1) THE YEAR BEFORE ADULTHOOD
QUESTION: The Gemara (45b) asks whether "Toch Zeman" has the status of "Lifnei Zeman" or "l'Achar Zeman." "Toch Zeman" refers to during the year that precedes adulthood (during the twelfth year for a girl, and during the thirteenth year for a boy). "Lifnei Zeman" refers to before the year that precedes adulthood (eleven years of age or less for a girl, and twelve years or less for a boy). "L'Achar Zeman" refers to after adulthood (over the age of twelve for a girl, and over thirteen for a boy).
The Gemara explains that the question is whether Beis Din punishes a young person who commits a transgression during "Toch Zeman." RASHI (DH l'Onshin) explains that the question refers to a case in which the young person had grown two pubic hairs during "Toch Zeman."
The Gemara continues and says that both Rav and Rebbi Chanina maintain that "Toch Zeman" has the same status as "Lifnei Zeman," and the young person is exempt from punishment. Rebbi Yochanan and Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi disagree with Rav and Rebbi Chanina and assert that "Toch Zeman" has the same status as "l'Achar Zeman," and the young person is liable.
The Gemara (end of 45b) cites a proof from a Beraisa against the view of Rebbi Yochanan and Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi. Rebbi Zeira (beginning of 46a) cites another proof against them from a Beraisa which expounds the verse, "A man or woman who articulates (Yafli) to make a vow of a Nazir" (Bamidbar 6:2). Rashi (45b, DH v'Lo Yada) explains that "Yafli" means that the person is capable of articulating that he made a Neder for Hash-m. The Beraisa understands that the word "man" in the verse teaches that at the age of thirteen years and one day, a person's Neder is binding even if he does not know for Whom he made the Neder. The Gemara says that the verse must be referring to a person who already had two pubic hairs but, nevertheless, he is liable for transgressing his Neder only if he has reached the age of thirteen years and one day. If he is in his thirteenth year, he is not liable, even if he has two hairs. The Gemara says that this is a "Tiyuvta," an irrefutable rebuttal, of the position of Rebbi Yochanan and Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi.
The fact that the Gemara refutes their opinion seems to contradict the Gemara later. The Gemara (48b) discusses again the question of whether "Toch Zeman" is like "Lifnei Zeman." The Gemara there records a dispute between Rebbi Yehudah and Rebbi Shimon, who are Tana'im. Rebbi Yehudah maintains that "Toch ha'Perek" is like "l'Achar ha'Perek," while Rebbi Shimon maintains that "Toch ha'Perek" is like "Lifnei ha'Perek." Rashi there (DH Lifnei ha'Perek) explains that "Lifnei ha'Perek" means before the time of "Onas Nedarim," the time at which a young person's Neder is binding, which is identical to the time of "Lifnei Zeman" of the Gemara here.
Since the dispute between the Amora'im here is also a dispute between Tana'im, why does the Gemara here not mention this? Although Rav Nachman here suggests that there is a different Tana'ic dispute on the matter, the Gemara rejects his suggestion and concludes that all of the Tana'im agree that "Toch Zeman" is like "Lifnei Zeman." Why does the Gemara here not mention the dispute between Rebbi Yehudah and Rebbi Shimon, which the Gemara mentions later (48b)?
(a) The CHIDUSHEI HA'RAMBAN explains that the Gemara occasionally continues to discuss a question even after it has declared a "Tiyuvta" on one of the opinions. Accordingly, even though the Gemara here states "Tiyuvta" with regard to the opinion of Rebbi Yochanan and Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi, it is still acceptable for the Gemara later to quote a view that supports their opinion.
(b) The CHIDUSHEI HA'RAN answers that according to RABEINU TAM (cited by Tosfos to 49a, DH v'Iba'is), the question of the Gemara here is not the same as the question of the Gemara later. (See Tosfos there who writes that "Toch Zeman" and "Toch ha'Perek" are not the same concepts, in contrast to the explanation of Rashi there.) In the Gemara later, all of the Tana'im agree that "Toch Zeman" is equivalent to "Lifnei Zeman," but they argue about the last day of the thirteenth year (for a boy) or the last day of the twelfth year (for a girl). Rebbi Yehudah maintains that the natural time for the pubic hairs to appear is at the start of that day. Rebbi Yehudah maintains, therefore, that if they appeared during that day, she has the status of an adult. Rebbi Shimon argues and maintains that the natural time for hair to appear is at the end of the last day. Therefore, if they appeared during the day, it is equivalent to "Lifnei Zeman" and she is not yet considered an adult. (D. BLOOM)
2) THE OBLIGATION OF "CHINUCH" FOR A MINOR
QUESTION: The Mishnah (Nidah 45b) discusses the case of a girl who makes a Neder during her twelfth year or a boy who makes a Neder during his thirteenth year (when they are termed "Samuch l'Ish," or "near" the age of physical maturity). In such a case, we are required to "further investigate" in order to determine whether or not the girl's or boy's vow is binding. The investigation involves determining whether the child in question knows the significance of Nedarim and that their laws were dictated by Hash-m. Even though, according to Halachah, the actions of a minor normally have no legal ramifications, if the child in question passes the investigation, he is called a "Mufla Samuch l'Ish" and has reached the age at which his vows are binding.
The Gemara says that according to the opinion that maintains that "Mufla Samuch l'Ish" is considered an adult only mid'Rabanan, there should be no Isur against transgressing his Neder. RASHI (DH Isura) explains that the Rabanan cannot apply any enactment (such as the obligation to fulfill a vow) upon a minor. This is logical, because the minor is not obligated to accept upon himself the Rabanan's enactments any more than he is obligated to fulfill any other Mitzvah of the Torah.
RASHI in Berachos (48a, DH Ad she'Yochal) adds, based on this logic, that the Rabanan did not place the obligation of Chinuch in Mitzvos upon a minor, but rather upon his father. The minor himself has no obligation, even mid'Rabanan, to do the Mitzvah for the sake of Chinuch. Rather, it is the father's obligation to educate his child and see to it that his child performs Mitzvos. RASHI there and the RAMBAN (in Milchamos to Berachos 20b) explain that for this reason, a minor may not recite Birkas ha'Mazon for an adult (over the age of Bar Mitzvah) even when that adult ate less than the amount of Kedei Sevi'ah of bread and is obligated in Birkas ha'Mazon only mid'Rabanan. Although, normally, one who is obligated in a Mitzvah mid'Rabanan may exempt another person who is also obligated mid'Rabanan in that Mitzvah, in this case that rule does not apply. A minor is not obligated in Birkas ha'Mazon even mid'Rabanan. His father is obligated to see to it that he recites Birkas ha'Mazon.
Why, then, does Rashi himself (Berachos 20b, DH Shi'ura) rule that a minor may recite Birkas ha'Mazon for a person over the age of Bar Mitzvah if that person ate less than Kedei Sevi'ah of bread? (This is also the opinion of TOSFOS (15a, DH v'Rebbi Yehudah, and 48a, DH Ad) and the Halachic ruling (SHULCHAN ARUCH OC 186:2) as well.)
ANSWER: Rashi and Tosfos understand that although a minor is not obligated at all in Birkas ha'Mazon in his own right, the Rabanan -- who originally decreed that a person who ate less than Kedei Sevi'ah must recite Birkas ha'Mazon -- included in their decree permission for a minor to recite Birkas ha'Mazon on behalf of one who ate less than a Kedei Sevi'ah. The reason they enacted their decree in such a manner was to further the cause of Chinuch, by making it look to the minor as though he is indeed obligated in Mitzvos in his own right, so that he should regard his obligation in Mitzvos with solemnity. However, the minor himself indeed is exempt from all Mitzvos, even from the Mitzvah of Chinuch. (M. KORNFELD)
(For more on the Mitzvah of Chinuch, see Insights to Berachos 48:2, Megilah 19:2, and Erchin 2:3.)
3) PREVENTING A MINOR FROM TRANSGRESSING AN "ISUR D'RABANAN"
QUESTION: The Gemara (end of 46a) quotes Rav Huna who says that when a minor, during the year before he reaches adulthood, knows how to make a Neder for Hash-m and declares an object as Hekdesh and then eats that object, he is punished with Malkus. He is liable even though he is a minor because the verse says, "A man or woman who articulates (Yafli) to make a vow of a Nazir" (Bamidbar 6:2), from which we learn that the Neder of any person who is capable of articulating ("Yafli") that he made a Neder for Hash-m is binding. Since the Neder is binding, the prohibition against violating one's Neder ("Bal Yachel") applies (Bamidbar 30:3).
The Gemara attempts to provide support for Rav Huna's ruling from a Beraisa which states that the Torah gives to a minor the same status that it gives to an adult for three things: for deliberately making a false oath, for making an "Isar" (a type of Neder to prohibit something to oneself), and for transgressing the Isur of Bal Yachel. The Beraisa seems to support Rav Huna's ruling because it says that Bal Yachel applies even to a minor. The Gemara refutes this proof and states that the minor merely transgresses the prohibition, but is not liable for Malkus. RASHI (DH Eima) writes that the prohibition is an "Isur b'Alma," a mere Isur, and it is not severe enough to warrant Malkus.
The Gemara challenges this answer ("Mah Nafshach"). If a child who is "Mufla Samuch l'Ish" (a minor in the year before adulthood) is empowered by the Torah to make Nedarim, then he also should be liable for Malkus for eating the item he made Hekdesh. If, on the other hand, "Mufla Samuch l'Ish" is not mid'Oraisa, then there should be no Isur whatsoever to eat the item. Rashi (DH Isura) explains that the Rabanan cannot apply any enactment (such as the obligation to fulfill a vow) upon a minor (see previous Insight).
The Gemara answers that the transgression mentioned in the Beraisa does not refer to the minor, but rather to those who are responsible for taking care of his spiritual well-being and who are commanded to prevent him from transgressing prohibitions.
The Gemara then suggests that we should conclude from here that if a minor is eating Neveilos, Beis Din is commanded to stop him. Rashi (DH Shema Minah) writes that this should answer the question of the Gemara in Yevamos (114a) about whether Beis Din must stop a minor who is transgressing an Isur d'Oraisa.
Rashi's statement -- that the Gemara here is answering the question of the Gemara in Yevamos -- seems problematic. In Yevamos, everyone agrees that Beis Din is not commanded to prevent a minor from transgressing an Isur d'Rabanan. (The Gemara there discusses a case in which the child of a Chaver, who is scrupulous with regard to the laws of Terumos and Ma'aseros, visits his grandfather who is an Am ha'Aretz and is not trusted with regard to Terumos and Ma'aseros. The Gemara says that we are not required to intervene, because the prohibition against eating produce of an Am ha'Aretz (Demai) is only mid'Rabanan.) Since the Gemara's answer here assumes that "Mufla Samuch l'Ish" is only mid'Rabanan, why is it necessary for Rashi to write that there is a dispute in Yevamos about whether Beis Din must prevent the minor from transgressing? Everyone agrees that for an Isur d'Rabanan, Beis Din is not required to intervene!
ANSWER: The RASHBA answers that the intention of the Gemara here is that Beis Din is obligated to prevent a minor from transgressing an Isur d'Rabanan. (The Gemara gives a different answer and says that other people ate the Hekdesh, because this conclusion is improbable; nowhere is such a strict opinion mentioned. Accordingly, Beis Din is not obligated to prevent the minor from transgressing.)
The Rashba adds that this might also be the intention of Rashi. Rashi does not mean to say that in Yevamos there is an opinion that Beis Din is obligated to prevent the minor from transgressing even an Isur d'Rabanan. Rather, Rashi is merely pointing out that the primary Sugya on the topic is in Yevamos, while the Sugya here takes the idea further and (at this stage) suggests that even for an Isur d'Rabanan the Beis Din must intervene, unlike the Gemara in Yevamos. (See also MISHNEH L'MELECH, Hilchos Ma'achalos Asuros 17:27, and Insights to Yevamos 114:1 and Nazir 29:1.) (D. BLOOM)