Monday, 24 July 2017

Sanhedrin 8: Reasons for 23 Judges

Even if there is a hint of a threat that a judge might be influenced by his relationship with someone who knows one of the litigants, the judge should excuse himself.   A judge must be equally stringent with someone who has very little as with someone who is very rich.  The rabbis say that an evil judge will both punish the wrong people and make G-d work toward rectifying the situation.

The Gemara discusses some of the qualities of a good judge.  These include learning and answering appropriately as well as asking for help when one does not know and accepting the the answer.  We learn about proper halachic practice through meritorious people.  The congregation is supposed to fear judges and judges are supposed to fear the congregation.  Judges are asked to bear the complaints of others and their own anger.  

The Gemara moves on to discuss double payments.  For fines, it is required to have more than one judge?  Three judges might be needed for double payment and fines of four or five times the payment.    The rabbis consider how experience a judge must have before ruling on such cases.  

We learned earlier that 23 judges are required to hear capital cases.  The rabbis wonder why other cases would require this many judges.   They are concerned about the rabbis being disrespected publicly; that fewer judges were not qualified to judge on their own.  In fact, the honour of the judges might be at stake, and thus more judges are required.

Our daf ends with more specifics regarding claims and judges.  We learn that a husband who has a monetary issue with his ex-wife, he requires twenty-three judges.  Students of the Torah always require the same number.  If one party brings in a number of witnesses which bolster his claim, for example regarding a get, the large number of judges is helpful.  Plus, the husband might be encouraged by that number of witnesses not make make big mistakes.  

If a woman is a chaverah, a friend - meaning that she understands Torah law, she is also liable without warnings.  She would know if she had transgressed the law.  Thus she is held to a higher standard when judges, as well.

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