אי אפשר לעולם בלא בסם (מוכר בשמים) ובלא בורסקי: אשרי מי שאומנותו בסם, ואוי לו מי שאומנותו בורסקי [שעבודתו מלוכלכת ויש שם ריח רע];
אי אפשר לעולם בלא זכרים ובלא נקבות; אשרי מי שבניו זכרים ואוי לו למי שבניו נקיבות;
It is impossible for the world to be without perfumers or tanners (1). Happy is he whose occupation is perfumery! Woe to him whose occupation is tannery!
It is impossible for the world to be without males or withoutt females. Happy is he whose children are sons! Woe to him whose children are daughters (Kiddushin 82b)? (2)
The statement that having daughters are "woe", is inconsistent with our experience and requires an explanation. After all, the birth of a daughter is a happy occasion. We wish each other "mazal tov" and make a kiddush to share our happiness with others. The text of the mishaberach indicates that this is an occasion for a blessing, not a "woe". How does one then explain this "difficult" Chazal.
We start with a passage from Genesis Rabba 63:10, which says: "The boys grew up.. (Gen. 25:27): R. Elazar says, "A man must take care (lehitapel) of his son until age thirteen. From then on, he must say: "Blessed be He who exempted me from the punishment of this one".
Three explanations are possible:
1.The father has to take care of the physical needs of his son: food, clothing, education etc. till age thirteen. After that: "And Eisav was a man who knew to hunt, a man of the field and Yaakov was an ish tam, sitting in tents". Eisav went on to make a living as a hunter and Yakov sat and learned.
The disadvantage of this explanation is that it makes the meaning of the "punishment " from which the father is released somewhat unclear. Its advantage is that it translates the word "lehitapel" in its the simplest sense of "taking care of".
2. The father must be mechanech, educate the child in the way of the Torah and Mitzvos, so that the child keeps and studies the Torah, and this obligation only devolves on the father until the son reaches the age of thirteen.
The difficulty with this explanation is twofold. First, a father who does is miserable job of bringing up his son, should not stop being responsible at age thirteen for having done so. If a son goes on to not keep the mitzvos at age thirteen and two days, is the father completely blameless and free of all responsibility for what he mishandled for thirteen years?
Furthermore, it is quite clear that the obligation of chinuch never stops (see here, p. 149). We know this from Avrohom, who busied himself in arranging a match for his son Yitshak, when Yitshal was already thirty-seven years old.
3. Until thirteen, a child can suffer for the sins of the father. Henceforth, it is wholly his own fate. For this reason, the father thanks Hashem for being freed of the responsibility of maybe causing his son harm through the father's sins(3).
There are several difficulties with this explanation as well.
1. Why is it the father and not the son, who is the main beneficiary, who says the blessing?
2.The principle of "Poked avos al banim", that children can be visisted for the sins of the fathers does not stop at age thirteen (4). We see this from Nadav V'Avihu who died on the account of their father Aharon's sin of the Golden Calf ( Rashi to Devarim 9:20):
And at Aharon, Ad--noy grew very angry.
To destroy him.
This refers to the death of children. Similarly, it is said, "I shall destroy his fruit from above."
I also prayed for Aharon.
My prayer was effective in atoning for half. Two died, and two were spared.
The second and third explanations are offered by Mogen Avrohom to Orach Chaim 225.
A question that comes out of this is: Why then do we not say when a girl reaches the age of 12 (bas mitzvah), "Blessed be He who freed me from the punishment of this one (5)? Both reasons of Mogen Avrohom would seem to apply also to a girl.
Kaf Hachaim to Orach CHaim 225 asks this question and suggests two answers:
The obligation to take care of a boy lasts only until his Bar-Mitsvah. As we said before, at thirteen a boy must go out to pursue his own sustenance. It is not so for a girl. A daughter must be supported until her marraige - however long that takes. Sometimes it might be only a few months past bas mitsvah, sometimes a few years, sometimes many years. In addition, a daughter may not be punished for her father's sins because her destiny is tied to her future husband (6).
If so, we can explain the Chazal with which we started in a simple and novel manner. Woe is to one whose children are daughters" - because his financial obligations are open ended. Whereas with a boy, the father knows how much he must spend every year for thirteen years, for a daughter, the obligation is not temporally defined. One cannot take out an annuity to pay for a daughter's maintenance. This is why having a daughter can be called "woe", not because we have a bias against daughters or because a birth of a daughter is not a happy occasion.
1. Tanners smell bad and perfumers smell good.
2. One may be tempted to explain in a humorous vein that this passage speaks not at all of daughter but all about sons. Happy is he whose sons are MEN; Woe to him whose sons are girls! In fact, I hears that this is how the Kotsker explained it - if it is true. However, this explantion must be rejected ons everal grounds, including the hashkafic ones. Children are given to us in stewartship, to bring up and chersih, whatever their inclinations may be. Some children as smart and socially adept, others have special needs; some are manly and other are more feminine. In all cases, they have been placed into the parent's custody to cherish and support - so it is not possible to call this situation "Woe".
3. See Shabbos 149b: "He who causes that his neighbor is punished is not admitted to Hashem's presence".
4. Sources for farther consideration: Levush 225, Divrei Chamudos to Rosh Brochos 9:30. Yalkut Shimoni Ruth (247): Until thirteen a son is punsihed for father's sins. See Hokhmat Shlomo 225 for an ingenious answer and response that also has bearing on the Mosaic origin of the Torah. Rambam Teshuva 6:1 seems to have a different understanding of the entire subject.
One can suggest that children can be punished for the sins of the fathers even past age thirteen - if they hold on to the father's actions (maase avoseihem byadeihem). Until age thirteen, children can suffer on the account of the parents even though the children themselves are blameless.
5.Others who ask this question are Pri Megadim and Aishel Avrohom O"C 225
6. Moed Katan 18, Nidah 31b