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The prohibition to cause a child to transgress a sin, and its reasoning
(Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. 7 Sicha 1)
This week’s Parsha, Parshas Emor, speaks of the laws that are relevant to priests. In its opening statement the verse states, “Emor El Hakohanim Bnei Aaron, Veamarta Lahem.” This represents an instruction to Moshe to teach the laws of the priesthood to the priests, which includes the laws of not defiling oneself to the dead. The Talmud interjects here on the above statement, addressing the question of why there was a need for Scripture to repeat the term Veamarta/to say, after already stating this in the beginning of the verse, “Emor.” The Talmud concludes, as Rashi brings in his commentary on this verse, that it is coming to teach as a fundamental law that the adults are tasked with the responsibility to oversee that their children likewise follow the commands. In regard to the above command, this means that the adult priests are commanded to not only not defile their own bodies with a corpse, but to also not defile the bodies of their children with a corpse. Now, we find this concept of responsibility that an adult holds for the religious observance of children repeated in two other places in the Torah, for a total of three times. In this talk, the Rebbe delves into the necessity for this idea to need to be repeated so many times, and the very special lesson that it teaches us regarding the Chinuch of our children.
Explorations of the Sicha:
1. Is there a concept of transgression by a child below the age of Chinuch?
2. By which three prohibitions does the Torah teach us that adults are responsible not allow children to transgress?
3. What do children and adults share in common for which reason adults are commanded to not to cause children to transgress?
4. Is the essence of the soul of all Jews, including children, the same?
1. The prohibition for an adult to cause a Jewish child to transgress a prohibition:
Although the laws of Chinuch are merely rabbinical and is only binding on the father of the child, as there is no biblical obligation to actively educate one’s children in the observance of the commands, nonetheless, there does exist an independent prohibition against any adult causing a Jewish child to transgress a command. Meaning, although one is not biblically obligated to stop a child from doing a transgression, nonetheless, one cannot cause him to transgress. Thus, it is Biblically forbidden for any person to give a [Biblically] forbidden food to a child for him to eat, even if the child is completely below the age of comprehension, including even a one-day old child. Furthermore, it is [Biblically] forbidden for any person to tell any child to eat non-Kosher food or transgress Shabbos or any other prohibition, even if the child is completely below the age of understanding, [such as a mere one-day old infant]. Now, what is the scriptural source behind this prohibition?
2. The three areas in Scripture from where we learn the prohibition for an adult to cause a child to transgress a sin:
The Talmud records three places in Scripture from where we learn that it is forbidden for an adult to cause a Jewish child to sin.
- One is from our source above regarding the prohibition for a priest to defile himself to a corpse, from which the Talmud learns from the double wording of Emor and Veamarta that the adult priests are also commanded not to defile their children.
- The second area in Scripture from where this matter is learned, is regarding the prohibition of eating insects.
- The third area in Scripture from where this matter is learned, is regarding the prohibition of eating blood.
The Talmud then sums up that collectively from all these three sources we learn a general rule of the Torah that one may never cause a child to transgress a sin, by any one of the Torah prohibitions and not just by the above three. As for the question of why all three sources in Scripture were necessary, the Talmud there explains that anyone of these three sources alone would not have sufficed.
The need for each one of the three sources:
If the Torah would’ve only taught us the above rule by the prohibition against eating insects, we would’ve thought that since the eating of insects is so severe that it is prohibited even in the tiniest amount, therefore this prohibition of feeding them to children is unique to this prohibition, and one should not learn from it to other prohibitions. If the Torah would’ve only taught us the above rule by the prohibition against eating blood, we would’ve thought that since the eating of blood carries the severity of the punishment of Kareis, therefore this prohibition of feeding them to children is unique to this prohibition, and should not be learned to other prohibitions. If the Torah would’ve only taught us the above rule by insects and blood, we would’ve thought that it only applies by those prohibitions that are applicable to all of the Jewish people. However, those prohibitions only relevant to priests do not carry with them the prohibition against causing a child to transgress. Thus, the Torah had to teach us it as well regarding the priestly laws. Now, if the Torah would’ve only taught us the above rule by the prohibition of priests, we would argue that it is a special rule unique only to priests, and that by all other prohibitions of the Torah, it remains permitted to cause children to transgress. For this reason, concludes the Talmud, we needed all three sources to teach us the rule for the entire Torah.
This Talmudic teaching leaves out one very important unanswered question, and that is why the Torah couldn’t have simply taught us the above rule regarding a prohibition that contains no severities over other prohibitions and therefore can be the lamplight for all the other prohibitions in the Torah. For example, the eating of meat that was not ritually slaughtered [i.e. Niveila] is under a regular negative command without the penalty of excision and without the severity of being transgressed even when eating the tiniest amount. Why did the Torah not choose to simply teach us the above rule regarding the eating of Niveila meat and save us the need to of having three sources? At most, we would’ve only needed in addition to the teaching by Niveila, a teaching by the priests, in order to include this rule also by those commands that are unique to priests alone. However, all three sources would not have been necessary. From the fact that the Talmud does not even address this question we must say that there is something unique between these three sources, which relate to the rule that they teach.
Indeed, there are some who learn that by these three prohibitions of blood insects and impurity, not only is it forbidden for an adult to cause a child to transgress them, but furthermore if he sees a child transgressing them then he must reprimand the child. However, according to the vast majority of the Poskim, this is not the case, and by all prohibitions there is never a requirement to reprimand the child who was witnessed to transgress it, and the prohibition simply remains against causing the child to transgress it. Accordingly, we must continue our search to find something unique between these three sources and the prohibition which they teach.
3. The connection between children and adults:
To understand the above we must first introduce an exploration on the connection between children and adults. For the Torah to command adults regarding children there must be some connection between adults and children, as if they sheared nothing in common then it would be impossible to command one regarding the other. Now, regarding children who have reached the age of education, there is some level of intellect that they already have in common with their adult pears. However, the above law that prohibits an adult from causing a child to transgress the prohibition does not differentiate between a child who has reached the age of education and a child who was just born. What then can be the connection between a one-day old child and an adult, that the adult can therefore be commanded not to cause the child to transgress a prohibition? The answer to this is the essence of the Jew.
4. Every Jew shares the same G-dly essence:
Every Jewish individual, whether adult or child even of a single day of age, contains a G-dly soul, and contains a G-dly essence which they share. With regards to this essential G-dly point there is no difference between an adult or child, and they all contain the same quality and quantity level of essential godliness within them. The difference between an adult and a child, and one individual and another, can only be regarding the soul revelations in which some individuals have a greater revelation of the G-dly soul than others, and adults have a much greater revelation of the G-dly soul than does a child. However, from the perspective of the essence of the soul, there is no difference.
This is similar to the ability of the animal soul of a human or animal to give life to its body. The aspect of life which the soul gives to the body is the same in any size body, whether that of a one-day old child or a giant the size of Og Melech Habashan. The life energy that the soul has to enliven the body does not change between the different sizes of bodies. However, the other soul faculties, such as intellect and emotions, do fluctuate from person to person and body to body, in both quality and quantity.
Bottom line, from all the above it is understood that the difference between one Jew and another is only in respect to the soul faculties, however from the respect of the essence, we are all the same. Based on this, we can now explain the connection between the three cases which were used as sources to teach us that adults are commanded not to cause a child to transgress a prohibition.
5. Each one of the three commands touches on the essence of the Jew:
Each one of the three commands relating to not eating blood, insects, and the impurity of a priest relate to the essence of the soul, for which reason specifically they were chosen to become the lamplight for the rest of the Torah regarding this matter. As stated above, the prohibition against eating an insect does not have a minimum measurement. The fact that the prohibition of eating an insect applies even to the tiniest amount is due to the fact that it represents the essence of evil. When discussing essential evil its size no longer matters and hence even the tiniest amount is forbidden. Likewise, the penalty of Kareis given for one who eats blood, is due to the fact that it is an essential impurity which touches the essence of the soul, and hence can cut off the entire soul from its source. Normally, a sin simply disconnects a single string of connection from the soul to its source above, however a sin with the penalty of Kareis cuts off the entire soul. Being that these two prohibitions have a connection with the essence of the soul, therefore the Torah chose both of these examples to be used to showcase the general prohibition for adults to cause children to transgress the prohibition, being that they all share the same essence.
The divine lesson:
Although in Jewish law we find a lot of similarities between a Gentile and a child being that both are not obligated in the Torah commands, in truth, there is an essential difference between them. Although a child is not yet commanded in keeping the Torah and Mitzvos until he reaches the age, nonetheless, he already shares the same quality of Godly soul as does any adult Jew, even the most righteous. For this reason, every adult is prohibited from causing a child to transgress any prohibition, as from the soul essence there is no difference between them. Accordingly, one may never use a child as a “Shabbos Goy,” thinking that it is less severe if the child does the prohibition, and even a one-day old child already shares a connection to the Torah and mitzvah’s to the point that he shares the same essence with the adult Jew, due to which the adult Jew is instructed not to cause the child to transgress a prohibition.
 Yevamos 114a
 Admur 343:5
 Mishneh Berura 343:4
 Yevamos ibid
 See Beis Yosef 343; Bach 343
 See Admur 343:3; M”A beginning of 343