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Many children are old enough to learn short brachot (and somewhat understand them, if explained), but don't have the memory/patience for longer brachot.

Frustratingly, many of the brachot that could be introduced naturally in a child's routine are long (eg. asher yatzar, ḳiddush, birkat hamazon, aḥat me'ein shalosh). One suggestion could be using (non-Hebrew) alternative phrasing (not a bracha) that expresses the intent of the bracha (eg. "God makes all food, thank you for the food" for birkat hamazon). However, one could also teach a child a part of the "real" bracha that the child can reasonably learn; one simple option would be the ḥatimot of the long brachot (eg. בא״י הזן את הכל). Teaching part of the "real" bracha seems preferable, since the goal is eventually to teach the entire bracha, and if the child learns part of it now, learning the rest later will be easier (and make more sense to them).

I was wondering whether there is discussion as to the permissibility of teaching the ḥatima independently of the rest of the bracha. Short of learning the full bracha all at once, is this a permissible half-way step? Is there any discussion of converting the ḥatima to one with shem and malchut (ie. בא״י אמ״ה) for the purposes of saying an entire short bracha? Might the age of the child matter: older than 6 or 7 ("ḥinuch age") versus younger?

A potential source against my suggestion is the rule prohibiting turning a long bracha into a short one (ie. turning בא״י אמ״ה גוף הברכה בא״י חתימה into בא״י אמ״ה חתימה; see mBrachot 1:4 with tBrachot 1:7). From what I understand, ḥinuch should be as close to the "real thing" as possible (see 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.). Thus, I presume that adding shem and malchut to the ḥatimah is impermissible, even for ḥinuch. But perhaps just teaching the ḥatima as a half-way step is not fully making a short bracha out of a long one?

A possible argument for just using the ḥatima is the allowance of the formula "ברוך (...) מחדש חדשים" for the unlettered (see Sanhedrin 42a), instead of the full birkat halevana.

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    I was given psak that teaching children shortened brachot was perfectly acceptable as chinuch...my kids use the traditional Ladino Ya Comimos in place of the Birkhat Hamazon when eating without me (though this has the rather humorous side effect that my daughter considers Al Hamichya to be a long bracha achrona). Just one data point but worth noting. – Josh K Oct 31 at 4:22
  • @Joshk any more information on that ladino text? – Dr. Shmuel Oct 31 at 5:26
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    @Dr. Shmuel the wikipedia article on it is fairly well done and includes the full text, though it claims it is used as an addition to the Birkhat Hamazon rather than a kitzur version. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ya_Comimos . If you have young Spanish-speaking children it's quite useful, they can learn it easily and there's only one archaic Spanish word they might have trouble understanding in the whole thing – Josh K Oct 31 at 5:55
  • The classic case of abbreviating long blessings is OC 187:1. Whether there's room for extra leniency for children is another question. – Double AA Oct 31 at 11:10
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+1 for a good question, which is part halacha (law), part hashkafa (perspective on children education). Regarding the latter, there is a famous story told about R Yaakov Kamenetsky (sourced from here but also retold in his Artscroll biography)

One of the great child-raising stories of all time is the one involving Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky. The great sage was once visiting a Jewish school in New York, when he noticed something unusual about the mezuzah. It was affixed much lower on the doorpost than is customary. It turned out that this was an innovation designed to make it easier for the children to reach the mezuzah to touch it, thus making the mitzvah literally more accessible to them.

Rabbi Kamenetsky did not approve. "Put the mezuzah on the upper third of the doorpost, where it belongs," he said, "and let them use a stool to reach it. Otherwise, they will grow up thinking a mezuzah can be put anywhere you wish. One does not raise children with falsehood." No matter how well-intentioned the idea, he did not consider it a proper educational approach. Our goal is to teach children to be truthful, and our methods must be truthful, as well.

  • Also featured in one of my favorite Mi Yodeya posts. – Isaac Moses Oct 31 at 13:38
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    I'm not sure that story is 100% comparable. There, the mezuza would be pasul if you put it in the wrong place. Here, you might be yotzei bedieved with a shortened version (depending which bracha it is and what essential pieces you include in it). – Heshy Oct 31 at 13:42
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    This story appears in one of the questions I linked to in the OP. But as @Heshy said, why is this comparable? The mezuzah is an obligation on adults, whereas a child saying a bracha is no obligation whatsoever. – magicker72 Oct 31 at 13:58
  • @magicker72 I don't know if it is comparable, but I find it relevant: R Yaakov's opinion was that one should not "draw down" the mitzva to the level of the child, but rather "elevate" the child to the mitzva. I don't mean to be critical to your proposal, as anything that draws children to mitzvot is wonderful, but thought the perspective of a master educator on a related question was worthwhile. In our house, I stuck posters with "long brachot" (al hamechiya, aher yatzar) on the fridge, outside the toilet, etc. and this helped – mbloch Oct 31 at 14:00

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