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Nidah 48

  1. AT WHAT AGE IS A "SERIS" NO LONGER CONSIDERED TO BE A MINOR? OPINIONS: The conclusion of the Gemara is that, as Rebbi Yossi Ben Kiper rules in the name of Rebbi Eliezer, a Seris who reaches "thirty days of the twentieth year" is considered to be a Gadol.

    1. Most Rishonim explain this to mean that once a person who has Simonei Seris reaches the age of 19 years and 30 days he is a Gadol.

    2. The RAMBAM (Hilchos Ishus 2:5) rules that once he reaches 30 days before his 20th birthday, he is considered a Gadol. (The RA'AVAD disagrees, contending that after 19 years and 30 days the Seris is a Gadol, like the Rishonim mentioned above.)

      The TUR suggests that there must be a printer's error in the text of the Rambam, but the MISHNAH l'MELECH rejects this position. He points out that the Rambam reiterates his ruling of 20 years less 30 days no less than three times in the same chapter. The Acharonim therefore explain that it is indeed possible to read into the words of the Gemara the Rambam's ruling; when "thirty days are taken off of the twentieth year," the Seris is a Gadol.

      Why did the Rambam chose to understand the Gemara this way as opposed to the seemingly more obvious way of the Ra'avad and the Rishonim? The BACH (Even ha'Ezer 172:5) explains that the Rambam was bothered by the following question: If the Gemara means 19 years and 30 days, because 30 days count as an entire year, then why are 30 days necessary? One day should be enough, since even one day into the last year is considered a year as the Gemara rules in Rosh Hashanah (2b). The Rambam therefore explains the words of the Gemara differently. (The Bach also shows that there are indeed times where thirty days before a year is already considered the beginning of the following year, e.g. it is forbidden to plant within 30 days of Shevi'is. Thus, as of thirty days before the end of 20 years, it is as if the twenty first year of the Seris has already started.)

  2. THE HALACHIC "SIGNS" OF MATURITY Two pubic hairs are considered to be a sign, or "Siman," of maturity for Halachic purposes. Before the growth of such hairs, a child is considered to be a minor, since his mental capacity has not yet fully matured.

    The growth of hair would not seem to be intrinsically associated with mental maturity. Are the two hairs just a tell-tale, physical sign indicating that the child if physically -- and therefore mentally -- developed? Or did the Torah (in the spirit of "Lo Pelug") stipulate that no matter how well a child can think, he is not considered a "Bar Da'as" unless he has two pubic hairs as well? (That is, are the hairs a sign of Halachic maturity, or do they bring about Halachic maturity?)

    1. The MAHARIT (Teshuvah 1:51) writes that the growth of hairs does not bring about Halachic maturity. They are merely signs that the child has matured. The Maharit points out that this is consistent with the meaning of the word "Siman," which Chazal use to describe the hairs.

      This view is also evident from the words of RABBEINU CHANANEL (quoted by the ROSH in Gitin 9:11), who writes that we do not have the insight to be able to determine Halachic maturity based on the mental sharpness of a child; therefore, we have to rely on the Simanim to determine when he has matured. It may be inferred from his words that if we could determine the sharpness of a child without having to rely on Simanim, the child would be considered mature even before the Simanim grew in.

    2. However, the SHITAH MEKUBETZES (Bava Basra 56b, DH v'Li Ani) writes that Simanim actually bring about the Halachic maturity of a child, and they are not merely indicators of maturity.

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