"Every man over 20 years old …and give this offering to G‑d." (Ex. 30:14)

The Torah stipulates that the minimum age at which a person had to make his half-shekel contribution was from twenty years and up. The Torah revealed a secret here when it did not demand that males from the age of 13 and up had to make this contribution. Seeing the males are considered as adults from the age of 13, why would teenagers not have been liable for this ransom? They also participated in the Golden Calf episode!

Maturity is essential to…appreciate G‑d's message to man…

The Torah told us here that a person's personality [Nefesh] has not matured until age 20, as he had not had time to absorb and comprehend the various spiritual components that make up a true Israelite until he has reached that age. This is the mystical dimension of the verse "You are My son, I have fathered you this day" (Psalms 2:7). Compare what the Zohar, parashat Mishpatim p.98 has to say on that verse.

(The Zohar, commenting on Ex. 21:9, writes that a man is called "ben" [literally "son"] from the age of 13, and "ben leHakodosh Baruch Hu" [literally "son of the Holy One blessed be He"] from the age of 20. Ed.)

There is a sound reason why man should not be liable to punishment at the hands of heaven until he has reached that age. He is not yet mature emotionally and intellectually. Such maturity is essential to enable us to successfully battle the evil urge and to appreciate G‑d's message to man. By the time man has reached the age of 20, he is considered fully equipped to cope with all kinds of temptations.

[Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar by Eliyahu Munk.]