1) THE "EVED KENA'ANI" -- HALF-JEW OR HALF-NOCHRI?
OPINIONS: The Mishnah lists all of the people who are subject to the laws of pledges of Erchin. Included in the list are "Avadim," slaves, referring to Nochri slaves (Eved Kena'ani) owned by Jews.
TOSFOS (DH Nashim) points out that the Erech of an Eved is assessed according to the Erech of a man, and not according to the Erech of a woman, even though an Eved is like a woman with regard to his obligation to observe the Mitzvos, as derived from the Gezeirah Shavah of "Lah-Lah" (Vayikra 19:20 and Devarim 24:1) that compares an Eved Kena'ani to a woman.
There is a basic question about how to understand the Eved's obligation in Mitzvos. If not for the Gezeirah Shavah of "Lah-Lah," would the Eved be obligated in all Mitzvos (like a full-fledged Jew), and it is the Gezeirah Shavah that limits his obligation to that of a woman's, or -- without the Gezeirah Shavah -- would the Eved be completely exempt from Mitzvos (like a Nochri), and the Gezeirah Shavah obligates him in the Mitzvos which a woman is obligated to observe?
(a) The RAMBAM rules that an Eved is forbidden from shaving his beard, even though this prohibition does not apply to a woman. The reason why a woman is exempt from this prohibition is that she naturally has no beard.
This implies that an Eved indeed should be obligated in all the Mitzvos, and the Gezeirah Shavah reduces his degree of obligation to that of a woman. TOSFOS in Zevachim (103a, DH Ein) also understands that an Eved Kena'ani has the status of a Jewish male, but his degree of obligation has been limited by the Gezeirah Shavah to that of a woman.
(b) The TUREI EVEN (Chagigah 4a) and REBBI AKIVA EIGER (to Mishnayos Berachos 3:3) suggest that an Eved would have been exempt from Mitzvos completely, and the Gezeirah Shavah obligates him in those of a woman. Accordingly, there is no basis to obligate a male Eved in any Mitzvos other than those of a woman, because without the verse he is like a Nochri, and the verse obligates him only in the Mitzvos of a woman. (This logic is expressed clearly by TOSFOS to Bava Kama 88a, DH Yehei, who says that the Gezeirah Shavah comes to obligate the Eved in Mitzvos, and not to exempt him from them. See also SHITAH MEKUBETZES to Kerisus 7b, #17.)
RAV ELCHANAN WASSERMAN zt'l Hy'd (in KOVETZ HE'OROS 11:3) points out that the words of the Rambam cited above do not necessarily prove that the Rambam maintains that an Eved Kena'ani's obligation is inherently like a Jewish male's, and the Gezeirah Shavah limits it to the status of a woman's obligation. He explains that when the Rambam says that the woman is exempt from the prohibition against shaving one's beard because she does not grow a beard, this means that in truth she is obligated to observe this Mitzvah but it cannot apply to her because of her physical nature. In such a case, it is as if the Torah did command her to observe the Mitzvah, but her physical nature exempts her from it. Therefore, since in theory a woman is obligated, an Eved is also obligated, and since his physical nature is such that he does grow a beard, he does not have an exemption like a woman.
HAGA'ON RAV YISRAEL ZEV GUSTMAN zt'l pointed out that the question of the nature of the obligation of an Eved in Mitzvos might be the subject of a dispute among Rishonim. An Eved must immerse himself in a Mikvah twice: once when he becomes an Eved, and once when he is freed. The RAMBAM (Hilchos Isurei Bi'ah 13:12) writes that it is only after the second Tevilah that "his conversion is completed" and he becomes a full-fledged Jew. This implies that, according to the Rambam, before the second Tevilah the Eved is not a full-fledged Jew (like the approach of Rebbi Akiva Eiger). The same understanding can be derived from the words of RASHI in Yevamos (47b, DH Aval Eved), who writes that when an Eved immerses for the first time to become an Eved, at that moment he becomes "Shayach b'Mitzvos." Rashi calls him only "Shayach b'Mitzvos" (literally, "related" to Mitzvah performance). Why does Rashi not write simply that he becomes "Chayav b'Mitzvos" (fully obligated to perform Mitzvos)? It seems that Rashi maintains that an Eved is not Chayav in Mitzvos, but only "Shayach," which means that the Mitzvos apply to him but not in the same way that they apply to a normal Jew.
In contrast, the NIMUKEI YOSEF in Yevamos cites the RAMBAN who writes that the second Tevilah of the slave is only mid'Rabanan. This implies that the first Tevilah is what makes him a full-fledged Jew mid'Oraisa (and the Torah merely limits his obligation to that of a woman).
There are other examples of this dispute among the Rishonim. The Rishonim disagree about whether the body of a dead Eved is Asur b'Hana'ah like the body of a Jew, or whether it is Mutar b'Hana'ah like the body of a Nochri. (See TOSFOS and RASHBA to Bava Kama 10a, DH sheha'Shor.) Similarly, TOSFOS (Sotah 61b) implies that a live Eved is like a Nochri in that he cannot become Tamei. Rebbi Akiva Eiger asks, why should he not become Tamei? The Gezeirah Shavah compares him to a woman, and thus he should become Tamei just like a woman can become Tamei! The same question applies to those opinions that say that the corpse of an Eved is Mutar b'Hana'ah. It should be Asur b'Hana'ah, just like the body of a woman!
The answer to this question is that TOSFOS in Zevachim (103a, DH Ein, as cited above) writes that the Gezeirah Shavah compares an Eved to a woman only insofar as the obligation in Mitzvos is concerned; the Gezeirah Shavah teaches nothing about the Halachic nature of the Eved. Accordingly, since an Eved is essentially a Nochri (since the Gezeirah Shavah does not serve to compare his nature to that of a woman), he cannot become Tamei and his corpse is Mutar b'Hana'ah. (This answer is based on the approach of Rebbi Akiva Eiger mentioned above, that a slave would not have been obligated in any Mitzvos had there been no Gezeirah Shavah.)
The Rishonim who argue and say that he becomes Tamei and his corpse is Asur b'Hana'ah maintain either that the Gezeirah Shavah applies also to the Halachic nature of the Eved as well as to the degree of his obligation in Mitzvos, or they follow the view of the Ramban that a slave has the status of a Jew after the first Tevilah. (See also Insights to Chagigah 4:2 and Kerisus 7:3.)
However, according to the view that an Eved is like a Nochri but is given the status of a woman with regard to Mitzvos, it is not clear why an Eved should be assessed with the Erech of a Jewish male. If an Eved is considered a Jewish male, as the Rambam and Tosfos imply, then it makes sense that he is assessed with the Erech of a male with regard to Erchin. If, however, an Eved is inherently a Nochri but with the Mitzvah-obligation of a woman, it requires further elucidation to understand why his Erech is assessed like that of a Jewish male.
2) A CHILD'S OBLIGATION IN THE MITZVAH OF LULAV
QUESTION: The Gemara rules that a Katan (minor) who knows how to shake the Lulav properly is obligated to fulfill the Mitzvah of Lulav. However, the Gemara in Sukah (42a) teaches that one fulfills the Mitzvah when he merely picks up the Lulav. Why, then, must a Katan be able to shake the Lulav in order to be obligated to fulfill the Mitzvah of Lulav? He should be obligated if he merely can lift it.
(a) The CHIDUSHEI CHASAM SOFER (Sukah 42a) proposes that the requirement to shake the Lulav is a Mitzvah mid'Oraisa derived from a Halachah l'Moshe mi'Sinai. (This is implied by the Mishnah in Sukah (29b, as explained by the Gemara on 32b) that says that the Lulav must extend at least one Tefach beyond the height of the Hadasim and Aravos "in order to shake it.") When the Gemara says that as soon as one picks up the Lulav he fulfills the Mitzvah mid'Oraisa, it means that he fulfills the Mitzvah only if he is fit to shake the Lulav. A young child or a sick person who is not physically able to shake the Lulav cannot fulfill the Mitzvah, because of the principle "Kol she'Eino Ra'uy l'Bilah, Bilah Me'akeves." (This approach of the Chasam Sofer is very novel and requires further elucidation.)
(b) RABEINU MANO'ACH (Hilchos Shevisas Asor 2:10) writes that the Rabanan instituted an obligation for a Katan to perform a Mitzvah for the purpose of Chinuch only when he performs that Mitzvah completely in accordance with the way an adult performs it. If the child does not perform the Mitzvah the way an adult performs it, then it is not considered Chinuch. (See also BRISKER RAV here who reaches the same conclusion.)
Perhaps the reason for this is that a Katan is required to perform Mitzvos so that he learn how to fulfill the Mitzvos when he becomes an adult. Training him to perform only part of the details of the Mitzvah will not achieve this goal. On the contrary, he will learn how to perform the Mitzvah incorrectly, and "Shabeshta, Keivan d'Al, Al" -- once a child learns a mistake, the mistake stays with him (Pesachim 112a, Bava Basra 21a). Therefore, the Rabanan obligated a Katan to fulfill the Mitzvah of Lulav only when he is able to shake the Lulav properly. (See also Insights to Sukah 42:2.)
3) THE AGE OF "CHINUCH" FOR A CHILD
QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that a Katan who has reached the age of Chinuch is obligated in the Mitzvah of Teki'as Shofar.
RASHI (DH she'Higi'a) and RABEINU GERSHOM cite the Gemara in Yoma (82a) that discusses the age at which the obligation of Chinuch applies. One opinion maintains that the obligation of Chinuch applies when the child is eight or nine years old (eight for a more advanced child, nine for an average child). Another opinion maintains that it applies when the child is nine or ten years old. Similarly, Rashi in Megilah (19b, DH ba'Meh Devarim Amurim) says that the age at which a child may read the Megilah for adults is nine or ten years old.
However, the Gemara in Yoma (82a), which Rashi himself quotes as his source, gives the age of nine or ten specifically with regard to when a child must be trained to fast part of the day on Yom Kippur. Why does Rashi extend this age to include other Mitzvos such as Megilah and Shofar? (TOSFOS DH she'Higi'a)
Moreover, the Gemara in Sukah (42a) gives various ages at which a child must begin to perform the Mitzvos of Lulav, Tzitzis, Tefilin, and Keri'as Shema. The age of Chinuch clearly depends on the requirements of that particular Mitzvah and the child's aptitude to fulfill those requirements. The same should apply to the Mitzvah of Shofar; the age of Chinuch should be determined by when the child is able to properly blow the Shofar. Why does Rashi give a standard age which seems unrelated to the particular requirements of the Mitzvah of Shofar? (See TUREI EVEN, Megilah 19b.)
(a) The MEI'RI in Chagigah (2a) writes that the primary age of Chinuch is nine or ten years old, as the Gemara says with regard to fasting on Yom Kippur. The other ages given for Chinuch apply only to Mitzvos which are very easy to do, and thus a child even younger than nine or ten is obligated, depending on his ability. The child is not obligated (by the requirement of Chinuch) to perform more difficult Mitzvos until he is nine or ten.
The Me'iri apparently understands that the Mitzvah of blowing the Shofar is more difficult than other Mitzvos because it takes considerable skill and training to blow the Shofar properly. Similarly, the Mitzvah of reading the Megilah is more difficult for a child than other Mitzvos because the entire Megilah must be read from a scroll (with no vowelization or cantillation marks). For that reason, Rashi writes that the age of Chinuch does not begin until nine or ten. (Even though the Mitzvah is to hear the Shofar and not specifically to blow it, and to hear the Megilah and not specifically to read it, it is logical to assume that when a child is unable to do the Mitzvah for himself when no one else is available, he has no obligation of Chinuch for the Mitzvah.)
(b) Perhaps there is a difference between a Mitzvah that involves an action and a Mitzvah that is done passively. When the Mitzvah involves an action, the age of Chinuch for that Mitzvah is when the child can perform that action. When the Mitzvah involves being passive and does not depend on an action, then the Chinuch for that Mitzvah is when the child has the intellectual maturity to understand and appreciate the passive experience (for only then will it influence his future (adult) performance of the Mitzvah).
For example, a child of any age is able (physically) to fast for one hour on Yom Kippur, but since the child does not appreciate the meaning of the experience he has no obligation to fast because of Chinuch. At the age of nine or ten, a child can understand why he is not eating. Similarly, hearing the Shofar and listening to the Megilah are passive acts which depend on a person's intellectual maturity to be able to appreciate the experience. For this reason, Rashi says that the Chinuch for these Mitzvos begins when the child is nine or ten years old, like the age of Chinuch for fasting on Yom Kippur. (See also Insights to Megilah 19:2.)
Rashi may have derived this distinction from the Gemara's wording. The Gemara does not say that "a Katan who can blow the Shofar" is obligated in the Mitzvah of Teki'as Shofar," but rather that "a Katan who has reached the age of Chinuch" is obligated in the Mitzvah, implying that this obligation depends on reaching a certain age and not on acquiring the ability to perform a particular act. (M. KORNFELD)