The Weekly Shtikle - Baby on Sukkos
With overflowing gratitude to HaShem, we are overjoyed to announce the arrival of a beautiful little 8-pound baby boy this past Wednesday night. Both Mommy and Baby and are doing well, B"H, and were home for Shabbos. The following are some thoughts I expressed at the Shalom Zachar.
Going through the mishnayos of Sukkah, there is some intriguing discussion relating to childbirth and early childhood, as they pertain to sukkah. In the Mishnah (2:8) discussing the exemption of children of the mitzvah, and the limitations of that exemption, it is mentioned that upon the birth of a grandchild, Shammai the Elder arranged a makeshift sukkah over the bed of his daughter-in-law on the baby's behalf. This represents a more extreme view on the age at which children become required to eat in a sukkah for the purposes of chinuch. The more lenient, mainstream opinion of chachamim is that a child becomes obligated in the mitzvah of sukkah when he is no longer dependent upon his mother. The gemara explains that this refers to a child who calls only once and then is silent. After all, even children who are over Bar Mitzvah and fully obligated do need their mothers for something every now and then. It is certainly an interesting perspective, bringing a baby into this world who is totally and completely dependent on others for every aspect of his life, looking ahead to a time down the road when he will achieve his own self-sufficiency.
This more lenient position is also interesting in its own right. There are general laws pertaining to chinuch across the board relating to all mitzvos. But it seems that sukkah has its own unique parameters defining a child's obligation. Furthermore, why is it specifically this aspect that defines the time at which a child is ready for this mitzvah?
The general idea of the mitzvah of sukkah is that we leave the secure walls of our house and dwell in a somewhat flimsy hut with an even weaker roof. What this transition symbolizes is that we realize that the protections and fortifications we have built for ourselves are superficial in nature and as façade to the reality that it is HaShem who is truly protecting us and watching over us. We step outside and subject ourselves to the elements to let go of our perceived independence and recognize our actual dependence on HaShem. A child who is anyway fully dependent on others for everything cannot appreciate this idea. It is only when a child has reached some level of their own independence that they can truly grasp what it means to let go of it for a week. Therefore, the beginning of the child's obligation to eat in the sukkah is defined by this aspect of their development.
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