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Friday, June 12, 2015

Parashat Sh'lakh L'kha 5775


In our parasha ten of the twelve spies come back with a bad report about the Israelites' ability to conquer the land, which the people accept. Though God gives some forgiveness at the behest of Moshe, in the end He punishes all of the people above the age of twenty by ensuring they die over forty years in the desert. Why only above twenty? An easy answer is that this is the ancient Israelite draft age, so these are the people who would have done the conquering of the land. However, the Talmud suggests that until the age of twenty one might be obligated in commandments, but one is not subjected to heavenly punishment. A friend told me she needed to eat all the cheeseburgers she could before her twentieth birthday. Here we explore why this is and some push back against it.

במדבר סיני פרשת שלח פרק יד
B’midbar Sinai Chapter 14
(26) Then Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon, saying:
(כו) וַיְדַבֵּר יְקֹוָק אֶל־מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל־אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר:
(27) “How long will this evil group continue that they complain about Me; the complaints of the children of Israel that they complain to about me I heard.
(כז) עַד־מָתַי לָעֵדָה הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר הֵמָּה מַלִּינִים עָלָי אֶת־תְּלֻנּוֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר הֵמָּה מַלִּינִים עָלַי שָׁמָעְתִּי:
(28) “Say to them, ‘By My life,’ says Hashem, ‘I shall do to you that which you spoke in My ears.’
(כח) אֱמֹר אֲלֵהֶם חַי־אָנִי נְאֻם־יְקֹוָק אִם־לֹא כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתֶּם בְּאָזְנָי כֵּן אֶעֱשֶׂה לָכֶם:
(29) “In this desert your corpses shall fall and all of those enumerated among all your numbers from twenty years and up, that you complained about Me.”
(כט) בַּמִּדְבָּר הַזֶּה יִפְּלוּ פִגְרֵיכֶם וְכָל־פְּקֻדֵיכֶם לְכָל־מִסְפַּרְכֶם מִבֶּן עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וָמָעְלָה אֲשֶׁר הֲלִינֹתֶם עָלָי:

Per the portion on arakhin - making a vow to give a person’s value to the temple - the ages of twenty through sixty have the highest value. Based on this, Rav Acha assumes the punishment of wandering in the desert also did not apply to those above sixty. (This would have left a population with quite an age standard deviation.) One might assume that he thinks God only punished those above twenty through below sixty since that is the punishment which would destroy the most valued part of the population without killing all of it.
תלמוד בבלי מסכת בבא בתרא דף קכא עמוד ב
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Bava Batra, 121b
אמר רב אחא בר יעקב: לא נגזרה גזירה לא על פחות מבן עשרים ולא על יתר מבן ששים;
Said Rav Acha son of Ya’akov: This decree was not decreed on those below twenty and not on those above sixty.
לא על פחות מבן עשרים - דכתיב: מבן עשרים שנה ומעלה, ולא על יתר מבן ששים - גמר ומעלה, ומעלה מערכין, מה להלן יתר מבן ששים כפחות מבן כ', אף כאן יתר מבן ששים כפחות מבן עשרים.
Not on those below twenty as it is written, “From twenty years and up,” and not on above sixty is derived from the use of the term “and up” and “and up” in arakhin [vows to give a person’s valuation]. Just as there a person above sixty is like one below twenty, here too a person above sixty is like one below twenty.

However, the Talmud below suggests that those below twenty are not subject to heavenly punishment. The one line which is significant to our discussion is highlighted in bold and given by the Talmud without any explanation. I left in the entire literary piece however, because it conceives of a future conversation between God and our forefathers as to whether to punish us for our sins and has an echo of Moshe protecting us in this week’s parashah.
תלמוד בבלי מסכת שבת דף פט עמוד ב
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat, 89b
Said Rebbi Shmuel son of Nachmani, said Rebbi Yonatan: What does it mean which is written, “For You are our father since Avraham did not know us and Israel did not recognize us.  You Hashem are our father, our savior, Your name is forever,” (Isaiah 63:16).
אמר רבי שמואל בר נחמני אמר רבי יונתן: מאי דכתיב כי אתה אבינו כי אברהם לא ידענו וישראל לא יכירנו אתה ה' אבינו גואלנו מעולם שמך (ישעיהו סג:טז).
The Talmud opens with a question as to the meaning of this verse.

In the future, the Holy One, blessed be He, will say to Avraham, “Your children sinned against me.”
He will say before Him, “Master of the universe, they should be wiped out for the sanctity of your name.”
He will say, “I will speak to Ya’akov, who had great strife in raising children, it is possible he will ask for compassion on them.”
לעתיד לבא יאמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא לאברהם: בניך חטאו לי.
אמר לפניו: רבונו של עולם - ימחו על קדושת שמך.
אמר: אימר ליה ליעקב דהוה ליה צער גידול בנים, אפשר דבעי רחמי עלייהו.
Avraham rejects us, so God moves on to asking the Ya’akov who might understand more the natural rebellion of children.

He said to him [Ya’akov], “Your children sinned.”
He said in front of Him, “Master of the universe, they should be wiped out for the sanctity of your name.”
אמר ליה: בניך חטאו. - אמר לפניו: רבונו של עולם, ימחו על קדושת שמך.
He [God] said, “There is no reasoning in old men and in the youth no counsel.”
אמר: לא בסבי טעמא, ולא בדרדקי עצה.
God, still looking for someone to ask for mercy for us, decides that neither the oldest or youngest forefather is appropriate to ask, but rather the one in the middle. This might parallel the most responsibility falling on those of the middle age bracket, or twenty through sixty.

He said to Yitzchak, “Your children sinned against me.”
He said before Him, “Master of the universe, my children and not Your children? At the time when before You they preceded ‘we will do,’ over ‘we shall hear,’ You called them, ‘My child, My firstborn.’ Now they are my children and not your children?
אמר לו ליצחק: בניך חטאו לי. - אמר לפניו: רבונו של עולם, בני ולא בניך? בשעה שהקדימו לפניך נעשה לנשמע, קראת להם בני בכורי, עכשיו בני ולא בניך?
“Further, how much did they sin? How many years does a person have? Seventy years. Subtract twenty as one is not punished for them: fifty remain. Subtract twenty-five for the nights: twenty-five remain. Subtract twelve and a half for prayer, eating, and using the bathroom: twelve and a half remain for them. If You suffer all of them, fine, but if not, half on me and half on You. And if you wish to say all of it is on my, did I not sacrifice my life for you?”
ועוד, כמה חטאו? כמה שנותיו של אדם - שבעים שנה. דל עשרין דלא ענשת עלייהו - פשו להו חמשין. דל עשרין וחמשה דלילותא - פשו להו עשרין וחמשה. דל תרתי סרי ופלגא, דצלויי ומיכל ודבית הכסא - פשו להו תרתי סרי ופלגא. אם אתה סובל את כולם - מוטב, ואם לאו - פלגא עלי ופלגא עליך. ואם תמצא לומר כולם עלי - הא קריבית נפשי קמך.
It’s quite an assumption that while praying, eating, and using the restroom we do not sin, but go with it.

They [the children of Israel] said, “For you are our father.”
Yitzchak said to them, “Are you praising me? Praise the Holy One, blessed be He.”
פתחו ואמרו: (כי) אתה אבינו.
אמר להם יצחק: עד שאתם מקלסין לי - קלסו להקדוש ברוך הוא
Yitzchak showed them the Holy One, blessed be He, with their eyes. Immediately they lifted their eyes upwards and said, “You Hashem are our father, our savior, Your name is forever.”
ומחוי להו יצחק הקדוש ברוך הוא בעינייהו. מיד נשאו עיניהם למרום ואומרים אתה ה' אבינו גואלנו מעולם שמך.

Rashi clarifies for us the enigmatic idea of not being punished for twenty years and gives us an origin from this week’s parashah. He does not give us a value behind it.
רש"י שם
Rashi on the above
Subtract twenty as one is not punished for them: Such we find about the generation in the desert, for the Holy One, blessed be He, only punished from twenty years and up, as it is written, “In this desert your corpses shall fall… from twenty years and up, that you complained about Me.”
דל עשרין דלא ענשת להו - שכן מצינו בדור המדבר שלא ענש הקדוש ברוך הוא אלא מעשרים שנה ומעלה, דכתיב (במדבר יד) במדבר הזה יפלו פגריכם וגו' מבן עשרים שנה ומעלה אשר הלינותם עלי.

The Palestinian Talmud below explains that the issue at hand might specifically be about karet, some sort of heavenly death penalty.
תלמוד ירושלמי (וילנא) מסכת ביכורים פרק ב, הלכה א
Palestinian Talmud, Tractate Bikkurim, Chapter 2, Halacha 1
Rebbi Abin son of Rebbi Tanchum son of T’reifon derived it from here: “The length of our years are seventy,” (Psalms 90:10). Take from them twenty years for which the court above does not punish or give karet, it is found one says one who dies at fifty died via karet.
רבי אבין בריה דרבי תנחום בר טריפון שמע לה מן הכא ימי שנותינו בהם שבעים שנה (תהילים צ י) צא מהן עשרים [שנה] שאין בית דין של מעלן עונשין וכורתין נמצאת אומר המת לחמשים [שנה] מת בהיכרת.

Rava categorizes three age groups of youth given different abilities to engage in business. A fourth age is added - that of twenty - until which one may not sell inherited property.
תלמוד בבלי מסכת גיטין דף סה עמוד א
Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 65a
Said Rava, “There are three stages of being a minor:
אמר רבא, ג' מדות בקטן:
[If] he throws away a stone and takes a nut, he may possess for himself but he may not possess for others. A girl of the same age is betrothed until she refuses.
צרור וזורקו, אגוז ונוטלו - זוכה לעצמו ואין זוכה לאחרים, וכנגדן בקטנה - מתקדשת למיאון;
A girl below this age who is betrothed by her father has the betrothal ended automatically when she reaches the age of twelve. At this age, upon reaching twelve she has the choice to refuse.

The p’utot [between six and eight] their purchases and sales are valid for movable goods. A girl of the same age may get divorced from a betrothal made by her father.
הפעוטות - מקחן מקח וממכרן ממכר במטלטלין, וכנגדן בקטנה - מתגרשת בקידושי אביה;
When they reach the age of vows, their vows and declaring property for the Temple are valid. A girl of the same age may perform chalitzah [the ceremony to avoid levirate marriage].
הגיעו לעונת נדרים - נדריהן נדר והקדשן הקדש, וכנגדן בקטנה - חולצת;
But to sell the property of one’s [deceased] father [is not effective] until the age of twenty.
ולמכור בנכסי אביו, עד שיהא בן עשרים.

Maimonides below, explains what prevents a person below twenty from selling inherited property. Such a person does not yet have the experience to value real estate over cash. How this might connect to
משנה תורה הלכות מכירה פרק כט, הלכה יג
Mishneh Torah Laws of Sale, Chapter 29, Law 13
Moses Maimonides, 12th Century Egypt
But the real estate that he inherited from his parents or his other relatives, his sale is not valid until he is twenty years old, even if he has two pubic hairs and know the nature of business, lest he sell it cheaply because his thoughts tend towards liquid assets and his mind is still not settled in the ways of the world.
אבל קרקע שירש מאבותיו או משאר מורישיו אין ממכרו ממכר עד שיהיה בן עשרים שנה, אע"פ שהביא שתי שערות ויודע בטיב משא ומתן, שמא ימכור בזול מפני שדעתו נוטה אחר המעות ועדיין לא נתיישבה דעתו בדרכי העולם.

Basing himself on Maimonides, Rav Yekutiel Halberstam explains that twenty is the age of having a completed mind.
שו"ת דברי יציב חלק אבן העזר סימן ד
Responsa of Divrei Yatziv, section Even Ha’Ezer, Siman 4
Yekutiel Halberstam, 20th Century Galicia and Israel
And it seems that the reason for the matter that one is not punished until twenty full years is that then one’s mindset if complete.
ונראה בטעם הדבר דאין עונשין עד בן עשרים מלאים, לפי שאז דעתו שלימה

Rav Yair Bachrach quotes a Rabbi Gershon who explains that the age of twenty is when a person truly acquires the fear of heaven. Rav Bachrach ultimately rejects this reasoning for reasons beyond our scope. For those interested, I am happy to send the piece which is on a rather interesting question.
שו"ת חוות יאיר שו"ת מהגאון ר"ד אופנהיים - א
Responsa of the Chavot Yair [from] the Responsa of the Gaon Rav David Oppenheim
Yair Bachrach, 17th Century Germany
David Oppenheim, 17th Century Prague
הגאון המפורסם מוהר"ר גרשון בק"ק מיץ נ"ע… והנה הגדול יותר מכ' יש לו אימת הדין עליו ויחרד מאימת הדין שבא לכלל עונש שלמעלה. משא"כ קטן שלא הגיע לכללעשרים שנה ואינו בר עונשי' ומורא לא יעלה על ראשו מאימת הדין
The famous genius, our teacher the Rabbi Gershon of the holy congregation Mitz, may his soul be in Eden... “And behold one greater than twenty has the fear of judgement on him and trembles from the fear of judgement which leads to punishment from above. This is not so with a minor who has not come to twenty years and is not at the age of punishment, for fear does not occur to him from the fear of judgement.”

Many later thinkers reject the idea that before the age of twenty one is not punished. Rav Tzvi Hirsch Ashkenazi, responding to why someone over the age of thirteen has to bring a sin offering if he has no heavenly punishment, completely rejects that our Gemara setting punishment at the age of twenty has any legal implications. He first rejects it on the ground that we would have to say those above sixty are not punished (which I assume he thinks is just ridiculous based on the different rationales we have seen so far). He then rejects it based on the cases in Tanakh where we see young people punished, such as Yehuda’s children Er and Onan.

שו"ת חכם צבי סימן מט
Respona of the Chakham Tzvi, Siman 49
Tzvi Hirsch Ashkenazi, 17th Century Spain, Poland, England, Germany, and Moravia
דל עשרין שנין דלא ענשת עלייהו דברי אגדה הם ואין משיבין מן האגדה
“Subtract twenty years as one is not punished for them,” are words of narrative and we do not respond from the narrative.
גם הטעם שפירשו ז"ל והוא מהירושלמי מגזרת מרגלים תמוה הוא דא"כ מבן ששים שנה ומעלה נמי נימא הכי שהרי לא נגזרה גזירה על יותר מבן ס' כדאיתא ביש נוחלין
And also the reason that those of blessed memory explained this in the Palestinian Talmud from the decree on the spies is surprising. For if so, from sixty years and up also say as such, for in the chapter Yesh Nochalin [we learn] that the decree did not apply to those above sixty.
ושמא לא ילפינן אלא מאי דכתיב בהדיא בקרא ועוד מצינו כ"פ שנענשו קטנים וכן בער ואונן ומה שתרצו שהיה לפי חכמתן הוא דוחק
And should it be the case that we are only willing to derive from that which is written explicitly in the text, we find many cases where minors are punished, like with Er and Onan. And that which is answered that it goes according to their wisdom is difficult.
ועוד דנקוט מיהא דאינו כלל גמור דלא מיענש פחות מבן כ'...
And further it is understood from this that it is not a universal principle that one is not punished below twenty...

Remembering back to when I was below twenty, I can say I neither had much fear of long term consequences (read as heavenly punishment) nor did I have enough world experience to really understand the consequences of my actions. The Rabbinic idea that one is not punished from heaven before this age fits well with my thirteen to twenty year old experiences. One can wonder if this age might shift in societies where people are asked to mature more quickly, and one can imagine those who reject the idea live in a society where thirteen year olds have much responsibility. From this view, it is uncomfortable to say that someone has an obligation in the law at thirteen but gets seven years to mess up. However, this also allows people to mature into the law. It raises questions in the modern world for those who come to practicing the laws only as adults. Does their adulthood give them the maturity to practice with the full weight of punishment, or maybe they should have a grace period as well.

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