When the Gemara (Yerushalmi Bikkurim 2:1) says that up until twenty years of age a person isn’t punished for sins what’s the reason for this?
The Gemara states that up till twenty a man is not chayav b’dinei shomayim; by the laws of heaven he’s not held responsible for his sins.
Now that has to be qualified. Because it’s similar to what we say that up till thirteen a man is not punished by beis din if he does a sin. However, that doesn’t mean he’s not responsible. The Torah has to give a boundary. In d’oraisah there’s also a lo plug – there are general rules. Tosfos says that in one place, that here’s such a thing as lo plug even in Torah laws. The Torah cannot make exceptions so it makes a boundary. And so the boundary is that at bar mitzvah, if a man eats let’s say treifos he is chayav malkus, he’s whipped. But it doesn’t mean that before bar mitzvah he has no sins. It’s not true. He is responsible according to his intelligence, according to the amount of free will he possesses. Only that beis din doesn’t step in to officially chastise him.
The same is with this rule of twenty years and dinei Shomayim. Up till twenty a man is lacking in discretion. He is callow. He doesn’t have experience. So Hakodosh Boruch Hu deals with him with a certain consideration. But it doesn’t mean that he goes scot-free. Oh no, it’s a mistake to think that.
So when you say up till twenty he’s potur from dinei shomayim, it’s just a generalization. But if a man is capable of more discretion and he misuses it so Hakodosh Boruch Hu will hold him responsible.
TAPE # 77 (July 1975)