We have finished siman 2, in which the Chayei Adam listed some examples of the proper age to begin chinuch in specific mitzvos. We have discussed the example of lulav, and today we will discuss talmud torah.
The Chayei Adam writes that the mitzvah of talmud torah begins when a child can speak, and a father should begin with the pasuk of torah tzivah lanu moshe and the first pasuk of shema (see shiur 1269). After that point, the Rambam writes that one should teach their child little by little, at their pace. The child should be taught orally. Even though we generally have an issur against learning torah shebichsav orally, since the child is unable to read, one may teach him orally. Once the child begins learning the letters, the child should be taught from the text.
The chiyuv is incumbent upon the father to teach the child himself. If, for whatever reason, the father is unable to teach, he has a chiyuv to hire someone to teach him. When beis din had authority, the beis din could force the father to hire someone by seizing his assets. If the father is unable to pay, the chiyuv becomes the responsibility of the community.
The extent of the chiyuv, based on the Gemara, is to teach the child the entire Tanach. Some poskim suggest that we no longer do so because we have Tanach printed with nekudos, so once a child has learned chumash and has become proficient in reading, they can learn Tanach on their own.
Regarding Torah shebaal peh, a simple reading of the Gemara appears to infer that there is no chiyuv. However, the poskim clarify that Torah shebaal peh is included in the father’s chiyuv.
The Shulchan Aruch Harav, in his sefer on hilchos talmud Torah, writes that the chiyuv talmud torah is to teach the child every single halacha they will need to know in their lifetime. We do not do that, because we teach the child how to learn, so that they have the proficiency to gain the knowledge of every halacha on their own. Thus, in the same way that the father teaches Chumash and discharges his chiyuv to teach the child the rest of Nach, once the child knows how to learn Torah shebaal peh at the level that he will be able to come to conclusive decisions in all areas of halacha, the father has discharged his chiyuv on Torah Shebaal peh. This level of proficiency obviously takes time, and, until then, the father is obligated to pay for the child’s learning to reach that level.
This mitzvah is unique, because it is a chiyuv deoraysa which begins before bar mitzvah, and continues after bar mitzvah until the child reaches proficiency.
The Shulchan Aruch Harav adds that, as part of the father’s chiyuv of talmud torah, he must ensure the child has all their physical needs necessary to allow the child to focus on their learning.
The mitzvah of chinuch regarding talmud torah is a chiyuv deoraysa to teach the child, or hire someone to teach the child, at their pace until they are proficient enough to learn Torah shebichsav and Torah shebaal peh on their own.