Vol 15.39 - Vayishlach 4 Spanish French Audio Video
|Hebrew Text: Chumash-Vayishlach Gen. Rabbah Shaalot vTeshuvot haRosh|
“Today I Become a Man”
According to some opinions,3 since at the age of 13 Shimon and Levi were deemed “men” — a term that denotes maturity, as the verse states:4 “Strengthen yourself and become a man” — we derive the law that “at the age of 13 one becomes obligated to perform the mitzvos.”5
In other words, by the age of 13 one has acquired the intellectual characteristics and attitudes of an adult — maturity of intellect and discernment. It is for this reason that a person is then obligated to perform all the commandments.
Although it is possible to be intellectually acute even before the age of 13, maturity is still lacking, both with regard to the dearness and merit of performing mitzvos , as well as with regard to the severity of the sin in their non-performance.6 Accordingly, a pre-teen is not held responsible for his conduct and actions, and the obligation of mitzvos cannot be placed upon him.
According to another opinion, however, the source for the obligation to perform mitzvos at age 13 is a dictate handed down by G‑d to Moshe at Sinai.7 As such, it follows along the lines of other supra-rational edicts regarding measurements and amounts. According to this opinion, the obligation to perform mitzvos at 13 has nothing to do with maturity or discernment; it is a supra-rational law.
One of the Halachic differences between these two opinions is the age at which a non-Jew becomes obligated to observe the Seven Noahide Laws.
If the obligation of mitzvos at the age of 13 is dependent on the age at which (most) people reach maturity, then it should apply to Jew and non-Jew equally. If, however, it is one of the supra-rational Laws of Measures — which do not apply to non-Jews8 — then the age at which non-Jews’ are obligated to perform their seven commandments depends entirely on individual maturity.9
In terms of spiritual service, the difference between these two opinions relates to the manner in which a Jew is to approach the performance of Torah and mitzvos :
According to the first opinion, the approach is one of serving G‑d logically; if the age at which one becomes obligated to perform mitzvos depends on one’ intellectual maturity, it is understandable that the service commences with logic and comprehension.
According to the second opinion, however, the obligation to begin performing mitzvos at 13 is supra-rational — because G‑d has so commanded. It therefore follows that the approach to the performance of mitzvos involves the supra-rational acceptance of the Divine Yoke.
Nevertheless, even those who hold the first opinion — that the age for beginning one’s service is gleaned from the verse “each man took his sword” — also agree that the performance of mitzvos is bound up with mesirus nefesh, i.e., serving G‑d in a self-sacrificial manner that transcends the bounds of intellect.
That this is indeed so is amply demonstrated10 by the fact that those who hold this opinion derive it from the verse “each man took his sword ” — an action that demands self-sacrifice.
This in no way contradicts the earlier statement that this manner of service demands comprehension and intellect, for though they maintain that the action should be performed with understanding and discernment, they agree that the foundation of Divine service lies in acceptance of the Divine Yoke. Then, and only then, can a person be assured that he will not be blinded by his own logic, and that his performance of mitzvos will be done in an entirely proper manner.
Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XV, pp. 289-292.
Kabbalas Ol — The Foundation of Avodah
1. On the verse in Parshas Vayishlach,1 “Shimon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword...”, the Midrash2 notes that at the time Shimon and Levi killed the people of Shchem they were only thirteen years old, this being the Biblical source for a thirteen year old being obligated to perform mitzvos.3 This is derived from the fact that the verse refers to them as “Ish”4 which is a term used only in reference to a grown and intellectually mature person5 who is therefore obligated to keep the commandments.
Although there does exist a possibility that a child before the age of thirteen may be intellectually developed, nonetheless, since he is lacking in maturity, he still lacks the feel both for the precious nature of fulfilling the mitzvos and also the great loss incurred by not keeping them.6 He therefore cannot be held fully responsible for his deeds and conduct, and is not developed enough that we should place upon him the full obligation to keep the mitzvos.
2. On many occasions7 the Rebbes of Chabad delivered a Chassidic discourse on the occasion of a Bar Mitzvah opening8 with the verse,9 “Let us make man (Adam).” It is explained in many places that there are four names that Scripture uses to describe man — Adam, Ish, Gever, Enosh — and the greatest title is Adam.10 From this we may understand that a Bar Mitzvah has a connection not only with the level of “Ish” but also with the level of Adam. However this poses a difficulty. If it is sufficient for obligation of mitzvos to reach the level of “Ish,” then why did the Rebbeim connect Bar Mitzvah with the level of Adam?11
Furthermore; the difference between “Ish” and “Adam” lies in the fact that the term “Ish” is used to describe seichel-intellect which has a connection with middos-emotions, and the feelings of the heart.12 There are many different levels of “Ish”, and in fact one only attains a full level of “Ish” at the age of twenty. However the term “Adam” is used to describe the faculty of seichel as it stands higher than the middos. This magnifies the question even more. What is the connection between the level of “let us make man (Adam)” and a Bar Mitzvah — how can one confer the title of “Adam” upon someone who is only thirteen years old?
We must therefore answer that, although by the age of Bar Mitzvah the boy attains the level of “Ish,” nonetheles, in order to fulfill the mitzvos properly one must also be under the influence of the level of “Adam,” as shall be explained.
3. The source from which we may learn that the level of “Ish” does not suffice for mitzvah performance is the very same verse quoted above: “Shimon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword.” Superficially this verse poses a problem: it is the extra dimension of seichel-intellect and daas (intellect that affects the emotions) that is added when a boy reaches the age of thirteen that allows him to take the responsibility for mitzvah performance. How, therefore, can we derive this from a verse whose content — each one taking his sword and killing all the males — is an action which was motivated by strong emotions?13
We must therefore say that from this verse we may learn that not only does a Bar Mitzvah have to be an “Ish” but that the verse also hints at a level of “Adam,” and it is for this reason that the Rebbeim started the maamarim with the words “let us make man (Adam),” to tell us that the level of “Ish” is not enough — there must also be Adam.
Regarding the source from which we learn that a boy is obligated to keep the mitzvos at the age of thirteen, there are in fact two opinions: the first, as derived from the above-mentioned verse, and the second, that the age of thirteen is not derived from any Scriptural source, rather, this is the age that has been received as tradition from Moshe on Sinai as the halachic age of obligation for mitzvos.14
The difference between the two: According to the first opinion, the age of thirteen is an age at which there is a natural intellectual maturity, and the verse, by describing Shimon and Levi as an “Ish,” indicates that at the age of thirteen they had reached that level of maturity. Whereas, according to the second opinion, that the age of thirteen has been received as Mosaic tradition, the age has nothing to do with a natural change, rather it is a halachah.15
The practical halachic difference would arise in the case of a non-Jew, concerning the age at which he is obligated to keep the commandments which are incumbent on non-Jews. According to the first opinion, that the obligation of mitzvos is dependent on human nature, it would follow that non-Jews would also be obligated to keep their commandments at the age of thirteen. However according to the second opinion — that the age of obligation for Jews has been received as Mosaic tradition — it would seem that since non-Jews do not have such a tradition,16 their age of obligation would be subjective, dependent on each one’s understanding and maturity — possibly even at an earlier age than thirteen.17
In avodah, these two opinions represent two different approaches to the question of how a Jew should commence his performance of mitzvos. According to the first opinion, which holds that the obligation to keep the mitzvos is dependent on intellectual maturity,18 it follows that the approach to the performance of mitzvos must be within the realm of the intellect. However according to the second opinion, the reason a thirteen-year old must keep the mitzvos is because that is the Mosaic tradition — it is a halachah — and that is the will of the A-lmighty — which is an approach of kabbalas ol — accepting upon oneself the yoke of heaven.19
4. From the very fact, however, that the first opinion derives the age of thirteen from the account of Shimon and Levi drawing their swords — which in itself is an act of mesirus nefesh, it is clear20 that even according to the first opinion, in addition to the intellectual dimension, there must also be an element of mesirus nefesh transcending the intellect. This is in no contradiction to the aforementioned, namely, that the age of thirteen represents a level of intellectual maturity, it is only adding the detail that the foundation of all avodah must be kabbalas ol and only when the foundation is one of kabbalas ol will the avodah with intellect be as it should be.21
The proof for this lies in the verse22 in Parshas Nitzavim where the people are warned to keep the mitzvos: “See — I have placed before you today life and good, death evil.... and you shall choose life.” The wording of the verse poses a problem: if a person can see for himself that the way of Torah and mitzvos is “life and good” then why is it necessary for him to be told to choose life? The answer: if a person’s choice to keep Torah and mitzvos is based on his intellect and his understanding that they are “life and good,” he has not yet achieved becoming an oved (servant of G‑d). The concept of a true oved is that of one who acts only because the master has commanded him to do so,23 and therefore true avodas Hashem is serving G‑d only because G‑d has commanded us to “choose life.”
However, since the verse begins with the words, “See — I have placed before you...” and also finishes with the words: “choose life” it is clear that it is the will of G‑d that Torah and mitzvos should permeate the entire being, and it is therefore necessary that the intellect, also, must appreciate that Torah and mitzvos is “life and good.” To summarize: there must be both dimensions. The foundation must be kabbalas ol, and inherent in that kabbalas ol is the fact that it is the will of G‑d that the Torah should also be understood intellectually.
5. We will now understand the connection of the verse “Let us make man” with Bar Mitzvah. In the explanation of the title “Adam” there are two dimensions: 1) “Adam” represents full intellectual maturity, as explained above; 2) “Adam” (ost) has the same letters as “m’od,” (stn)24 the dimension of the infinite that transcends the intellect.25 Since both concepts are represented in the same word, one must say that they are related to each other.
The idea in avodah is that even when a person reaches the highest levels of intellect as indicated by the title “Adam” — which is higher than the seichel of “Ish”, nonetheless, he must also attain the level of mesirus nefesh, which transcends intellect.26 And so is it in the obverse case. Even when he is illuminated with the powers of mesirus nefesh which transcend intellect, he should not rest content with that level, rather he should also strive to make this mesirus nefesh permeate his inner powers and, primarily, his intellect.
And this is one of the reasons why the Rebbeim said a maamar beginning with the words “Let us make man (Adam)” on the occasion of a a Bar Mitzvah, to show that even when one has reached a level of intellectual maturity — “Ish”—it is not enough, one has still to strive for the level of mesirus nefesh indicated in the words “Ish charbo” each one his sword, an avodah of mesirus nefesh that transcends intellect, which is connected with the level of “Adam”—the same letters as “m’od.”27
See footnotes in link
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