The Jewish Way in Responsible Adulthood

December 12, 2019 at 2:30 AM , , ,
“….And two of Yaakov’s sons – Shimon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers – each man took his sword and they came upon the city with confidence and they slew every male….” – Bereishit 34:25

״….ויקחו שני בני יעקב שמעון ולוי אחי דינה איש חרבו ויבאו על העיר בטח ויהרגו כל זכר….״ – בראשית לד, כה

Responsible Adulthood

Shimon and Levi are each referred to in this verse as איש, a man. The Midrash calculates that this story took place barely thirteen years after the birth of Levi, the younger of the two brothers, and yet Levi is called a man, indicating that at the age of thirteen he had the emotional maturity of a grown man. This is one of the sources from which we see that thirteen years is the age of majority in halachah, whereupon a boy becomes a bar mitzvahresponsible to keep the mitzvos.

Ironically, the context in which the 13-year-old Levi is called a man is not an instance in which he acted with the levelheadedness that comes with maturity. Instead, Levi’s coming of age is noted in the course of the Torah relating how he and Shimon heatedly and wildly responded to the mistreatment of their sister, recklessly endangering themselves and their family!

This highlights the true definition of mitzvah responsibility. Certainly, our commitment toward mitzvos is most stable when we can understand and appreciate the value of their observance. That is why the obligation to observe mitzvos only begins when one becomes a “man,” intellectually and emotionally mature.

But understanding and discernment are only the tools—not the foundation—of Divine service. Jewish maturity is founded on kabbolas ol, accepting and submitting to G-d’s will, regardless of your own intuition or “better judgment.” Levi’s and Shimon’s status as adults was sound, for their independent sense of critical judgment stood firmly on the foundations of submission to a higher cause. Therefore, when defending their values necessitated personal risk and self-sacrifice, they readily put their own interests aside, and “each man took his sword…

—Likkutei Sichos, vol. 15, pp. 290-292


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