[13] Bach 70; M”B 70:8

[14] Chesed Lealafim 70:2; Kaf Hachaim 70:8

[15] Admur 343:3

[16] M”B 70:6

[17] Kesher Gudal 11:1; Shalmei Tzibur

[18] Kaf Hachaim 70:6

[19] Or Letziyon 2:45-13; Piskeiy Teshuvos 70:2

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