Friday, March 22, 2013

At what age is a child obligated in mitzvos or Can you sell your Chametz to a child?

Five Towns JewishTimes  by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

The Sefer HaChinuch explains that these seven laws are, in fact, categories of laws. These categories are the injunctions against murder, stealing, worshiping false gods, engaging in forbidden liaisons, eating the flesh of a live animal, and cursing Hashem, as well as the responsibility of setting up a system of justice whereby these laws are enforced.

Why then don’t they have bar mitzvah and bas mitzvah ceremonies?

Not a bad question, in fact. Jewish boys and girls have bar and bas mitzvahs when they reach the age at which they are obligated in observing the 613 mitzvos. What about their non-Jewish contemporaries, Chris and Kathy, for example? Perhaps the most pressing question is, when exactly is a gentile obligated in his or her mitzvos? And, more to our point, can the rabbi theoretically sell the community chametz to a mature eleven-year-old gentile?

It seems that there are three opinions among the Acharonim as to when our theoretical gentile would celebrate this milestone. The Chelkas Yoav (Vol. 1, s.v. “Aval”) indicates that the designated age would be the same as the age at which a Jewish child becomes a bar mitzvah. Thus, according to the Chelkas Yoav, “Chris” would celebrate his bar mitzvah at thirteen, while “Kathy” would celebrate hers at twelve. [...]

This brings us, however, to another question. Where did the age of thirteen come from in the first place? Also, is this figure a d’Oraisah (Biblical) ruling or is it a rabbinic ruling? If it is rabbinic in nature, then would it also apply to gentiles? (Gentiles, we recall, generally do not have to follow rabbinic laws.) [...]


  1. I don't recall where I saw it, but I saw somewhere that non-Jews reach majority when they are adjudicated as having da'as. This is usually before the ages of 12 & 13, but Hashem has mercy on Jewish children, and therefore, they are not required to keep the mitzvot before ages 12 & 13. These ages are, like all shiurim, halocho l'Moshe miSinai.
    I also heard that the Vilna Gaon said that a Jewish child should do Teshuva on all of the aveiros they did from they time they had da'as until they became Bar/Bas Mitzvah.
    I also heard an interesting shiur about a convert who is not yet 13 but has da'as. Rav Elyashiv zt"l agreed that he could convert on his own volition (without the agreement of his parents and not al da'as beis din).
    So a non-Jewish child who has da'as is required to keep the 7 mitzvos and should be a great candidate to whom chometz can be sold!

    1. Rabbi Hoffman mentions

      The third opinion as to when the gentile bar mitzvah ceremony could be held would complicate things extremely. The Minchas Chinuch (195:5) seems to be of the opinion that it is when the particular child reaches the age of da’as, responsibility. In practice, this would differ from child to child. And what exactly are the criteria that we would apply in order to determine da’as? In regard to financial transactions, the Talmud teaches us that there is something called pautos—when a child is seven or eight years old and his or her sales are generally considered valid. Would this be the criterion that would be applied?

      The issue of shiurim is discussed by Chasam Sofer

      חתם סופר (יורה דעה ב:שיז): ... אי קנין של גוי קטן מהני להפקיע מקדושת בכורה או לא.
      הנה זה לי איזה שנים נשאלתי מרב א' אמ"ש הרמב"ם (הלכות מלכים י:ב) וז"ל ולעולם אין עונשי' מהן לא קטן ולא חרש ולא שוטה לפי שאין בני מצות עכ"ל והוקשה לו הא לעיל בפ"ט הל' ט' כ' שלא נתנו השיעורים אלא לישראל לבד עכ"ל וכבר כ' הרא"ש בתשובה דזמן גדלות לבת י"ב ולבן י"ג שנה והבאת /שערות/ ושיעורן הכל בכלל שעורין שנאמרו הלכה למשה מסיני וכיון שאין שיעורין לבן נח מ"מ יפטר הקטן והשבתי דודאי אין שום סברה לענוש לתינוק בן יומו והרי אנוס פטור גם בב"נ כמ"ש רמב"ם שם וקיי"ל פיתוי קטנות אונס הוא (וכבר מבואר אצלינו במקום אחר שגם רמב"ם ס"ל כן) אלא קטן שהגיע לפלגות ראובן גדולי חקרי לב ואפ"ה בישראל הלכה למשה מסיני שאין מעשיו כלום עד שיביא ב' שערות אחר שנותיו ואז אפי' אין שכלו זך שאינו יודע להפלות כל שאינו שוטה שאינו מקרע כסותו וכו' הרי הוא גדול לכל דינו ואמנם ב"נ דלא ניתנה
      להם שיעורי' כל ששכלו שלם כראוי וכעין בב"ב קנ"ה ע"ב דמסברו ליה ומסבר הוה גדול ופחו' מזה הוא קטן וע"ז כ' רמב"ם שאינו נענש על פיתויי אונס הוא וזה אמת ברור לפע"ד [וע"ל סי' קמ"ד בד"ה וראיתי].

      Regarding conversion - a goy who converts as a child because he has daas loses that daas when he becomes a Jew


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.