Thursday, November 06, 2008

source for the age of bar mitzvah

The Tziyun Yerushalayim to the Yerushalmi Sotah 21 points out that the Rishonim differ as to the source for the shiur gadlus for a boy or girl being age 12 or 13. Rashi (Nazir 29) writes that Levi is called an "ish", a mature adult, when he was 13 years old, as we see in the pasuk describing the battle of Ya'akov's children against Shechem: "Vayikchu shnei Bnei Ya'akov, Shimon v'Levi, ish charbo..." (Braishis 34). The Tshuvos haRosh, however, writes that shiur of gadlus is a halacha l'Moshe m'Sinai without a textual basis.

The T"Y suggests a possible nafka minah between these views could be whether the shiur gadlus is constant or variable. According to Rashi, 12/13 is a constant. According to the Rosh, perhaps in earlier generations in Sefer Braishis where the life cycle was different and the mind matured earlier, the shiur gadlus was younger as well.

I am not sure I fully understand why the T"Y assumes that if the shiur gadlus is a hllm"s, it follows that it is a relative number. I would suggest a different possible nfk"m. Achronim debate whether this shiur of 12/13 applies to bnei noach or only to Bnei Yisrael. Perhaps the answer hinges on this debate between Rashi and the Rosh. If the shiur gadlus is rooted in halacha l'Moshe m'Sinai like the Rosh suggests, hllm"s is binding only on Bnei Yisrael. If the shiur gadlus is derived from the age of Levi like Rashi suggests, then if one assumes the children of Ya'akov did not fully emerge from having the status of bnei noach pre-mattan Torah (as discussed by the Parashas Derachim and others) there is room to suggest that this shiur is universal.

7 comments:

  1. If the shiur doesn't apply to benei Noach, you get into weird logic problems when it comes to a geir qatan.

    -micha

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  2. Why would that be a nafka mina? Do you assume that halachos moshe misinai are just LAWS passed on orally to Jews at Har Sinai? Why can't we view them as oral explanations of Torah concepts which would include mitzvos bnei noach?

    I guess the real question is whether the 7 mitzvos are inherent or are a cheilek of the Torah for non-Jews as well.

    As I'm writing this I am getting the feeling that you are right. But I would appreciate your thoughts nonetheless.

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  3. Interesting question... but let me ask you, what do you mean by "inherent"? If you mean, for example, the type of law that might be derived from a derasha, isn't it true that the reason we are bound to accept those laws is because of "lo tasur", an external tzivuy not connected with the particular mitzvah in question?

    I need to think about this some more - why would a ben-Noach be obligated to accept the interpretation of Chazal for the 7 mitzvos when he/she is not bound by "lo tasur"?

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  4. I thought about the TY's chiluq and was able to justify the opposite conclusion.

    Shiurim are all HlMmS. Perhaps therefore if it's not HlMmS, it's not really a shiur. In which case one has room to say it's a matter of mezi'us, when the child matures -- which just happens to be 12/13 for us.

    -micha

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  5. But Rashi does not say that Levi was a gadol because he was mature (metziyus) - Rashi says that Levi was a gadol because at age 13 he fell into the halachic category defined as "ish" (din).

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  6. But it's the Rosh who allows for the possibility that the age is an actual shiur. All shiurim are HlMmS, and his saying that the age is HlMmS enables us to say it's a shiur too.

    Rashi is saying the age is a firm number that is not HlMmS. This would violate the rule WRT the origin of shiurim.

    -micha

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  7. Re halacha le'moshe misinai: two approaches.

    1. It's not pshat that there halachos were chosen for some inscrutable reason to be given to Moshe orally. Pshat is that Hashem knew that these are the only ones there would never be a machlokes about, so there was no need to write them to make them available for darshening. We explain the Rambam by turning it upside down.

    2. HLM means that instead of Hashem telling them to Moshe, Hashem let Moshe find out about them by hearing them from later gedolim, like Reb Akiva. Of course, Reb Akiva only knew them be'kabalah from Moshe. But Moshe learned them from Reb Akiva by seeing him in the future.

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