01 Jan Kiddush Hashem
In Shemos, Perek Zayin the Torah tells us about the frogs that attacked Mitzrayim. The frogs went everywhere; they even entered the ovens and the dough of the Mitzrim. The Gemara in Pesachim, daf nun gimmel, amud bais says that Chananya, Mishoel, and Azarya learned from these frogs and had themselves thrown into a fire rather than bow down to the statue Nevuchadnetzar. They said, if frogs who don’t have da’as did this ultimate act of sacrifice, we humans who have da’as have to be mekadesh shem shomayim, even at the cost of one’s life.
If a child under the age of thirteen is presented with a situation where he needs to be mekadesh shem shomayim, is he required to do so? Would he be exempt from this mitzvah since he is not yet required to do mitzvos?
In the sefer Chikrei Lev, Yoreh Deah, siman kuf mem heh on siman shin ayin gimel discusses this very question and says that even a child would be required to be moser nefesh. If a child would ask a Rov, the Rovwould tell him to be moser nefesh. The chiddush is that despite the fact that a child is not commanded in the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem, he would still need to be moser nefesh and not be oiver on one of the three big aveiros. The Chikrei Lev brings a proof from the Gemara in Gittin, daf nun zayin, amud bais where the Gemara discusses the story of Chana and her seven sons who were all killed when they refused to bow down to avodazora. The midrash in Eiciha says that one of the children was so young that he was still nursing at the time of his death.
The Bais Yosef in his Sefer Bedek HaBayis in Yoreh deah, siman kuf nun zayin brings a story about a Rov who killed a bunch of children in his community during the time of Shmad in order to avoid having them become goyim. There was another Rov at the time that argued with this Rov and called him a “rotzeach.” The whole machlokes between these Rabbanim in this case was because it was not guaranteed that they would make these children goyim, it was only a safek. The argument therefore was whether one should kill a child even on a safek. In the case of a vadai, there would be no argument and they would both hold that one has to even be moser nefesh a child in order not to be oveir on the three big aveiros.
The Achronim bring a raya from the Rambam that even a child is required to be moser nefesh. The Rambam in Yesodei HaTorah, perek heh, halacha alef says that all of “Beis Yisroel” is commanded to do “KiddushHashem.” The fact that the Rambam uses the term “Beis Yisroel” teaches us that even k’tanim, children, are required to do Kiddush Hashem.
The Shevet Halevi in chelek bais, siman yud tes explains that a koton is required to do Kiddush Hashem, but if he does not do Kiddush Hashem he is not punished. The reasoning is that since the Torah usually pattersa person when he is an “ones,” in the case of Kiddush Hashem the Torah does not patter an “ones” and one needs to give up his life for this Mitzvah. Therefore, it stands to reason that a child, despite not having daas, is required to do this mitzvah.
We learn all this from the frogs in Mitzrayim who were mikadesh shem shomayim without having any da’as. How much more so should a person with da’as know how to behave! The famous words of Rav Shachcome to mind. “It is easier to die “al Kiddush Hashem” than to live “al Kiddush Hashem.”
May we be zocheh to live and be mekadesh shem shomayim with every step we take.