Q&A on Hachnoso L’Cheder
March 15, 2019
Rabbi Levi Goldstein in #1158, Halacha 2 Go

When Did this Minhag Begin? 

It has always been the custom in Kehillos Yisroel, that when the time comes for a young boy to learn with other children, we take him to “Cheder,” and arrange a special “Seder Hachnosa L’Cheder” as is brought down in Rishonim.

The Sefer Migdal Dovid writes that: “In the days of the earlier generations and the Geonim this was the minhag. It is a tested and proven way of opening up the heart of the child to Torah – “psichas halev.”

At what age should a child be brought to Cheder?

Many seforim which mention this minhag do not specify an age, they just say that “when a child begins to learn from his melamed” and similar statements. Many celebrate the Upsherenish and the Hachnosa L’Cheder (also known as “Arine-firenish”) on the same day or in close proximity to each other, (as was the custom in Poland).

In Russia, the Minhag was to wait until the boy was 4 – 5 years old and ready to go to a cheder class.

Most Chabad Chassidim, coming from Russia, used to follow that minhag,

When the time of my twins’ Upsherinish came, I addressed the question of the correct time of the Areinfirenish to the Rebbe, and also mentioned that it is customary here (in Crown Heights) to bring a child to a “gan yeladim” (kindergarten) at the age of three, but mainly to play.

The Rebbe commented on the words “gan yeladim” and wrote that “This is a Cheder” and corrected the words “mainly to play” and wrote, “To say B’rachos, etc.” The Rebbe concluded that therefore this is the right time for Hachnosa L’Cheder.

There are a few sources describing the Tzemach Tzedek and the Friediker Rebbe’s Areinfirenish at the age of 3.

Is it OK to do the Areinfirenish in the afternoon?

There is a custom to do so in the morning because the Hachnosa L’Cheder is comparable to the day on which the Bnai Yisroel stood at Har Sinai to receive the Torah which was given in the morning, as it says in Parshas Yisro: “And it was on the Third day when it was morning… ” Another reason is that morning is an “Eeis Ratzon” (propitious time).

What do we Need To Prepare?

The following are the pesukim – make sure not to write the full Shem Hashem:

אדנ-י יהו-ה, נתן לי לשון למודים, לדעת לעות את-יעף, דבר; יעיר בבקר בבקר, יעיר לי אזן, לשמע, כלמודים.

אדנ-י יהו-ה פתח-לי אזן, ואנכי לא מריתי:  אחור, לא נסוגתי.

ויאמר אלי בן אדם בטנך תאכל ומעיך תמלא את המגלה הזאת אשר אני נתן אליך ואכלה ותהי בפי כדבש למתוק


What do we do on the day of the Areinfirenish?

1. On the day of the Hachnos L’Cheder the boy should be bathed and dressed in clean clothes. (Some have a minhag to take him to the Mikvah.)

2. When we bring the boy to Cheder (and on his return), we cover him with a Talis so that he does not see anything tamei, such as a non-Jew, a dog or a cat (and at the very least he should not gaze at them). One should be careful about this that entire day.

Why do we cover the child in a Tallis?

There are several beautiful reasons:

There Hashem Himself began to say the Kometz Alef Oh of the first letter of the first word of the Aseres HaDibros – אָנכי

Is it OK to tell a child something untrue — that Malach Michoel threw the candies?

At some point during the procedure candies (and coins) are thrown at the boy, and we tell him that these candies are from Malach Michoel, so that he will learn with enthusiasm.

The Rebbe mentions a story which happened with the Rebbe Rashab who saved his “Malach Michoel candies,” and did not want to eat them up, until his grandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, who found the candies in his (the Rashab) pocket while cleaning for Pesach, and instructed him to eat them up, since they were Chametzdik.

The Rebbe explains how it is permissible to tell the child that it is Malach Michoel who threw them when this doesn’t seem to be true — his father or the melamed actually threw them… — Since they are acting as his agents (shluchim) to encourage or reward the child. (See sicha of Shabbos Parshas Pinchos 5734).

Other refreshments should be distributed to all the children there.

What else should we know?

Giving Tzedaka. It used to be the custom for the parents to fast on this day. However, the custom now is to give extra tzedakah instead, say Tehillim and Daven that their son should be successful in Torah study and be healthy, etc.

The Seudas Mitzvah. Due to the simcha of the Mitzvah it is the custom to celebrate by inviting relatives and friends to a Seudas Mitzvah.

In the Sicha (mentioned earlier, about the Tzemach Tzedek’s Hachnosoh L’Cheder) it says that The Alter Rebbe said that everyone should wash for the Seudas Mitzvah.

To conclude with the holy words of the Rebbe Rashab: “This Seder HaLimud was given to us from the great Rishonim … and it is all with a special Kavanna that is hidden from the eyes of the common-folk. There lies within it a G-dly Kavanna known to our Gedolim and Rebbeim [and observing it] gives a child both a hidden and a revealed koach.” ■

Based on instructions received from his father-in-law, the veteran melamed Reb Yekusiel Kalmenson, a”h.

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Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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