Catch up time! A few days behind in the daf and months behind in the blog 😦
ותנן נמי גבי סוכה כי האי גוונא: קטן שאין צריך לאמו – חייב בסוכה
And we also learned a similar [halakha in a mishna] with regard to a sukka: A child who does not need his mother is obligated in [the mitzva of] sukka [by rabbinical law, so that he will be trained in the observance of mitzvot].
In the previous section of the Talmud the Rabbis discuss the need for a child of 6 years old to take part in the creation of Eruvin. The Talmud then continues with a discussion as to the dependance of children…does it cease when children can look after them in the toilet or when they wake up in the night and no longer call out to their mothers?
Whilst the Shulchan Aruch does codify this in some way it leaves the question of when a child no longer needs his/her mother open with an age range…
שולחן ערוך אורח חיים הלכות סוכה סימן תרמ
קטן שאינו צריך לאמו, שהוא כבן חמש, כבן שש, חייב בסוכה מדברי סופרים, כדי (ה) לחנכו במצות
A child who does not need his mother, who is 5 or 6 years old is obligated in [the mitzvah of] succah according to the Rabbis in order to educate them about mitzvot.
Here the Shulchan Aruch is less precise and suggests a child reaches the age of education in the fulfilment of mitzvot at the age of 5 or 6 and when the child no longer needs his/her mother. This twofold requirement, age and dependancy, perhaps shows a sensitivity to the different ways in which children develop. Boys start to wear kippot and tzitzit at the age of 3 as they simply have to wear the garment.
It is clear that whilst we should not delay teaching our children the mitzvot, we should also not rush them when they are clearly not ready.