Age is a very important part of Jewish Halakha, with many dates being critical for one's responsibility, including Mitos Beis Din (capital punishment). E.g. 3yo girl or 9yo boy can be betrothed and an adulterer be killed for; 12yo girl and 13yo boy are liable for capital transgressions such as Shabbos.

I could not, however, find any obligation on a father or a mother or oneself or a Beis Din to keep track of someone's age. If so, how one is supposed officially to know his/her age? Birthdays in Judaism discusses celebrating, but not the necessity of knowing one's age.

Some say pubic hair are a sign, but this is only an approximation. Imagine two witnesses testify on someone transgressing Shabbos, but who's testifying on his age?

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    A father is trusted to say that X is his son, even though he's (obviously) related to X. – Double AA Oct 28 '17 at 23:06
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    What (or who) is "Beilah" (4th line)? I'm trying to follow the transliteration, but, I'm a bit lost. If you would, please translate some of the "yeshivish" terms into English. – DanF Oct 29 '17 at 2:12
  • These days, everyone has a birth certificate. It's quite reliable, though, technically, someone could forge one. In the worst case, why can't a child or adult just look at that document and figure it out? Eventually, of course, once you reach a certain age, dementia may set in. If that happens, even if someone trustworthy tells you your age, it may not matter. Seems that you're asking 2 questions - 1) Is there an obligation for a parent to keep track, and 2) how does someone know. I think I've answered the 2nd question. – DanF Oct 29 '17 at 2:19
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    I don't know if Moshe (or anybody else) was obligated to keep track of his age but, nevertheless, he did; "Today, I am one hundred and twenty years old" (Deut. 31:2). I hope you too keep track of your age. (Can't wrap my head around how things would be otherwise: Beit Din: "Why didn't you circumcise your son on the eighth day?" Father: "I didn't know old he was." Beis Din: "He was just born last week! How could you forget how old he was?" Father: "Well, nobody told me I'm obligated to keep track of his age.") – Oliver Oct 29 '17 at 20:34
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    @DonielF Yes, situations like that do exist. I'm assuming this person never had a Bar / Bat Mitzvah (celebration, etc.)? I guess in such cases, one needs to approximate. Somehow, when you reach 50, either your body or your doctor is pretty quick to tell you your age :-) – DanF Oct 30 '17 at 2:57

You are 100% right that we are not trying to kill more people with Misos Beis din by making sure there are 2 Eidim at each birth. This is because the Gemoro Makos 7a says:

סנהדרין ההורגת אחד בשבוע נקראת חובלנית רבי אליעזר בן עזריה אומר אחד לשבעים שנה -
A Sanhedrin that executes a transgressor once in seven years is characterized as a destructive tribunal. Rashi explains - If you would have done this you would have increased murder in Isreal because people would no longer fear court.

So what do we do when in doubt?
Kesubos 15a says:

ספק נפשות - דיני נפשות להקל דהא והצילו העדה כתיב- במדבר לה- it is written in Bamidbar 35:"The Congregation (sanhedrin) shall save" - Death penalty is judged leniently when in doubt - which means until we have full proof with Eidim we cannot kill the subject to death.

You may ask, how can we ever put someone to death! The answer is that if the Eidim have known that the boy has been in the world for 13 years (and 1 day) and the girl for 12 years (and 1 day) then we implement death penalty. E.g the eidim were invited to the Shalom zachor the following friday night after birth and have watched this kid grow to the grand old age of 13 years and 3 days (he was born on thursday) but they've only seen him for 13 years and 1 day, if he has שתי שערות, and is Mechallel Shabbos straight after being warned in front of Eidim (in the time of the Beis Hamikdosh), he can get death penalty by stoning. The same would apply for a girl born and the eidim saw her at the kiddush that shabbos morning, However with regards to a woman, if she gave birth in front of eidim absolutely no proof is needed for her age (see backround info below) and she gets Misas beis Din.

Bottom line: When there is doubt of age one is always strict e.g saphek Kiddushin Saphek gittin Saphek Dinei Nefashos (i.e we don't kill them see above) so we don't transgress any commandments by not knowing the exact age of the person rather we only need to know how long he's been alive with proof of Eidim.

{backround info about when is one considerred a "Gadol" Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer 155 seif 12,13 and 14:
Age alone without proof of שתי שערות s(2 hairs with roots in the Makom Haerva) is nothing and she is a Ketana until most of her years (35 and 1 day). If she has signs that she is an אילונית from 20 she is a grown up retroactively from when we know she turned 12. Likewise שתי שערות without proof of age is nothing unless she has given birth already.}

  • Isn't it weird? So many Halokhos deal with age and there's no approach whatsoever to monitor it. Doesn't it make the laws theoretical and not practical? – Al Berko Dec 17 '17 at 22:04
  • My question was not about what do we do in Sofek. We know what to do. But how come the Sages did not provide us with an obligatory system to minimize it? – Al Berko Dec 17 '17 at 22:10
  • @Al Berko if we obligate eidim to be present at the birth even though this will minimize saphek kidushin/gittin cases which is good, the flipside is that we are providing grounds for more people would get killed which the Beis din Avoid at all costs as it says in Makkos 7a "a Beis din that killed more than 1 in 7/70 years is a murderous Beis din" – user15464 Dec 18 '17 at 14:52
  • @Al Berko see my ammended version that incoorperates your point – user15464 Dec 18 '17 at 15:02
  • @AlBerko This could be generalized to an obligation to keep track of the passage of time for things other than people and the mitzvos that involve them, correct? E.g. When the Torah says "כבש בן שנה" does that form an obligation to keep track of the animal's age or just require that it meet the criterion when the time comes (as I think is the simpler way to interpret such rules)? – WAF Dec 19 '18 at 13:00

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