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Thought for the Day: M'Chanich Children In Correct Mitzvah Observance

As everyone (including the non-jewish barber and cleaner who take their vacation during the three weeks) knows, you cannot use a borrowed lulav on the first day of Sukkos, first two for us galus-niks.  Which, of course, is why we all give our lulav's as a gift on condition it is returned to our friends who don't have a lulav (for whatever reason) on the first day, first two days for us galus-niks.  What may be less well known is that that children (under 13 for boys, 12 for girls) can koneh (aquire), but not makne (uh.... unaquire?).  Therefore, says the Mishna Brura, you need to be sure to makne your lulav to a koton only after you have used it yourself on the first day because he/she will not be able to makne it back to you; first two days for us galus-niks... hey... wait... if you gave it to the koton on the first day, how do you get it back for the second day!?

Baruch HaShem, while this was relevant to me I was able to afford (as attested by my credit card bill, ad hayom haze) to buy a lulav for my son while he was a koton.  Still, I have wondered on and off over the years what the real answer is, given that the Mishna Brura talks about it and he certainly understood about yom tov sheini shel galius.  I finally found a p'sak that it is still proper chinuch to allow a koton to use a borrowed lulav on the first day.  In hilchos pesach.  In the footnote.  Where else?

Halichos Shlomo (Hilchos Pesach, Chap 9, Halacha 44) says that if a child is unable to eat an entire k'zayis of matzah or maror within the prescribed time limit, then he should not make the bracha of "al achilas matzah/maror".   In the footnote he remarks that you can certainly rely on the larger shiur for the time; which he gives as between four and nine minutes.  If the child is not able to eat (swallow) the entire k'zayis within nine minutes, then it is better to have him be yotzei with the bracha of the seder leader rather than risk being m'chanich him in a bracha l'vatala.  (Halichos Shlomo notes that now-a-days, it is even difficult for an adult to eat our hard matzos within the prescribed time.)

Why is this different that allowing him to use a borrowed on the first day?  (see?  I told you he talked about it!)  In the case of the lulav, there is nothing wrong with the lulav itself, just that there is a detail in the halacha that it must be your lulav on the first day.  In the case of achilas matzah and maror, on the other hand, if the food is not eaten within the prescribed time then it is not an achila at all.  The analogous case of luluv would be giving the koton a lemon instead of an esrog.  That's not arba minim and this is not achila; hence, no bracha, even for an adult.

Lesson learned: when learning halacha, don't skip the footnotes and do CYLOR.


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