When was the bar-bas-bat-mitzvah celebration at that age recognised, or was it historically older, such as at age 20?

I understand that a boy is a minor (katan-child) before his 13th birthday, and a girl is a minor before her twelfth. Bar-bas-bat-mitzvah celebrates the transition from child to adult when they become morally responsible for their actions. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bar_and_Bat_Mitzvah

Traditionally a Jewish male had to be 20 years old before being allowed to serve in the army or 25 years old to be considered a fully-fledged participant (such as a Levite).

What I would like to know is when the age of accountability was established, and has it always been at age 13 for boys and at age 12 for girls?

  • Responsibility as member of community (not just as individual) is 20 per a Channuka shiur from Rav Yaakov Weinberg. 20 also is age for responsibility byidei shmayim, karet. Also worth exploring, retroactive responsibility. Also Rebellious Son is killed before he is full adult, but this is not the same as accountability Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 17:24
  • Technically, boys don’t become adults until either A) they’ve turned 13 and they have begun puberty, or B) they’ve turned 20, if they haven’t reached adulthood by then (at which point it’s assumed that they won’t hit puberty). For girls, it’s the same thing (at 12 instead of 13, ofc).
    – DonielF
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 18:15
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    In that Wikipedia link you quoted (under the History section: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bar_and_Bat_Mitzvah#Age_thirteen) it brings sources showing that the ages of 13/12 years old being an age of maturity goes back to at least Mishnaic times, heavily implying that it is a Biblical number. Were you looking for something else? Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 21:26
  • @Salmononius2 Thank you. I’m trying to establish whether 13/12 as the ages of maturity originates from the Pentateuch or whether it came about at a later date. Not being Jewish, I am trying to keep this simple so any quotes from the Bible would be helpful.
    – Lesley
    Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 16:57
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1 Answer 1


Before Matan Torah (children of Israel received G-ds Torah at mount sinai) and in the future after Moshiach comes the age of accountability was/will be at 100 yeas old as Rashi Bereishis 5,32 in the name of the Midrash Rabba quotes from Yishaya 65,20:

אָמַר רַבִּי יוּדָן: מַה טַּעַם כָּל הַדּוֹרוֹת הוֹלִידוּ לְמֵאָה שָׁנָה וְזֶה לַחֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת? אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא: אִם רְשָׁעִים הֵם יֹאבְדוּ בַמַּיִם וְרַע לְצַדִּיק זֶה, וְאִם צַדִּיקִים הֵם אַטְרִיחַ עָלָיו לַעֲשׂוֹת תֵּיבוֹת הַרְבֵּה. כָּבַשׁ אֶת מַעְיָינוֹ וְלֹא הוֹלִיד עַד חֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה, כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יְהֵא יֶפֶת הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁבְּבָנָיו רָאוּי לְעֹנָשִׁין לִפְנֵי הַמַּבּוּל. דִּכְתִיב (ישעיהו סה,כ): "כִּי הַנַּעַר בֶּן מֵאָה שָׁנָה יָמוּת" – רָאוּי לְעֹנֶשׁ לֶעָתִיד; וְכֵן לִפְנֵי מַתַּן תּוֹרָה.
Why did Noah wait till 500 years old to give birth? So that he wouldn't need to build many arks to accommodate many decedents had they been righteous, and so that they would not have all died had they been wicked (they had free will). So when Noah gave birth to Jepheth his oldest son at 500, Jepheth had not yet reached 100 years old the age of accountability before the flood by the time Noah built the ark at 600. as Stated in Isiah 65,20:"For a young lad at 100 years shall die (i.e be accountable to liability of death for his deeds)" this is referring to the days of Messiah and before the Giving of the Torah.

Note: This age of 100 is with regards to accountability to punishment from G-d which nowadays is the age of 20 (see Numbers 1,2), however the age of physical maturity which nowadays is 12/13 could be was also later according to the length of peoples lives though this would have been verified in those days through physical signs.


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