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Topic: 13, Bar Mitzvah Age

Sharon from Chickasha, Oklahoma wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

My son and I are trying to research the Biblical age of accountability and the Bar Mitzvah. We would appreciate any help. Thank You.


Dear Sharon,

The age thirteen for a boy is derived from a verse about Yaakov's son Levi. Referring to Shimon and Levi, the Torah says "each man took his sword ...." At that time Levi was thirteen years old. He is thus the youngest person the Torah calls a "man." The Torah specifically referred to him as a "man" in order to imply that thirteen is the age of male adulthood.

By age thirteen, it can be assumed that a boy has reached physical and mental maturity and is therefore responsible for his actions. For a girl this is at age 12. By Torah law, a 12 year-old girl or a 13 year-old boy can enter into legal contracts, incur legal obligations and must observe all the commandments, like keeping kosher and observing Shabbat.

Sources:

  • Rashi Tractate Nazir 29b
  • Tractate Sanhedrin chapter 8


 
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