Reshimos No. 5. Monday 26 Sivan, 5691
Details of the Previous Rebbe’s Bar Mitzvah / The Gartel / Four Pairs of Tefillin / Details of the Rebbe Rashab’s younger years / The davening of the Rebbe Rashab

(The contents of the Reshimah make it clear that these are notes that the Rebbe took of the words of the Previous Rebbe.)

I1 have a handwritten script from my father (the Rebbe Rashab) of the Maamar “It says in Midrash Tehillim2 which I said on my Bar Mitzvah, and which my father gave me as a present. It is the very same Maamar that my father said on the day of his Bar Mitzvah.3 I also have a handwritten script of the Maamar that my grandfather, the Rebbe Maharash, gave my father as a present for his Bar Mitzvah.4

The Rebbe Maharash also wrote a Maamar intended for Reb Zalman Aharon (the Raza — brother of the Rebbe Rashab) to say on his Bar Mitzvah. However, he later took it back, and it is bound together with the handwritten booklet of Maamarim for that year. The Maamar which was given to the Rashab, however, remained with the Rashab.

From both the Maamarim it is evident that these Maamarim were written for Bar Mitzvah boys to say on the occasion of their Bar Mitzvah. Nevertheless, now some sixty years later, with hindsight of the life history of the Rebbe Rashab and the Raza one sees how clearly the life of each one is reflected in the Maamarim.

In addition to the Maamar that was said by the Bar Mitzvah boys, the Rebbe Maharash also said Chassidus at each Bar Mitzvah.5 The Maamar for the Bar Mitzvah of the Rebbe Rashab began with the words, “He used to say: At five years of age...”6

The Rebbe Rashab and the Raza wore silk kapotes (frock coats) and hats for their Bar Mitzvah. The sons of the Tzemach Tzedek wore round hats. The Tzemach Tzedek himself wore a shtreimel — the Maharash too, (apparently once he accepted the leadership and became Rebbe — the writer7 )

I wore a gartel in the year 56518 but in such a way that it could not be seen. In the month of Iyar 5653, when I started to wear tefillin publicly, I began to wear the gartel in a way that it could be seen.

I started to wear tefillin in the month of Tammuz 5652,9 initially, for the first few days, for the purpose of chinuch and then, on the 12th of Tammuz 5652, with a blessing. I put them on in my father’s room so that nobody should know of it.

Initially, when wearing tefillin, I only read the Shema, and not the Shemonah Esreh. However, in the month of Elul 5652, I wore the tefillin throughout the prayers. I still used to attend the Beis HaMidrash,10 kiss the tzitzis, stand for Shemonah Esreh etc. However, in that time I was actually saying pesukei d’zimra, Tehillim and Mishnayos by heart.11 In the month of Iyar 5753, I started to wear the tefillin openly.12

My grandmother — the Rabbonis Rivkah, of blessed memory — called me and gave me a gartel as a present. She said to me, “I am giving you a gartel like the one that was given to your father. Ask your father what his father said to him when he gave it to him.”

(— For the Bar Mitzvah (or for the first time of putting on tefillin? — the writer) of the Rebbe Maharash, the Tzemach Tzedek said to the Rabbonis Moussia: “I am considering giving him a gartel just as my grandfather (the Alter Rebbe) gave one to me.” The Rabbonis asked the Tzemach Tzedek why he had not also given their other sons a gartel, and the Tzemach Tzedek answered, “By us we do not ask any questions, and nobody asks any questions on us.” The Rabbonis Rivkah related that before the Bar Mitzvah of the Rebbe Rashab she went to the Rebbe Maharash and asked him about giving a gartel to the Rebbe Rashab, to which the Rebbe Maharash replied, “It is very appropriate.”)

I immediately ran to ask my father but while I was running my excitement abated and I no longer had the courage to enter and ask. I went to the man who was teaching me at that time — his name was Reb Nissan and he was a good teacher indeed. He would learn two different tractates with me, one in depth, with the entire commentary of Tosafos, and the other, quickly, omitting some of the Tosafos. I told my teacher everything my grandmother told me. He advised me to tell nobody of the matter and to ask the Rebbe Rashab.

Reb Nissan further related to me, in the name of his father-in-law, R. See Sefer Toldos Maharash, p. 12. “She girds her loins with strength”, the girdle is on the loins, at this moment we don’t need to think into this.. but with time... girdle his education, girdle his education.13

(Reb Pesach continued) — At the Bar Mitzvah of the Raza, I did not want to ask (why he was not given a gartel) but now... why the change? “Pesach — (I remember that when Reb Nissan told me this story, I was amazed that the Rebbe Maharash simply called him Pesach and not Reb Pesach even though he was his teacher — parenthetical comment by the Previous Rebbe) — as for us, we don’t ask any questions and about us one does not ask any questions, whoever understands, understands, and whoever does not understand, does not understand.

(From the Bar Mitzvah and on, the Rebbe Maharash was particular to call his sons and his son-in-law by their abbreviated names, such as Raza etc.14 He himself used the expressions “go to the Raza, or to Ramal15 etc. Once the Rebbe Maharash was standing by the window of his room when he heard Radatz Chein16 say that he was going to the Rebbe Rashab to review something he had learned,17 and he actually called him with his name adding “Reb” before the name. The Rebbe Maharash called him and said, “Come, I would like to see who you are that you should call him etc.! The Radatz burst out crying, etc., — parenthetical comment of the Previous Rebbe)

Reb Nissan told me how beautifully the Bar Mitzvah of the Raza was celebrated. It was the 19th of Tammuz and the Bar Mitzvah celebrations started a few days before the 17th of Tammuz. The festive meal was in the garden. etc.

I considered asking my father (the Rebbe Rashab) that night. I did not eat lunch with him, except on Shabbos, for it did not fit in with my daily schedule. Neither did I eat supper with him, only we went home together from Maariv — for in the days of Sefirah he davened Maariv with the Tzibbur. The Rebbe Rashab said the blessing over the Sefirah and the Sefirah itself at great length. I had in mind that as we were on our way home I would make a sign to show I would like to ask something and when he asked me “Yosef, what do you want?” I would ask him. (— He used to call me Yoshef, as if Yosef were written with the letter “shin” and sometimes, when he was in a jovial mood, and because of something that had happened, he would call me Reb Itzel — what does Reb Itzel say? — and the like). However, that evening a number of baalei batim came with a Din Torah which needed his adjudication, so that I did not manage to ask him. The next morning, when he saw me deliberately waiting at the door to his room, I asked him, and I told him about the giving of the gartel. He became very emotional, and immediately tears sprung to his eyes and he kissed me on my forehead.

Even before I was thirteen, I received two gifts from my father — two handwritten manuscripts of chassidus: the maamar “How numerous are Your works,” a maamar in the handwriting of my father, written with a pencil, and the maamar “The Rabbis have learned, the Chanukah candle...” a maamar in the handwriting of Reb Shmuel Sofer18 with notes by the Rebbe Rashab.19

The maamar “How numerous are Your works” he gave me in the year 5652, saying, “This is a chassidisher kiss, and in time I will tell you what I mean.”

In the year 5656 he told me that in the year 5644 — at which time my father lived in two rooms, a bedroom, and another room where my father sat and learned with Reb Yaakov Mordechai Bezfolov.20 My bed was also in that room, and they learned at night as I was sleeping in my bed. They say that I was a beautiful and a lichtiger child. Reb Yaakov Mordechai saw me as I slept and they began to discuss the subject of Bnei Temura21 in its simple meaning, and then in more subtle terms with explanations of Chassidus. Reb Yaakov Mordechai said that my appearance and facial complexion showed purity of thought. At that moment my father was aroused to kiss me, but the thought occurred to him that not only were sacrifices offered in the Temple, but silver and gold were also brought to the Temple coffers. He then decided to exchange this kiss with Chassidus, after which he wrote the Maamar “How numerous are Your works,” which he subsequently gave to me in the year 5652.22

In that year I also received the Maamar “The Rabbis have learned, the Chanukah light.” This took place after the wedding of my aunt Mushka.23 He said to me, smiling, “You are a shkotz! How come a child of twelve can stay up an entire night for chassidus, when older Yidden were not there at all!” and he gave me the Maamar as a gift.

He learned “How numerous are Your works” with me one and a half months before my Bar Mitzvah; first, the whole Maamar, and then a little at a time until I knew it well enough to repeat.

Aside from this, he instructed me to learn for the Bar Mitzvah the very Maamar that he said (for his Bar Mitzvah — see above) and the Maamar “He used to say.”

My Bar Mitzvah was on a Monday, and then I had my Aliyah. When I accompanied my father to the Ohel, he instructed me to say there the Maamar “He used to say” and another Maamar (it appears to be the Maamar “How numerous” — the writer).

On the following Shabbos, I repeated in his room the Maamar: “He used to say,” and another maamar (it appears to be the maamar for the Bar Mitzvah — the writer). I was standing at the time of repetition, and he was too, wearing the round hat. I stood facing the place where he usually sat and he stood to one side. The repetition was difficult for me, as it was a long maamar and in certain places I still did not understand the content.24

I also learned a “Lomdus”25 deep Talmudic discussion by heart, although I did not say it.

The Raza only put on Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam’s tefillin. There were certain times, when the Rebbe Maharash put on tefillin of Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam at the same time, davening the entire prayers with them. These tefillin were very small, less than two fingers, etc.26 The Rebbe Rashab also wore them for some time, however it was difficult for him, since they were so small — less than two fingers, etc. He had the intention to remove his mind from the tefillin, take them off, also the tallis, and later put on the Rashi tefillin again with a berachah. And I asked him (these are words of the Previous Rebbe) — “…and how should one conduct oneself? and he replied, “I went to my father and asked him.”

Later, however, the Rebbe Rashab conducted himself in the following way:27

First he put on Rashi tefillin and davened the entire prayers until after Aleinu. He then took off the shel rosh of Rashi and put on the shel rosh of the Shimusha Rabbah tefillin. He then recited the Shema and learned a chapter of Mishnayos. He took the tefillin off and put on the tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam. He first said the Shema, and then Vayedaber, and then Tehillim, as divided for each day of the month. He then learned one page of Gemara, (it appears that he learned the Gemara wearing the tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam — the writer). He then took off the shel rosh of Rabbeinu Tam and put on the shel rosh of Raavad tefillin, said the Shema, and learned Talmud Yerushalmi. The amount of Yerushalmi that he learned varied. He learned three pages of Gemara every day, one after Shacharis, one after Minchah and one after Maariv. Mishnayos he only studied in the morning. He also said a chapter from Torah, Neviim and Kesuvim.28 Although the Tanach was open in front of him, he actually said it by heart.

Even in his youth, he was a “frummer Yid.29 The Raza used to give him a hard time, although he kept the obligation of honoring an older brother. The Raza used to fight with Devorah Leah (his sister) and pull her hair, however the Rebbe Rashab was even careful not to touch her and the like. Once they played Rebbe and Chassid. The Rebbe Rashab said, “I do not want to be a Rebbe, I want to be a chassid. There is only one G‑d and one Rebbe, but a lot of chassidim.”30 Because he was still a child he pronounced the word Rebbe with a yud instead of a raish, so that it sounded like Yebbe.

Every day they would visit the Tzemach Tzedek.31 They said Shema and Boruch Shem and he would give them a Tzvayer.32 Once, at a time of Yechidus — and this was after the passing of the Rabbonis, when they were living with the Tzemach Tzedek — the Rebbe Rashab, who was then between three and a half and four, also wanted to enter the room, claiming that he too should be allowed into Yechidus. The Raza did not want to allow him in. When permission was refused, he started to cry. The Tzemach Tzedek heard him cry and asked, “Why is he crying?” and he said they should allow him in. At that time, the Rebbe Rashab had a nurse, Nyanke, a non-Jew, and she was the reason that the Rebbe spoke Russian. The Rebbe Rashab did not want to leave her outside and insisted that she too enter, pushing her between the oven and the wall. He went over to the Tzemach Tzedek and asked, “What should one ask you, Zaide?” The Tzemach Tzedek took him in his arms and placed his, (the Rebbe Rashab’s) hand on his beard and said, “Straighten out my beard, straighten out my beard.” He concluded, “I think it is straight.” The Rebbe Rashab recounted this story many times with great satisfaction.33 He asked him if he wanted money and he replied in the negative. But he gave him a few coins to give to chassidim for mashke, whereupon he went out, saying to the chassidim, “The Zaide, the Yebbe, gave this for mashke.”

Many years later, he used to stay up the entire night Thursday night, and the entire night after Shabbos.34 On Friday he washed in hot water, (although not his entire body).35 On Friday afternoon he slept for two to three hours.36 He would cut his nails37 together with the loose skin around them.

He reviewed the Sedra on Friday afternoon verse by verse.38 In general he did not go to the Mikvah on Friday but he went on Shabbos morning, at 3-4 in the morning.

Between Minchah and Maariv on Shabbos every minute was precious.

On Shabbos day, he came to daven at 8:30 a.m. and sometimes earlier. He would finish davening at 3:30-4:00 in the afternoon. At first, he began davening at 6:30 in the morning since it was his mother’s wish that everybody wait for him for the meal — and he didn’t want to keep everybody waiting so he started very early. However, his early start upset his mother even more, so he returned to start davening at 8:30 as before.

During the week, he would finish davening at 2:30-3:00 in the afternoon. However, there were times that he finished with the minyan, or some twenty minutes after that, and sometimes he did not finish until 5:30 in the afternoon.

Reshimos No. 17 22 Sivan 5702
Bar Mitzvah of Kazarnovsky
The Bar Mitzvah Avraham made for Yitzchak and the challenge of Og

(See also letter to my cousin, Menachem Mendel Schneerson)

This is the occasion when the Bar Mitzvah enters the Camp of Israel accepting upon himself the yoke of Torah and mitzvos, and when he and his friends and relatives rejoice.

However, from where are we to draw the energy for this in such troubled times, when our brethren are persecuted and oppressed?40

“The actions of the Fathers are a sign to the children.”41

In the thousands of years of Jewish history, there were times when “each man sat under his vine,”42 and there were times of immense troubles, when “because of our sins we were exiled from our land.”43 History teaches us a lesson both for the future and the present.44

The Torah relates to us the story of the first Bar Mitzvah, the Bar Mitzvah of Yitzchak in the home of the first Jew, Avraham.45

“The child grew and was weaned. Avraham made a great feast on the day Yitzchak was weaned.”46 The Midrash47 comments that the particular significance of “weaning” is that on the day of his Bar Mitzvah, Yitzchak was weaned off the evil inclination, since on that day the good inclination enters.48 Avraham made a great feast — that is to say, a feast for the great, for he invited to this feast all the great personalities of the time, including the giant, Og.

The Midrash continues:49 “They said to Og, “Did you not say that Avraham was a sterile mule and is incapable of having a child?” Og replied, “What was his present? A small and lowly being — I could lift my finger against him and crush him.” Hashem said to Og: “Why are you making fun of this gift? By your life, you will live to see thousands and tens of thousands of his descendents, and you will eventually fall by his hand, as it states,50 “And G‑d said to Moshe, do not fear him, for I have delivered him into your hand.”

What is difficult to understand in the discussion with Og is their preoccupation with the birth of Yitzchak, when they are here sitting at the Bar Mitzvah celebration. There are other views in the Midrash that the feast took place at the time of weaning itself, when Yitzchak was weaned from his mothers milk,51 and even others suggest that the feast was the feast of circumcision.52 It would seem that the simple meaning of Og’s claim is more consonant with their views. However, one may suggest that Og was not so much wondering about the physical birth of Yitzchak as that he was questioning the ability of Avraham to rear a child that would follow in his, Avraham’s, footsteps.

What Og was really getting at was that the way of Avraham may have been fine for him but it would not attract the youth! When Og claimed that Avraham could not rear a child, he was not so much referring to the physical ability to rear children as to his ability to rear a generation that would continue in his spiritual path.

In fact Og had a view on youth in general. The verse53 says of Og, “For only Og king of the Bashan was left of the remaining Rephaim; behold! his bed was an iron bed...” The Rashbam explains that this refers to his cot — his cot was an iron cot. The most important thing to Og was the strength and health of the body, with complete disregard of spirituality. When it came to keeping the commandments of G‑d, Og claimed that one ought only to keep those mitzvos that the intellect can comprehend. Furthermore, the motivation for keeping them was not because they were a Divine command, but because common sense demanded it.54

This was why he told Avraham to go and save Lot, his nephew.55 (However, one could suggest the opposite. It could be that the reason that Og advised Avraham to save Lot was precisely because it was irrational, and because he knew that Avraham, being a man of faith, above and beyond reason, would do the irrational and go and fight the Kings. In this way, Og figured that Avraham would be killed and that he would then marry Sarah. This approach explains the juxtaposition of stories in the Midrash, “Og came and found Avraham engaged in mitzvos — the mitzvah of eating matzah. He said — this Avraham is zealous, if I tell him that his nephew has been captured, he will go out to war, and get himself killed. Then I’ll be able to marry his wife, Sarah.” What prompted Og was that he saw Avraham engaged in the mitzvah of matzah, which is the bread of faith,56 the opposite of the rationality of chametz.57 It was then he reasoned that this Avraham was zealous, that is, unlimited by intellect, and that, by telling him that Lot was captured, even though, rationally speaking, there would be no point to chasing after the Kings, Avraham would nevertheless practice irrational self-sacrifice, chase after the Kings, and be killed.58

From here we can see that a person who only follows his intellect can deceive another into thinking that he is doing a mitzvah when in truth he has the opposite intention: in this case, not to save Lot—on the contrary, he wanted Avraham to be killed, so that he could marry Sarah.

The verse describing Og continues: “…in Rabbah of the children of Ammon.” This was the capital city. Og wanted his iron cot to set an example in the city that, as far as the education of youth was concerned, the main point to be stressed was the physical prowess of the body without any regard for spirituality.

Now we will understand why Og felt himself challenged at the Bar Mitzvah of Yitzchak. Og had always maintained that Avraham would never be able to rear children in his faith, and, as mentioned above, himself made the health of the body the priority when educating youth. At Yitzchak’s Bar Mitzvah, it was clear to all that Avraham had in fact succeeded in rearing Yitzchak to follow in his spiritual path, and Og was therefore challenged.

Og replied: “This is a present,” that is to say, the education of Yitzchak until this age had been a present from Above, and had no place below. He argued that it would not grow and would never be established — for with his little finger, he could destroy it.

Hashem responded, “Are you making fun of this present? You will have longevity of years59 and you will fall into the hands of the thousands of his children.” Physical strength and health can only stand on the firm foundation of faith and spirituality, for when there is no spirituality, why shouldn’t the child sin and chase after superfluous things? This proved to be the case in the end, when eventually Og fell into the hands of the descendants of Yitzchak. Their physical strength rested on solid spiritual foundations.

This is why the war with Og was a physical war60 — a war with the sword,61 unlike the war of Yericho and the war with Sancherev, both of which were fought by supernatural means. Victory in this war with Og showed that physical prowess and victory in battle are dependent on the health of the soul, which only comes with perfect faith — to the point of self-sacrifice — in G‑d.

Reshimos No. 19
The difference between the Bar Mitzvah Avraham made for Yitzchak and the Bar Mitzvah Yitzchak made for Yaakov. Avraham — a test from without, Yitzchak — a test from within.

The Jews consider someone to have become a grown-up at the age of 13 (except in a few instances where one needs to be 18, 2062 or 4063 ) whereas with other nations, one is only considered to be a grown-up at the age of 20, 21, etc.

The reason for this age difference:

The way in which a non-Jewish nation is constituted is that after a period during which they are nomads and shepherds, they settle on a piece of land, choose a king, and then decide on a constitution. The constitution of the Jewish nation was somewhat different. Immediately after the exodus from Egypt, while they were in a desolate land,64 they started keeping Torah and mitzvos, beginning with the commandment, “I am the L‑rd your G‑d”65 and that this G‑d is not a graven image,66 all of which was an act of faith, beyond reason and rationale, and not necessarily perceived by the five senses. It was this faith that served as the basis for their constitution as a people.

A non-Jew comes of age at twenty, etc., for then he is of age to go out to war and establish for himself a land to live — the basis of his constitution as a people. However, a Jew is considered to be a grown-up at the age of thirteen, for it is then that he fully comprehends the great merit and responsibility that he has as a member of the People of Israel.

Among the Jewish people themselves, there are those who are the “sons of Avraham” and there are those who are the “sons of Yitzchak,67 their avodah and way of life different, and consequently each exposed to different categories of trials and tribulations in the course of their lives.

Avraham’s ‘lifestyle’ was one of travelling through different countries, striving greatly so that even the Arabs should say, “Blessed is He who said, and the world came into existence,”68 and arguing with Nimrod about idol worship.69 It therefore follows that at the Bar Mitzvah that Avraham made for his son Yitzchak, his challenge and test came from those to whom Avraham’s way of life was something alien. As recounted in the Midrash, Og claimed that Avraham would not be able to pass on his spiritual heritage to the next generation, and that G‑dly service beyond rationality did not go down well with the young. The rebuttal came in the fact that, in the end, Og fell to the descendants of Yitzchak.70

Yitzchak however was a “perfect sacrifice,” who could not leave the Land of Israel,71 nor marry a maidservant,72 nor even look upon idol worship, as the Sages73 comment on the verse,74 “and his eyes were dimmed;”75 and therefore Yitzchak did not engage in polemics with idol worshipers. At the Bar Mitzvah of the sons of Yitzchak, the test came not from those distant, but from within, from Esav, Yaakov’s brother, as the Sages76 point out, on the verse,77 “And the lads grew up” that is, became Bar Mitzvah — although the two boys went to school together, after Bar Mitzvah they went their separate ways. Esav became a hunter, in the manner of kings, like Nimrod, who was a hunter,78 mingling and assimilating with the creations etc., whereas Yaakov sat in the study-halls of Shem and Ever, who at that time were many hundreds of years old. Yaakov sat and learned from those sages who were many years his senior, whereas, Esav preferred to mix with people his own age.

(The concept of Shem and Ever in Chassidus is explained in Or HaTorah,79 that Shem refers to the Written law and Ever to the Oral tradition.)

We can take this concept a step further by explaining the main difference between Yaakov and Esav. We find in the Midrash80 that Esav asked how one may tithe straw. Straw is secondary to the seed, and it is animal fodder, which is analogous to the animal soul and the body.

Although the animal side of man requires food and drink, and the like, this should only be secondary to the spiritual seed within — which is the way of Yaakov. Esav, however, desired to tithe, that is, to draw holiness into straw,81 which for him was the essence. (Esav had a connection with holiness; as mentioned above, he had learned Torah until the age of Bar Mitzvah, unlike Og, for example, who had no connection, and also opposed such a connection. However, Esav wanted his connection with holiness to be drawn only to the physical side of things.)

In the end, he (Esav) despised the birthright,82 rejected any notion of Divinity and transgressed five prohibitions on the very day of his Bar Mitzvah.83 In comparison, Yaakov, holding the view that the material world (straw) is secondary to the spiritual, merited the promise,84 “And the house of Yaakov shall be like fire and the house of Esav straw.” He became one with Torah, of which is said,85 “Are My words not like fire” which can burn the house of Esav (straw).

I wish to bless the Bar Mitzvah, his parents and teachers, thanks to whom he knows that the learning until now is only the beginning, and that, like Yaakov, he needs to continue in the study-halls of Shem and Eber, and that with his Torah and mitzvos he will hasten the removal of all concealments, until there will come the time when, “And your teacher will no longer hide from you”86 with immediate redemption through our righteous Mashiach.

Reshimos No. 21 — Age 13 for Mitzvos
The proof that Levi was exactly thirteen on the day he killed the inhabitants of Shchem — the source of the age for Bar Mitzvah.

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos 5:21 states: “At the age of 13 one becomes obligated to keep the mitzvos.”

The Bartenura comments: that the age of thirteen is the age of Bar Mitzvah is derived Biblically from the verse,87 “And it was on the third day... and (Shimon and Levi) each man took his sword...” At that time, Levi was thirteen and he is referred to as Ish,88 a man. From this we may see that the Scripture regards a thirteen year old as a man.

There is much debate regarding the actual age of Levi at this time.

Rashi, in his commentary on Avos, calculates that Levi was eleven years old when Yaakov left the house of Lavan. When we add the six months of the journey, and the eighteen months of the stay at Sukkos, Levi turns out to be exactly thirteen at the time of the episode with Shchem. Based on this comment of Rashi in Avos,89 the Tosafos Yom Tov queries the comment of Rashi in Chumash, where Rashi explains that Yaakov was punished for the twenty-two years that, on account of his absence, he did not honor his father; twenty years in the house of Lavan and two years on the way... eighteen months in Sukkos and six months in Beis El.90 The Tosafos Yom Tov asks that it is clear from Chumash91 that the settlement in Beis El was after the episode of Shchem. Therefore, according to Rashi in Chumash, we are missing the six months that would bring the age of Levi up to thirteen. We must say that, before Yaakov came to Sukkos, he spent six months on the journey, which, together with the eighteen months in Sukkos, makes Levi exactly thirteen at the time of the Shchem episode.

R. Akiva Eiger in his glossary notes on Avos is surprised with this question of the Tosafos Yom Tov, for the Talmud in Megillah 17a, states clearly that after Yaakov left the house of Lavan, he spent eighteen months at Sukkos and six months at Beis El. The difficulty, claims R. Akiva Eiger, is not with the comment of Rashi in Chumash (which is consonant with what the Talmud states in Megillah) but with Rashi’s comment in Avos, that claims that six months were spent on the way.

However, this only strengthens the question as to the exact calculation of Levi’s age, for if we say that Yaakov did not spend six months on the way, we are forced to conclude that Levi was only twelve and a half at the time of the Shchem episode?

Furthermore, the Tosafos Yom Tov writes: “If you reckon the thirteen years that Yaakov stayed with Lavan after he married Leah, and take into consideration the approximately two years that it took for Reuven, Shimon and Levi to be born — based on the calculation that each of them was born at the end of seven months — it comes out that Levi was eleven when they left. Add on another six months for the way and eighteen months in Sukkos, and the result is that Levi was thirteen at the time of the story of Shchem.”

This calculation is only approximate, for it is only a rough estimate that two years were taken for three births, each pregnancy lasting seven months,92 but he is not exact in his calculation.93

In the commentary that is attributed to Rashi on Tractate Nazir 29b, Rashi comments, “the title ish is reserved for a thirteen year old and no less, and we have a tradition that Shimon and Levi at that time were thirteen, and whoever wishes to calculate this may go and calculate.”

Thirteen to the day

It is possible to calculate this in such a way that the age of Levi was exactly thirteen, and the calculation is exact to the day. How?

1. As soon as Yaakov married Leah, she conceived.94

2. He waited until after the seven days of the marriage feast, and then worked a further seven years for Rachel.

3. He worked six years for the sheep.

4. He escaped from Lavan for seven days.

5. He stayed one day at Maavar Yabok.

6. He stayed eighteen months at Sukkos.

7. He arrived at Shchem on Erev Shabbos, and that is why he encamped outside the city. He obviously stayed there for Shabbos, and it was on Sunday that Dinah went out.

8. Add another two days, because it was on the third day, “when they were hurting” that Shimon and Levi each man took his sword, and on that day Levi became Bar Mitzvah.

All this may be deduced from Bereishis 29-34, Megillah 17a, Bereishis Rabbah ch. 79.

(The reason why the Chumash does not reckon the extra days over and above the twenty-two years mentioned in the Talmud Megillah, and the twenty years mentioned in the verse 31:41, is because these days do not even add up to a month. That is obvious.)

It comes out that, in total, the period after the marriage of Leah until the episode of Shchem was exactly thirteen years eighteen months and 2095 (or 2196 ) days.

Leah gave birth after seven months — as stated by Pirkei D.R’Eliezer,97 quoted in Yalkut Shimoni.98 The Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 11a, states that “one who gives birth in seven months may also give birth after six months and two days.”99

Therefore, Levi was born eighteen months100 and twenty days after the marriage of Yaakov to Leah, taking into account three pregnancies, each of which was six months and two days — which equals eighteen months and six days — and adding fourteen days on account of the “Tumas Laidah” — impurity contracted by a woman who has given birth — of Reuven and Shimon.101

According to the above calculation — that the episode of Shchem took place thirteen years, eighteen months and twenty days after the wedding of Yaakov to Leah — it follows that Levi was exactly thirteen years old on the day of the episode of Shchem.102

One could possibly bring a proof that the Matriarchs gave birth after six months and two days from the fact that over the course of seven years, there were born to Yaakov eleven sons and one daughter.103 It appears from the story as it is related in Chumash that they were born one after the other, that is, that it never happened that the Matriarchs gave birth at the same time. Rather, it was only after Leah had four sons that Rachel gave Bilhah to Yaakov and she had two sons, and then Zilpah had two sons, and only after this did Leah have another two sons and a daughter. This also appears to be the case, based on their order as they are engraved on the Ephod, attested to by the verse104 as “in order of their birth”. See Seforno, Bereishis 30:8.

If all the pregnancies had been for a full seven months, twelve pregnancies of seven months = 84 months = 7 years. This gives no time, however, for keeping the “Tumas Laidah,” the seven days of impurity. (This is obviously only a difficulty according to the opinion that holds that even in the Diaspora the Patriarchs kept the entire Torah.105 ) One must therefore say that they gave birth in less than seven months (the minimum being six months and two days). Using this reckoning, 12 pregnancies at 6 months 2 days = 6 years and 24 days. To this, one must add the weeks of impurity due to childbirth.106

This is not, however, a conclusive proof, for one may say that only their births were one after the other but not their conception, that is, there is no reason to say that only after one gave birth did the other conceive. Rather, it could have been that another one was already pregnant, only the births were consecutive. It may therefore also be posited that in fact they were all born at a full seven months.

It should be noted that, according to the Targum of Yonasan Ben Uziel, it is clear that their mothers were pregnant with Dinah and Yosef at the same time.107 From this the possibility may be deduced that in the case of the other tribes, born from two different Matriarchs, they were actually pregnant at the same time, but gave birth one after the other.108

Yalkut Shimoni109 states that Reuven was born on the 14th of Kislev... Shimon on the 28th of Teves... Levi on the 16th Nissan... Yehuda on the 15th of Sivan... Dan on the 9th of Elul... Naftali on the 5th of Tishrei... Gad on the 10th of Cheshvan... Asher on the 20th of Shvat... Yissachar on the 10th of Av and Zevulun on the 7th of Tishrei.

It is a mitzvah to explain this Yalkut, for, according to the calculation of the Yalkut — and following the opinion of all the commentaries that the order of their births was Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Dan, Naftali, Gad, Asher, Yissachar, Zevulun, Yosef — Yosef was born at least fifteen years and three months after Yaakov came to dwell with Lavan.110 How does this fit in with what is explicit in the verses: that when Rachel gave birth to Yosef, there was completed the fourteen years which Yaakov had served Lavan for his two daughters?111

On all that has been said, one may further note:

1) Tosafos in Sanhedrin112 states that in previous generations, they were capable of conceiving at the age of eight. Accordingly, they must have matured much earlier, and what proof, therefore, do we have from the sons of Yaakov that the time of Bar Mitzvah is thirteen, as derived from the age of Levi — when in their generations it was possible they matured much earlier and were therefore an ish much earlier?113

2) The Rosh writes in Responsum 16 that the age of thirteen for mitzvos is an age . See Igros Kodesh, Vol. V, p. 76, 326; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, p. 70; Vol. 15, p. 291.

3) On the verse,114 “And the lads grew,” Rashi comments that at that time they were thirteen. However, Rashi on a later verse115 comments that on that day Avraham died, so that he should not see Esav falling into bad company. All the commentaries116 ask, that when Avraham died, Yaakov and Esav were fifteen.117 It may be that full maturity was reached only when they showed signs of puberty, and that they only showed such signs when they were fifteen, and that Avraham did not pay that much attention to the conduct of Esav (to the extent that it should disturb him enough for Hashem to shorten his years, in o. See Niddah 46a, Encyclopedia Talmudis entry for Gadol, p. 140. This would help explain the contradiction between the two comments of Rashi.