Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah

Question

Dear Rabbi, I know the Bar Mitzvah age is 13 and 12 for Bat Mitzvah. Is there any rational explanation for this? Does something special happen to the person at these ages that makes them turn into adults for the sake of Jewish practices?

3 weeks

Answers

  1. Yes. It’s all a matter of ages and stages.

    Jewish tradition describes different stages in the development of the soul-body relationship. The soul first descends into the world when the child is still a fetus in its mother’s womb. At this stage, the fetus has a completely pure soul, without any desire for anything negative. According to tradition, an angel teaches it the entire Torah during this time.

    One understanding of this angelic tutorial is as a metaphor for the untainted and pure perception of the truth that the soul has before entering this world. Therefore, the Torah is actually inherent in the Jewish soul and is its natural states quo. The child must, however, be born into this world of concealment and illusion in order to achieve moral success through a process of free will and struggle between good and bad. At birth, however, a child receives something that may try to trick the child to choose what is bad. At this point a child loses the incredible clarity that was inherent before the child entered this world. The soul’s desires are now potentially overshadowed by the physicality of the body. And its yearning for spiritual fulfillment is muted by ego, selfishness and materialism. Childhood is a time when the physical world and its overwhelming desires rule over the human being, and the soul and its aspirations are largely dormant. For this reason, a child is not yet held legally responsible for his or her actions until maturation.

    Then comes the time for Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah — Jewish maturity and adulthood. Towards the end of childhood — during a girl’s twelfth or a boy’s thirteenth year — the soul begins to awaken and manifests itself more overtly. When a child reaches adulthood, the soul has reached its full level of activity and the person now has total free will. He or she is able to choose between good and bad, between the spiritual and the material, between egotism and humility, and to engage in a full range of moral decisions. Since the young man or young woman now has both a “good inclination” and a “bad inclination” — and the ability to choose between the two — he or she is now fully responsible for their actions and gains the rights of a mature, adult member of the Jewish community.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team