The Arzei HaLevonon writes that Maran R' Yaakov Kamenetsky zt'l stopped keeping the minhag of stealing the afikoman after his children grew up a little. This was done, among other reasons, because he feared he could not fulfill what he promised the children and would commit the prohibition of "they have taught their tongue to speak lies" (Yirmiyohu 9:4). Lately many questions dealing with various matters connected with child education have accumulated on our desk, and we were privileged to have the gaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky shlita write me answers to each one of these questions. We, with the permission of the gaon shlita, are publishing some of the answers. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky shlita stressed that we should point out that the following is not halocho lema'aseh. (This is a translation of the original Hebrew.)
Trips and Visits During Chol Hamoed With Small Children
1) Every chol hamoed the question arises: How much time should one be mevateil Torah to go with his children on trips and visits during the yom tov?
Answer: As little as possible.
A Grandfather's Obligation to Educate Grandchildren
2) Is a grandfather obligated to educate his grandchildren, by the rule that "children of children are like children"? [Someone pointed out to me that the Shut Maharsham (8:33) discusses whether a grandfather can make a brocho of boruch shepetorani at his grandson's bar mitzvah.]
Answer: "And you shall tell your sons and the sons of your sons."
How Should One React To an Outstanding Report Card
3) How should we react when a child comes home from cheder with exceptional marks on his report card? Should we go out of our way to encourage him, or is it perhaps detrimental to show him that these marks are what determine his level in Torah study? By refraining from making too much of a fuss about these striking marks we would then save him from discouragement when he, cholila, receives a less striking report card.
Answer: He must be somewhat encouraged — but not too much.
To Say to a Child "I Have No Money" When You Actually Have
4) When a child asks something from his father and the father thinks it is not good for the son, either because of spiritual reasons or material ones, is it permissible for a father to lie and tell his child that he has no money to buy it although he actually does have?
Answer: It is ossur to lie, but to say "I have no money" is not a lie, since a person means that he has no money for this particular purpose.
A Child Speaking Loshon Hora About His Brothers and Sisters
5) When a child comes over to his parents and speaks loshon hora for a definite to'eles (benefit), so as to help educate his siblings so they should not sin, is it permitted to listen to this, or should we perhaps rebuke him for speaking loshon hora?
Answer: We are allowed to listen, but we must explain to him that he should not tell any loshon hora unless he truly intends it to be a to'eles.
Teaching Children Subjects Requiring a Tznius Approach
6) When studying with children, for example, a sugya in the gemora that has to do with tznius matters, is it permitted to depart from the truth since it is clear that this is being done for the child's education?
Answer: The matter should be explained briefly, and if the child continues to ask questions you should tell him that when he grows up he will understand it.
Receiving Prizes When Parents Help with Solutions
7) A child often requests his parents' help in solving puzzles. The child sends away the answer and receives a prize for the correct answer. Are the child and the parent who solved the puzzle committing gezel? Is this a case of geneivas da'as?
Answer: Those who distribute these puzzles do so with the knowledge in mind that the parents help the children.
Copying Answers During Tests
8) Is it permitted during a test to copy answers from another student's test when the good mark received by the one who copies will not harm anyone else?
Answer: This should certainly not be done.
A Chochom Who Revealed the Solution of a Puzzle
9) The Midrash Rabbah (1:12 — in the beginning of Megillas Eichah on the posuk [Eichah 1:1], "great among the nations") cites an anecdote about a person from Athens who walked into a school and found only small children sitting there without their Rebbe. He asked them a dvar chochmah and they answered him. Afterwards they said: "Let us make an agreement. Whoever can ask a dvar chochmah that the other does not know what to answer will take the other's clothing." The visitor agreed to the proposal, since he thought that he was quite astute. He proposed that the children answer first, since they were local inhabitants and he a foreigner, which gave them preference. The children answered that since he was older it was more proper for him to answer first. They asked him a puzzle and he was unable to answer them. As agreed between them, they immediately took away his clothing. This person went to R' Yochonon, their rebbe, and said to him: "You people are so wicked! When a guest comes you take away his clothing."
R' Yochonon said to him: "Perhaps someone asked you a dvar chochmah and you could not answer?"
He said: "Yes. Indeed that is what happened."
R' Yochonon said, "It is improper for me to command them to return your clothing, since you made an agreement with them, but I will tell you what you should answer them and in that way they will return your clothing."
And that is what happened. R' Yochonon told the visitor the puzzle's solution, and he immediately went to the school to tell the children the solution and they returned his clothing. The talmidim understood that R' Yochonon, their rebbe, was the one who revealed the solution to that man, and they said about the guest that he had fulfilled the posuk, "If you had not ploughed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle" (Shofetim 14:18). They meant to say, "We know that you did not solve the puzzle yourself and our rebbe surely revealed it to you."
From this Midrash the Ben Ish Chai brings proof (in Rav Pe'alim IV, Choshen Mishpat, ch. 5) concerning a certain halachic query presented to him. He bases his answer on the fact that it is obvious from the Midrash that the chochom did not sin by revealing the solution. The question, however, is why it is permissible for a chochom to reveal the solution of a puzzle. Is this not a chashash of gezel?
A talmid chochom showed me that when Shimshon asked his puzzle (Shofetim, chap. 14) he initially promised thirty sheets and thirty suits, but at the end only gave them the suits. The Malbim, in the name of the Abarbanel, writes that, "since [Shimshon] had a grievance against them, he therefore gave them only half, as the halocho is concerning doubtful monetary matters." Shimshon was doubtful whether they deserved the prize, since they "ploughed with his heifer" by getting his wife to reveal the solution. The halocho, when there is a doubtful monetary obligation, is that one is obligated to give only half.
What was Shimshon's doubt?
Answer: If the intent includes such a way, too.
And what about the proof from the above Midrash that a chochom may reveal a puzzle's solution?
Answer: Perhaps R' Yochonon revealed the solution because of a chillul Hashem.
Hitting a Child to Educate Him
10) Toldos Yaakov (page 235 — a sefer about the Steipler Rav) tells that the Steipler zt'l said that a father should hit a child when he refuses, chas vesholom, to make a brocho, and also when the child hits another child with excessive cruelty. He would likewise make sure to hit his child when he lied. Is this way of behavior recommended even when parents attest that they see that educating their son through showing him love is more beneficial than through hitting him?
Answer: Everything depends upon the individual case.
Motioning to a Child in the Middle of Shemoneh Esrei to Daven Properly
11) Is someone who is in the middle of Shemoneh Esrei, and sees his son not davening properly and thereby disturbing his kavono, allowed to gesture to his son to daven properly? What is the din when this does not disturb the father's kavono, but he only wants to educate his son to daven properly?
Answer: It is permissible, but he should not talk in the middle of shemoneh esrei. (He is, however, not obligated to check on his children in the middle of his davening.)
Care About Things That Cause Forgetting Torah
12) Should we be careful with a small child who has not yet started studying Torah about matters that cause one to forget Torah? This includes, for instance, putting a child's clothing underneath his head when sleeping. Or perhaps since he has not yet studied Torah he has nothing to forget?
Answer: We should surely be careful about this, since these things weaken his power of memory.
Netilas Yodayim for Children
13) From what age is it proper for children to do netilas yodayim when they get up in the morning because of ruach ro'oh?
Answer: When they touch food or their face and eyes. See Mishnah Berurah 4:10. [This is what the Mishnah Berurah writes: "We should be careful that even small children should make netilas yodayim in the morning since they touch food."]
Sitting Within Four Amos of a Child Davening
14) Is it permissible to sit within four amos of a child who is davening the shemoneh esrei?
Answer: It is ossur.
A Boy and Girl Singing Together
15) From what age should we be careful that boys and girls of one father should not sing together in a seudas Shabbos and the like?
Answer: If the girls have reached seven years old we should be careful. In another teshuvah he wrote: "I heard that Maran the Chazon Ish was machmir about this."
A Child Who Forgot Ya'aleh Veyovo in Davening
16) Do we need to be mechaneich a child who has reached the age of chinuch and davened the tefilla of shemoneh esrei, but forgot to mention ya'aleh veyovo on Rosh Chodesh or chol hamoed, to daven again?
The halocho would seem to be that he should daven again, since without mentioning ya'aleh veyovo it is as if he has not davened at all. It is also possible that this itself is chinuch, that we must teach him and accustom him that he should know that without mentioning this he must daven again.
However, Toldos Yaakov (pg. 234) cites that someone asked the Steipler Rav zt'l what the halocho is with a five-and-a-half-year-old child who hurried to end his tefilla and bircas hamozone, and apparently was skipping over some parts. The question was whether the father should be makpid on him. He answered that if, when the child is reproved about this, it will make him rebellious and feel pressured, that is not desirable and not helpful. A father should talk to the child in general terms about the importance of tefilla, of his speaking with HaKodosh Boruch Hu, and that each word has significance. He should therefore not force him to daven again, since he is yotzei the obligation of chinuch also by speaking this way with the child . . . According to this perhaps we can infer concerning our matter that if a small child forgets to mention ya'aleh veyovo he should not be made to daven again?
Answer: He should daven again. (Nonetheless, each individual case is different.)
Children Drinking the Four Kosos on the Seder Night
17) The Rashbam (Pesochim 108b) explains that the obligation of children to drink the four kosos is because "they were redeemed too." Why did he not more simply explain that they are obligated because of chinuch? Another difficulty is that the Rashbam himself in that same omud explains that women are obligated in the four kosos only because "they brought about the miracle [of the redemption]." The Beis Yosef (Orach Chaim, chap. 689) wrote that "having brought about the miracle" does not apply to avodim and therefore it is apparently irrelevant to children too.
Answer: It is possible that the Rashbam holds like Rashi, that in general chinuch is the father's obligation and not that of the son, but in the case of the four kosos Chazal directly obligated the child. His additional remark that the women brought about the miracle is only needed to obligate women, since it is a positive mitzvah dependent upon time.