- Peninei Halakha
It is a mitzva to educate our children to observe the mitzvot relating to Tisha Be-Av and mourning over the destruction of the Temple, just as we teach them about all other mitzvot. Since children are weak, however, we cannot train them to fast. From the age of nine, we train them to fast for a few hours, depending on their strength. They should not fast the entire day (Responsa Rema Mi-Fano §111; see Kaf Ha-ĥayim 554:23). When feeding children on Tisha Be-Av, one should give them only simple foods, in order to teach them to join with the community in mourning (mb 550:5). Many people teach their children who have the appropriate age – around six years old – not to eat or drink on the night of the fast.
Once children reach the age when they begin to understand the story of the destruction of the Temple and the concept of mourning over it – at about age six – we teach them not to wear shoes that people would normally wear when walking on rocky ground. We also teach them not to apply ointments or bathe for pleasure. Some are stringent with regard to wearing shoes even from the age of two or three. Even though children at this age do not understand the concept of mourning, the inclusion of even our children – if only to a certain extent – in our mourning nonetheless serves to express our anguish over the destruction of the Temple.28
Just as adults may not study Torah on Tisha Be-Av, because it brings one joy, and one may only study sad topics related to the destruction of the Temple and the laws of mourning (above, section 10), so too with regard to teaching children: adults may only teach children topics related to the destruction of the Temple and mourning. Some maintain that adults may not teach children even topics and laws related to the destruction of the Temple, because adults feel joy when they teach children. According to these authorities, the only way one may teach children Torah on Tisha Be-Av is by telling them the story of the Temple’s destruction (mb 554:2; see Kaf Ha-ĥayim 554:8). Since these two opinions are equally represented, every person may choose the opinion he wants to follow. Everyone agrees, however, that a minor may learn, on his own, whatever an adult may learn.29
sa 616:1 rules that on Yom Kippur, minors must observe only the prohibition against wearing shoes, because doing so does not cause that much pain, while we may wash and anoint them. However, the reason for this leniency is that people used to wash and anoint young children in order to help them grow. Today, though, when we do not follow this practice, it seems that one may not wash and anoint minors just as we may not allow them to wear shoes. Nit’ei Gavriel 69:2, 73:3 rules this way as well. Ĥokhmat Adam 152:17 states that one does not need to train children on Tisha Be-Av, even with regard to wearing shoes, because we educate children to observe these laws only on Yom Kippur. On Tisha Be-Av and in cases of personal mourning, however, there is no need to do so if it entails even a small degree of pain. ma 551:38, however, asserts that we educate children to keep the laws of public mourning. mb 551:81 concurs, adding that there are two reasons why adults may not cut children’s hair during the Nine Days: 1) for educational purposes – accordingly, the prohibition starts at age six; and 2) to generate feelings of sorrow among the adults – in which case the prohibition starts even before then. (Piskei Teshuvot 554:15 concludes that, either way, everyone agrees that there is no need to be stringent before the age of two or three.)↩︎
Baĥ, Taz, and others assert that children who understand what they learn may study sorrowful topics. When the Sages stated that one may not teach children, they were referring to teaching them their regular course of study. ma maintains that an adult should not teach children even sad topics, but one may tell them stories about the destruction of the Temple.↩︎