Corporal punishment for children is was a as a prescription for effective Torah learning, as it says :

"He who spares the rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him early." Proverbs.13.24.

"וּמַה תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר: חוֹשֵׂךְ שִׁבְטוֹ שׂוֹנֵא בְנוֹ, לְלַמֶּדְךָ שֶׁכָּל הַמּוֹנֵעַ בְּנוֹ מִן הַמַּרְדּוּת סוֹף בָּא לְתַרְבּוּת רָעָה וְשׂוֹנְאֵהוּ..." Shemot Rabbah 1.1

Rashi: "disciplines him early: He always (regularly) chastises him in the morning."

... to the point that a father or a rabbi who killed a kid during this educational punishment are exempt from punishment as a Shogeg (unintentional). Needless to say, corporal punishment was an integral part of all Jewish elementary institutions up to mid 20th century.

On the other hand, hitting a person is severely prohibited in Judaism, (MT, Hil. Khovel 5.1):

""אסור לאדם לחבול בין בעצמו בין בחבירו, ולא החובל בלבד אלא כל המכה אדם כשר מישראל, בין קטן בין גדול בין איש בין אשה דרך נציון, הרי זה עובר בלא תעשה, שנאמר: לא יוסיף להכותו. אם הזהירה תורה שלא להוסיף בהכאת החוטא, קל וחומר למכה את הצדיק"."

If so, how is it Halachicly permitted de-facto for educational purposes? Why do vague suspicions regarding the distant future (Rashi above) override the (Biblical?) prohibition?

  • For the flipside see here - judaism.stackexchange.com/a/113800/22152
    – Dov
    Nov 12, 2021 at 9:25
  • Are you looking specifically for the halachic understanding behind it or any reasoning why it was adopted in some circles.
    – Dov
    Nov 12, 2021 at 12:19
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    Why is learning black magic, making pictures of forbidden images, and other laws, only allowed for educational purposes but not otherwise? This is the same thing. The prohibition wasn’t given in a situation where its intended for educational purposes.
    – Chatzkel
    Nov 12, 2021 at 12:29
  • 2
    If it's beneficial for the child, then it's the same thing as giving a vaccine or blood test or surgery.
    – Heshy
    Nov 12, 2021 at 14:18
  • 1
    @Chatzkel That's not the same thing at all. The analogue to studying sorcery would be hitting someone to teach a child how to hit.
    – Double AA
    Nov 12, 2021 at 14:54

2 Answers 2


Rav Elchanan (Kovetz Hoaros 70:1)says a yesod that by aveiros bein adam lichaveiro (Sins between man and his fellow) you're allowed to do them for your friends benefit that he'll get from it. That's how he explains the gemara in Kesubos 32a that hitting someone is hutra miclalo (there's a time when this issur is permitted)in beis din (giving lashes as a punishment). Why doesn't gemara say it's hutra miclalo when you hit your child to be michanech him or when you give him a bris mila. He answers that, that's not assur (forbidden) since it's for his tikun (perfection). However getting lashes in beis din is for something you did, not future tikun. He also brings the Rambam that the issur of hitting someone is only when you're trying to fight him.


Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita in חנוך לנער explores this idea and subscribes to the view that hitting is valid in certain circumstances.

He writes as follows:

לפעמים צריך להכות, וה"חושך שבטו שונה את בנו". מתי שהילד עושה עוולה גדולה, בוודאי שצריך להכותו, אלא שעל האב להתנהג בתבונה ובדעת ולהכותו פעם אחת בהרבה זמן, כי כאשר יכהו בכל יום נאבד כל הערך של העניין. (ועיין בס' "אבן שלמה" פרק ו'אות ד')

Sometime one needs to hit and "He who spares the rod hates his son". When the child commits a great injustice (i.e. a very bad thing), he must certainly be hit, but the father must act wisely and knowingly and hit him once in a long time, because when he is hit every day we will lose all value of the matter. (See Even Sheleima 6:4)

So the first point is that a child needs to learn that what was done is incorrect and therefore the father administers a "potsch", but one that is done once to teach the lesson. Hitting routinely is counter-intuitive. As the Even Sheleima writes the whole purpose is:

רק כונת ההכאה תהיה להצילהו מן העתיד ולא יעול עוד דרכיו

The intention of the hitting is only that it should save him from the future, that he won't sin/deviate further from his path.

Rav Chaim continues by bringing the Midrash you do and notes how Yishmael was left to do as he pleased without any discipline and he ended up becoming the person he was. As Rav Chaim asserts, when a father chastises his son it increases a sense of honour and love and it is this that makes them learn from a parent's example. The same is true (also brought down in the Midrash) with Dovid HaMelech and Adoniyahu. Therefore, hitting is to be viewed as a correctional tool that will serve to help the child in the long run.

Rav Chaim brings the Gemara in Makkos 8a which helps bring this idea out:

אע"ג דגמיר מצוה דכתיב (משלי כט, יז) יסר בנך ויניחך ויתן מעדנים לנפשך

Even though the son is learned, it is a mitzva to strike him from time to time, as it is written: “Chastise your son, and he will give you rest; and he will give delight to your soul” (Proverbs 29:17).

  • Thank you. I don't see here ANY Halachic discussion, it's all about Hashkofah. He does not mention the prohibition. And remember Rav Chaim is our contemporary, so he's definitely influenced by the 20th-century humanistic views.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 14, 2021 at 19:08

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