The Sages created a metaphor for each of the three development stages in the life of a woman, based on the three stages in the growth of a fig: a bud, small fig, and a ripe fig (“tzemel”). These are childhood (legal minor), girlhood (intermediate, quasi-adult stage, “naarut”), and full adulthood (“bagrut”). Childhood for a girl ends at twelve years and one day, and similarly for a boy it ends at thirteen and one day. Then, if she has the signs of maturity (two pubic hairs), the girl becomes semi-adult (“naarah”). Full adulthood begins six months after that. What are the sources for this metaphor? Bud is mentioned in the Song of Songs, “The fig tree has formed its buds.” Small fig – from a ruling on when one has to give tithes from figs. A ripe fig, “tzemel” is an abbreviation of “yatzata maleah” - she went out full.
Which are the signs of full legal adulthood? Rabbi Yose HaGlili says, “From when a fold forms under the breast.”Rabbi Akiva says, “When the breasts hang down.” Ben Azzai says, “When the areola darkens.” Rabbi Yose says, “When the breast is large enough so that if she puts her hand on the nipple, it sinks and delays return.”
The Talmud gives four more signs of maturity. They asked Rabbi Yehudah the Prince, which sign of maturity should be used to determine full adulthood? He answered, “All of them, to determine a stringency in the law.” For example, with any of these signs, father loses the right to annul his daughter's vows.
Art: Luca Forte - A vase with a crocus and a cyclamen, figs in a porcelain dish and crab apples on a stone ledge, with a butterfly