Project Genesis

Age of Spiritual Accountability

Question: At what age does God consider a child to be responsible for his/her own soul and not the parents?

Answer: That is an important question. A young boy begins his accountability at thirteen, while a young girl begins at twelve. However, according to most authorities, God withholds punishment of any wrong doing until the individual is twenty, essentially giving a young teenager time to “get their act together.”

Question: What source do “most authorities” use to come to this conclusion?

Answer: There are three primary sources for this conclusion. The Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 89b, Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Bikurim Chapter 4 paragraph 1 and the Midrash Rabbah Section Chayeh Sarah chapter 58. Maimonides (Commentary to Mishnah, Sanhedrin 7:4) and Nachmanides (in his writings “Gate of Payment”) both quote these citations. The main debate amongst the authorities is whether the quotations only apply to spiritual excises or all forms of punishment.

All the Best,
Rabbi Azriel Schreiber

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