Thursday, November 22, 2018

preparations and promises

1. About 10 years ago we discussed the machlokes Rashi and the Rosh as to the source for the age of 13 being the age of bar mitzvah.  Rashi (Nazir 29b) writes that Shimon and Levi were 13 years old when they attached Shechem, and they are called "ish," mature adults, at that age -- "VaYikchu... ish charbo."  We don't find the term "ish" being used for anyone at any younger age.  The Rosh writes that the shiur is a halacha l'Moshe m'Sinai with no rhyme or reason attached to it.

The halachic nafka minah between the two views is whether the shiur gadlus of 13 applies to a ben noach.  If the halacha is just a giluy milsa that 13 is the age of da'as, when a person reaches maturity, then the same should hold true for a ben noach.  However, if it is a halacha l'Moshe m'Sinai without any reason attached, then it would apply strictly to a yisrael.

There may be a philosophical nafka minah as well.  The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Likutei Sichos vol 15) suggests the machlokes here may hinge on whether there is a rational basis for mitzvos or whether they transcend reason.  Rashi  aligns himself with the rationalist camp, and therefore the chiyuv in mitzvos depends on the age at which one attains da'as and maturity.  The Rosh, however, disagrees.  (The Rebbe then goes on to suggests even according to Rashi the kabbalas ol of mitzvos is something that transcends da'as.)

2. Although Ya'akov invokes G-d's promise "Hashem ha'omeir eilay shuv l'artzecha u'l'moldtecha v'eitiva imach" in his tefilah, he still prepares for battle, sends presents to Eisav, and is worried about the encounter.  Chazal tell us that he was concerned "shema yigrom ha'cheit" and he would not be worthy of the promise.  If so, what good is mentioning it in his tefilah?

Alshich explains that Ya'akov's words are meant to justify his behavior.  Why the need for preparation, why the anxiety, when G-d made a promise?  The answer is "Hashem h'omeir eilay..."  Hashem = the midas ha'rachamim.  In last week's parsha Ya'akov responded to that promise with a neder, "Im yihiyeh Elokim imadi..."  Elokim = midas ha'din.  Ya'akov wanted to earn his reward, not receive it simply because of G-d's grace or mercy, a free gift.  Here too, Ya'akov acknowledges the promise, but notes that it was given as an act of rachamim.  That opens the door for the midas ha'din to raise objections.  Therefore, promise notwithstanding, the encounter with Eisav poses a danger.

I was wondering if you could answer the question more simply.  Perhaps tefilah has its own rules.  Even if shema yigrom ha'cheit, one can ask for G-d's help anyway.  After all, isn't every tefilah really a request for G-d to intercede even if we are unworthy? 


  1. "1. ...The Rosh, however, disagrees...."

    does Rosh think the mitzvos bnei Noach beyond reason? at what age does he hold they first apply?

    "2. ...Ya'akov wanted to earn his reward..."

    wouldn't that be the tithe he pay, according to his vow? perhaps he'd [momentarily] planned on giving Eisav the choicest of his animals, rather than reserving the best (or their monetary equivalent) for Hashem, more fearful [momentarily] of man than of G-d? for this he felt unworthy...

    the Alshich's answer is of "the rationalist camp", while "tefilah...[with] its own rules" "transcends da'as"

  2. by the way 1) can't this 2-part assertion* of Rosh, that Israel is bar mitzvah at age 13 l'Moshe m'Sinai, while a ben Noach is accountable at his individual age of de'ah, help explain, for example, a transfer of the command of pru urvu from the Noachides to the Israelites? that is, if the first Noachides heard the words 'be fruitful and multiply and fill the land' (9:1) as a blessing [and 9:7 as a command], and if according the their da'as a blessing can be deferred or even refused, then as migrants they could collectively settle in Sheenar (11:2) rather than spread themselves out to fill the earth. Moreover these early Noachides, left to their own deah, were likely confounded by Hashem's twice-used phrase, pru urvu: was it a blessing or a command? and doesn't 'to command' betray 'to bless'?

    This in contrast to the Hebrews who, with a da'as respectful of Blessing, not only filled a foreign land (Shemos 1:7), but even spread themselves out while oppressively enslaved (v'chein yeef'rotz, 1:12). Moreover, Hashem knew Israel to be disposed by a da'as defined l'Moshe m'Sinai to all else received l'Moshe m'Sinai, whether a commandment to be blessed or a blessing to be commanded (or a commandment to be a blessing**): na'aseh "with no rhyme or reason", v'nishmah.

    Hashem, infinitely attentive, infinitely detached, took these developments in...and transferred His command.

    *we might have here the makings of a da'as 1 and a differing da'as 2: Noachides develop natural da'as on a natural timeline, while bnei Yisrael receive da'as from On High at 13

    **and you shall be a blessing, Ber. 12:2

    by the way 2) the topical acronymic hint formed from the names of Noach's three sons, Shem, Yafes, Cham, 'siach', can support both Rashi and Rosh: siach as in Bereishis 2:5 supports a shtei saaros/lower beard measure of maturity [= age 13]; siach as 'speech' supports Rosh's bar deah criterion for first adherence to Noachide law, that age when an individual has learned and understood the regulatory Talk...

  3. I am so glad you brought this up
    it has been bothering me for years
    why isn't the answer to the Rosh's question and your question simply
    חזקה דרבא- שלפיו בן ובת שהגיעו לגיל הבגרות (גיל 13 לבן וגיל 12 לבת) - מניחים שגם הגיעו לבגרות גופנית (המוגדרת כהבאת שתי שערות במקום הערווה), על אף שלא נבדקו, והם נחשבים כבוגרים מבחינה הלכתית ללא צורך בבדיקה
    what am i missing?

  4. The halachic nafka minah between the two views is whether the shiur gadlus of 13 applies to a ben noach.

    My son who wasn't yet Bar Mitzvah damaged something.

    I asked a well known Rav if he (not me) has to pay. The Rov answered that the poskim say he has to pay if he reached an age or point in life where halacha requires a NON-Jewish child to pay. That age is when the child realizes and understands that he is causing destruction to someone else's property and causing him financial damage.