A minor does not have true understanding in the moral sphere (Yoma 43a). A minor has no true moral intention (Chullin 13a). The father traditionally recites a blessing at the time of bar mitzvah, Baruch Sheptarani Mei'onsho Shel Zeh, Blessed be G-d who has freed me from the punishment of this boy. Since, before the age of thirteen, a child cannot be held responsible for his or her moral choices, the parent must accept the responsibility. After the age of thirteen, the child is held responsible Jewishly for all moral choices. It should be noted that in other areas, Judaism recognizes that a thirteen-year-old boy and twelve-year-old girl are not truly adults, as reflected in the numerous Jewish laws where a Jewish boy and girl may not be considered an adult until much later. For example, although legal in the Jewish sense to marry and work for a living after bar mitzvah, the same mishnah that declares thirteen the age of mitzvot declares the ideal of marriage to be at eighteen and pursuit of a livelihood at twenty years of age (Avot 5:25). The Torah [this verse] declares the age of twenty to be the minimum age of a Jewish soldier. It is interesting to note that in the last few years in Western countries, while the ages of voting, joining the Army, and drinking remain between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one, the age at which a person can be tried for crimes such as murder has been lowered in many places to ages twelve, thirteen, and fourteen. Therefore, even Western society has come to recognize that in the moral sphere, a child this age can recognize the difference between right and wrong.
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