May a child be a Baal Korei?

Child: Is a child a valid Baal Korei?[1]

Below Bar Mitzvah:[2] A child below the age of Bar Mitzvah is not a valid Baal Korei to read the Torah on behalf of the congregation.[3] [Thus, he may not be called up to read any of the Aliyos of Kerias Hatorah.[4] Nevertheless, some Poskim[5] rule that a child is valid to read a minority of the Aliyos of the Parsha, so long as majority of the Aliyos is read by an adult. Practically, we are stringent to rule that a child is invalid to read any Aliyah. If the child is the only one who knows to read from the Torah, then he is to whisper the words to an adult who will do the reading. [6] If this is not possible, then some Poskim[7] rule that a child may read from the Torah in a time of need. Practically, we are stringent, and a blessing is not to be said for the Aliyos if a child reads from the Torah.[8]]

Maftir for child below Bar Mitzvah:[9] It is valid for a child who is of age of understanding to read the portion of Maftir of Shabbos.[10] [Accordingly, some communities are accustomed to allow a child to read the Maftir, and some have a set custom for him to do so the Shabbos prior to the Bar Mitzvah. Some Poskim[11] rule that he may also read the Maftir on Yom Tov.[12] However, he is not to read the Maftir of the four Parshiyos, or Shabbos Chanukah, or Rosh Chodesh.[13]] Certainly, he is invalid to read the Maftir of Parshas Zachar [or Parah[14]].[15] [Practically, the custom amongst Chassidim is not to have a child below Bar Mitzvah read the Maftir on any Shabbos, even the Shabbos prior to the Bar Mitzvah.[16]]

Child above Bar Mitzvah:[17] A child who is over the age of Bar Mitzvah is only considered a valid Torah reader if he has grown two pubic hairs. [Nonetheless, a child who is above Bar Mitzvah is assumed to have grown two pubic hairs, and be valid for reading the Torah, and does not require verification.[18]]

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[1] Admur 282:5; See Yagdil Torah N.Y. 8 pp. 15- 39; Piskeiy Teshuvos 282:5

[2] Admur 282:5 “A child may not be the one who reads for the Olim. This means that he cannot be the Baal Korei of the Sefer Torah while the Olim read along quietly with him, and have the congregation fulfill their obligation through hearing his reading”; M”A 282:6; Mishpat Tzedek 3:43; M”B 282:13; See in greath legnth article of Rav Avraham Yitzchak of Mir, printed in Yagdil Torah N.Y. ibid, that the vast majority of Poskim, Rishonim and Achronim rule this wat including the Bahag, Rambam, Rash, Baal Hamaor, Milchamos, Semag, Rosh, Tur; See Tzemach Tzedek [Rav Meir Milameid] O.C. 35; Chidushim Megillah 3:6-3; Kneses Hagedola 282; Olas Tamid 282:3; Tosefes Shabbos 282:7; Kaf Hachaim 282:23So rule regarding Megillah that a child is invalid: Michaber 689:2 based on Tana Kama in Megillah 19b and so rules: Rosh; Bahag; Levush; Bach; Olas Shabbos 689:3; Peri Chadash

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that a child who has reached the age of Chinuch, is valid to read the Torah on behalf of a congregation, even if he is below Bar Mitzvah, as both he and the adult are of the same level Rabbinical obligation, as Kerias Hatorah is only Rabbinical. [P”M 282 M”Z 3 based on implication of Mishneh Megillah 24; Pesicha Koleles 1:18; See also Tzemach Tzedek Chidushim Megillah 3:6-3; See Kiryas Chana David 2:43; Igros Moshe 2:72; Tzitz Eliezer 7:1; Yechaveh Daas 5:25; So rule regarding Chanukah that a child is valid: Opinion in Michaber 675:3; Baal Haitur, as rules Rebbe Yehuda in Megillah ibid; See Yagdil Torah ibid for elaboration and negation of this opinion of P”M] Based on this opinion, some Poskim rule that if there is no one else available to read, a child may read from the Sefer Torah on behalf of the congregation, rather than to have the reading nullified. [P”M 282 A”A 6; M”B 282:13; Derech Hachaim; Chanoch Lanaar 13:4; Rivivos Efraim 6:3; Piskeiy Tehsuvos 135:22; 282:5]

[3] The reason: As since the child is not obligated in the Mitzvah, he therefore cannot fulfill the obligation on anthers behalf, until he becomes equally obligated like them, which will only occur when he grows two hairs [after Bar Mitzvah]. [Admur ibid; M”A ibid] Now, although a child [who has reached the age of Chinuch] is also Rabbinically obligated to read the Megillah, as stated in Halacha 1, nevertheless he may not fulfill the obligation of a Gadol, as for the child it is a Rabbinical command from two aspects [“Trei Derabanan”-Megillah is Rabbinical; a Katan is Rabbinical] while a Gadol is Rabbinically obligated from only one aspect [Chad Derabanan]. [Beis Yosef in name of Levush; Olas Shabbos 689:3; Peri Megadim 689 A”A 1; M”B 689:6; Kaf Hachaim 689:11]

[4] Implication of Admur and Poskim ibid

[5] Tzemach Tzedek O.C. 35; Chidushim on Shas Megillah 3:6-3

[6] Piskeiy Teshuvos 135:2; 282:5

[7] P”M 282 A”A 6; M”B 282:13; Derech Hachaim; Chanoch Lanaar 13:4; Rivivos Efraim 6:3; Piskeiy Teshuvos 135:22; 282:5; See also Kiryas Chana David 2:43; Igros Moshe 2:72 [Says one who is lenient like P”M in time of need, does not need to be protested]; Tzitz Eliezer 7:1; Yechaveh Daas 5:25;

[8] Setimas Kol Haposkim above, including Admur ibid

[9] Rama 282:4; Admur 284:9 “If a child was called for Maftir and read the Torah”; Piskeiy Teshuvos 282:5; 8

[10] The reason: As he is simply repeating the reading that was read for Shevi’i which the congregation was already Yotzei. [See Admur 282:16; Piskeiy Tehsuvos ibid]

[11] Piskeiy Teshuvos 282:8

[12] The reason: As the Maftir reading of the Musaf offering on Yom Tov is not a true obligation. [See Admur 282:16; Piskeiy Tehsuvos ibid]

[13] Piskeiy Teshuvos 282:8

[14] Piskeiy Teshuvos 282:8

[15] Admur 282:16; P”M 282; M”B 282:23; Shaar Hatziyon 282:27

The reason: As the Parsha of Zachar is a Biblical obligation for every Jewish person hear, and a child who is not obligated in the Mitzvah cannot for the obligation for anyone else. [Admur ibid; M”B 282:23]

[16] See Toras Menachem 5745 4:2334 [printed in Shulchan Menachem 2:95]; Igros Kodesh 17:87

[17] Admur 282:5

[18] P”M 282 A”A 6; M”B 282:13; Yagdil Torah N.Y. 8 pp. 15- 39; See Admur 55:6 regarding Minyan; 199:9 regarding Zimun; Rama 55:5; Maharik 49

The reason: As Kerias Hatorah is merely a Rabbinical obligation, and by a Rabbinical obligation, we rely on the Chazaka of Rava that a child above Bar/Bas Mitzvah has grown two pubic hairs, even if this has yet to be verified. [See Poskim ibid]

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