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ב"ה

Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 1, Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 2, Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 3

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Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 1

Introduction to Hilchos

"Open your mouth, judge righteously, and render justice for the poor and indigent" Proverbs 31:9

The fourteenth book,

Sefer Shoftim

The Book of Judges

It contains five halachot. They are: Hilchot Sanhedrin V'HaOnshin Hamesurim Lahem - The laws of the courts and the penalties placed under their jurisdiction

Hilchot Edut - The laws of witnesses

Hilchot Mamrim - The laws of the rebellious ones

Hilchot Evel - The laws of mourning

Hilchot Melachim UMilchamotehem - The laws of kings and their wars

In the name of the Lord, the God of the world.
These too are for the wise; To have respect [for persons] in judgment is not good.
He who says to a wicked man, "You are righteous"-peoples will curse him; nations will be wroth with him.
But for those who reprove it will be pleasant, and a good blessing shall come upon them.

The fourteenth book which is The Book of Judges

It contains five sets of Halachot and this is their order:

The Laws of Sanhedrin V'HaOnshin Hamesurim Lahem
The Laws of Edut
The Laws of Mamrim
The Laws of Evel
The Laws of Melachim UMilchamotehem

Introduction to Hilchos Sanhedrin veha`Onashin haMesurin lahem

These laws contain 30 mitzvot: Ten positive commandments and twenty negative commandments. They are:

1. To appoint judges,
2. Not to appoint a judge who does not know the proper manner of judgment
3. To follow the majority if there is a difference of opinion among the judges
4. Not to issue a death sentence if there is a majority of only one condemning the defendant; rather, a majority of at least two is necessary,
5. For a judge who argued in favor of acquittal in a capital case not to argue for a conviction,
6. To execute by stoning the condemned to death,
7. To execute by burning the condemned to death,
8. To execute by decapitation,
9. To execute by strangulation,
10. To hang the corpses of certain sinners who were executed,
11. To bury the executed person on the day of his execution,
12. Not to allow his corpse to remain unburied overnight,
13. Not to allow a sorcerer to live,
14. To punish a sinner with lashes,
15. Not to add blows when lashing a sinner,
16. Not to punish a person forced to commit a sin,
17. Not to kill an innocent person based on an apparent conclusion,
18. Not to have mercy on a person who killed or injured a colleague,
19. Not to have mercy on a poor person in judgment,
20. Not to honor a man of stature in judgment,
21. Not to pervert judgment against a sinner even though he is known to be a transgressor,
22. Not to act deceitfully in judgment,
23. Not to pervert the justice due converts or orphans,
24. To render a righteous judgment,
25. For a Judge not to fear rendering a just judgment because of a powerful person,
26. Not to accept a bribe,
27. Not to curse the judges,
28. Not to accept a false report,
29. Not to curse the nasi,
30. Not to curse any other Jew of moral repute.

The explanation of these mitzvot is found in the coming chapters.

בְּשֵׁם יי אֵל עוֹלָם (בראשית כא לג)
גַּם אֵלֶּה לַחֲכָמִים, הַכֵּר פָּנִים בְּמִשְׁפָּט בַּל טוֹב (משלי כד כג)
אֹמֵר לְרָשָׁע צַדִּיק אָתָּה, יִקְּבֻהוּ עַמִּים יִזְעָמוּהוּ לְאֻמִּים (משלי כד כד)
וְלַמּוֹכִיחִים יִנְעָם, וַעֲלֵיהֶם תָּבוֹא בִרְכַּת טוֹב (משלי כד כה)

ספר ארבעה עשר והוא ספר שופטים

הלכותיו חמש, וזה הוא סידורן:

הלכות סנהדרין והעונשין המסורין להם
הלכות עדות
הלכות ממרים
הלכות אבל
הלכות מלכים ומלחמות

הלכות סנהדרין והעונשין המסורין להם - הקדמה

הלכות סנהדרין והעונשין המסורין להם יש בכללן שלשים מצות עשר מצות עשה ועשרים מצות לא תעשה וזה הוא פרטן:
(א) למנות שופטים
(ב) שלא למנות דיין שאינו יודע דרך המשפט
(ג) לנטות אחרי רבים אם נחלקו השופטים
(ד) שלא להרוג אם רבו המחייבין באיש אחד עד שיהיו יתר שנים
(ה) שלא ילמד חובה מי שלמד זכות בדיני נפשות
(ו) להרוג בסקילה
(ז) להרוג בשריפה
(ח) להרוג בסייף
(ט) להרוג בחנק
(י) לתלות
(יא) לקבור הנהרג ביום הריגתו
(יב) שלא תלין נבלתו
(יג) שלא להחיות מכשף
(יד) להלקות הרשע
(טו) שלא יוסיף בהכאת הלוקה
(טז) שלא לענוש אנוס
(יז) שלא להרוג דם נקי באומד הדעת
(יח) שלא לחוס על הורג חבירו או חובל בו
(יט) שלא לרחם את הדל בדין
(כ) שלא להדר גדול בדין
(כא) שלא להטות הדין על בעלי עבירות אע"פ שהוא חוטא
(כב) שלא לעוות משפט
(כג) שלא להטות משפט גר ויתום
(כד) לשפוט בצדק
(כה) שלא לירא בדין מאיש זרוע
(כו) שלא ליקח שוחד
(כז) שלא לקלל הדיינים
(כח) שלא לישא שמע שוא
(כט) שלא לקלל הנשיא
(ל) שלא לקלל אדם משאר בני ישראל הכשרים. וביאור מצות אלו בפרקים אלו:

1

It is a positive Scriptural commandment to appoint judges and enforcement officers in every city and in every region, as Deuteronomy 16:18 states: "Appoint judges and enforcement officers in all your gates."

"Judges" refers to magistrates whose attendance is fixed in court, before whom the litigants appear. "Enforcement officers" refers to those equipped with a billet and a lash who stand before the judges and patrol the market places and the streets to inspect the stores and to regulate the prices and the measures. They inflict corporal punishment on all offenders. Their deeds are controlled entirely by the judges.

Whenever a person is seen perpetrating injustice, they should bring his to the court, where he will be judged according to his wickedness.

א

מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁל תּוֹרָה לְמַנּוֹת שׁוֹפְטִים וְשׁוֹטְרִים בְּכָל מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה וּבְכָל פֶּלֶךְ וּפֶלֶךְ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים טז יח) "שֹׁפְטִים וְשֹׁטְרִים תִּתֶּן לְךָ בְּכָל שְׁעָרֶיךָ". שׁוֹפְטִים אֵלּוּ הַדַּיָּנִים הַקְּבוּעִין בְּבֵית דִּין וּבַעֲלֵי דִּינִין בָּאִים לִפְנֵיהֶם. שׁוֹטְרִים אֵלּוּ בַּעֲלֵי מַקֵּל וּרְצוּעָה וְהֵם עוֹמְדִים לִפְנֵי הַדַּיָּנִין הַמְסַבְּבִין בַּשְּׁוָקִים וּבָרְחוֹבוֹת וְעַל הַחֲנֻיּוֹת לְתַקֵּן הַשְּׁעָרִים וְהַמִּדּוֹת וּלְהַכּוֹת כָּל מְעַוֵּת וְכָל מַעֲשֵׂיהֶם עַל פִּי הַדַּיָּנִים וְכָל שֶׁיִּרְאוּ בּוֹ עִוּוּת דָּבָר מְבִיאִין אוֹתוֹ לְבֵית דִּין וְדָנִין אוֹתוֹ כְּפִי רִשְׁעוֹ:

2

We are obligated to appoint courts in every region and in every city only in Eretz Yisrael. In the diaspora, by contrast, we are not obligated to appoint courts in every region. This is derived from the continuation of the above verse: "Appoint...in all your gates which God your Lord is giving you for your tribes."

ב

אֵין אָנוּ חַיָּבִין לְהַעֲמִיד בָּתֵּי דִּינִים בְּכָל פֶּלֶךְ וּפֶלֶךְ וּבְכָל עִיר וָעִיר אֶלָּא בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּלְבַד. אֲבָל בְּחוּצָה לָאָרֶץ אֵינָן חַיָּבִין לְהַעֲמִיד בֵּית דִּין בְּכָל פֶּלֶךְ וּפֶלֶךְ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים טז יח) "תִּתֶּן לְךָ בְּכָל שְׁעָרֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ לִשְׁבָטֶיךָ":

3

How many established courts should there be among the Jewish people and how many judges should there be in each court?

First, a supreme court is established in the Temple. This is called the Great Sanhedrin. It was composed of 71 judges. This is derived from Numbers 11:16 which states: "Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel." And Moses presided over them, as the verse continues: "And they shall stand there with you." Thus there are 71.

The one who is of greatest knowledge is placed as the head over them. He acts as the Rosh Yeshivah. And he is called the nasi by the Sages in all sources. He assumes the position of Moses our teacher.

The greatest among the remaining 70 is appointed as an assistant to the head. He sits at his right and is called av beit din. The remaining judges from the 70 sit before them and are seated according to their age and according to their stature. Whoever possesses greater wisdom than his colleague is seated closer than his colleagues to the nasi on his left. The members of the Sanhedrin sit in a semi-circle so that the nasi and the av beit din can see all of them.

In addition, two courts of 23 judges each are appointed. One holds sessions at the entrance to the Temple courtyard. and the other at the entrance to the Temple Mount.

In addition, in every city in Israel in which their are 120 or more adult males, we appoint a minor Sanhedrin. They hold court at the entrance to the city, as implied by Amos 5:15: "And you shall present judgment in your gates." How many judges should be in such a court? 23. The one who possesses the greatest wisdom is the chief justice and the remainder sit in a semi-circle so that the chief justice can see all of them.

ג

כַּמָּה בָּתֵּי דִּינִין קְבוּעִין יִהְיוּ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל וְכַמָּה יִהְיֶה מִנְיָנָן. קוֹבְעִין בַּתְּחִלָּה בֵּית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל בַּמִּקְדָּשׁ. וְהוּא הַנִּקְרָא סַנְהֶדְרִי גְּדוֹלָה. וּמִנְיָנָם שִׁבְעִים וְאֶחָד. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יא טז) "אֶסְפָה לִּי שִׁבְעִים אִישׁ מִזִּקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל" וּמשֶׁה עַל גַּבֵּיהֶן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יא טז) "וְהִתְיַצְּבוּ שָׁם עִמָּךְ" הֲרֵי שִׁבְעִים וְאֶחָד. הַגָּדוֹל בְּחָכְמָה שֶׁבְּכֻלָּן מוֹשִׁיבִין אוֹתוֹ רֹאשׁ עֲלֵיהֶן וְהוּא רֹאשׁ הַיְשִׁיבָה וְהוּא שֶׁקּוֹרִין אוֹתוֹ הַחֲכָמִים נָשִׂיא בְּכָל מָקוֹם וְהוּא הָעוֹמֵד תַּחַת משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ. וּמוֹשִׁיבִין הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁבַּשִּׁבְעִים מִשְׁנֶה לָרֹאשׁ וְיוֹשֵׁב מִימִינוֹ וְהוּא הַנִּקְרָא אַב בֵּית דִּין וּשְׁאָר הַשִּׁבְעִים יוֹשְׁבִין לְפָנָיו כְּפִי שְׁנֵיהֶם וּכְפִי מַעֲלָתָם. כָּל הַגָּדוֹל מֵחֲבֵרוֹ בְּחָכְמָה יִהְיֶה קָרוֹב לַנָּשִׂיא מִשְּׂמֹאלוֹ יוֹתֵר מֵחֲבֵרוֹ. וְהֵם יוֹשְׁבִין בִּכְמוֹ חֲצִי גֹּרֶן בְּעִגּוּל כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיֶה הַנָּשִׂיא עִם אַב בֵּית דִּין רוֹאִין כֻּלָּן. וְעוֹד מַעֲמִידִין שְׁנֵי בָּתֵּי דִּינִין שֶׁל עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה אֶחָד עַל פֶּתַח הָעֲזָרָה וְאֶחָד עַל פֶּתַח הַר הַבַּיִת. וּמַעֲמִידִין בְּכָל עִיר וָעִיר מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהּ מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים אוֹ יוֹתֵר סַנְהֶדְרִי קְטַנָּה וְיוֹשֶׁבֶת בְּשַׁעַר הָעִיר שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (עמוס ה טו) "וְהַצִּיגוּ בַשַּׁעַר מִשְׁפָּט". וְכַמָּה יִהְיֶה מִנְיָנָם עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה דַּיָּנִים וְהַגָּדוֹל בְּחָכְמָה שֶׁבְּכֻלָּן רֹאשׁ עֲלֵיהֶן וְהַשְּׁאָר יוֹשְׁבִין בְּעִגּוּל כְּמוֹ חֲצִי גֹּרֶן כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּהֵא הָרֹאשׁ רוֹאֶה אֶת כֻּלָּן:

4

When there are less than 120 adult males in a city, we appoint a court of three judges. For a court should never be less than three. In that way, there will be a majority and a minority if there is a difference of opinion in any particular judgment.

ד

עִיר שֶׁאֵין בָּהּ מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים מַעֲמִידִין בָּהּ שְׁלֹשָׁה דַּיָּנִים שֶׁאֵין בֵּית דִּין פָּחוֹת מִשְּׁלֹשָׁה כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּהֵא בָּהֶן רֹב וּמִעוּט אִם הָיְתָה בֵּינֵיהֶן מַחְלֹקֶת בְּדִין מִן הַדִּינִין:

5

When a city does not possess two sages of great knowledge - 0ne fit to teach and issue rulings with regard to the entire Torah and one who knows how to listen diligently and knows how to raise questions and arrive at solutions - a court should not be appointed for it even though thousands of Jews live there.

ה

כָּל עִיר שֶׁאֵין בָּהּ שְׁנֵי חֲכָמִים גְּדוֹלִים אֶחָד רָאוּי לְלַמֵּד וּלְהוֹרוֹת בְּכָל הַתּוֹרָה כֻּלָּהּ וְאֶחָד יוֹדֵעַ לִשְׁמֹעַ וְיוֹדֵעַ לִשְׁאל וּלְהָשִׁיב אֵין מוֹשִׁיבִין בָּהּ סַנְהֶדְרִין אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהּ אֲלָפִים מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל:

6

When a court has two judges of this caliber: one capable of listening with regard to the entire Torah, and one capable of expounding, it is a valid court. If there are three, it is of intermediate esteem. If the court possess four judges who can expound upon the entire Torah, it is a wise court.

ו

סַנְהֶדְרִין שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהּ שְׁנַיִם אֵלּוּ אֶחָד רָאוּי לִשְׁמֹעַ וְאֶחָד רָאוּי לְדַבֵּר הֲרֵי זוֹ סַנְהֶדְרִין. הָיוּ בָּהּ שְׁלֹשָׁה הֲרֵי זוֹ בֵּינוֹנִית. הָיוּ בָּהּ אַרְבָּעָה יוֹדְעִים לְדַבֵּר הֲרֵי זוֹ סַנְהֶדְרִי חֲכָמָה:

7

We sit three rows of Torah scholars before every minor Sanhedrin. In each row, there are 23 men. The first row is seated next to the Sanhedrin, the second row below it, and the third row below it. In each row, the scholars are seated in the order of their level of wisdom.

ז

כָּל סַנְהֶדְרִי קְטַנָּה מוֹשִׁיבִין לִפְנֵיהֶן שָׁלֹשׁ שׁוּרוֹת שֶׁל תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים בְּכָל שׁוּרָה וְשׁוּרָה עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה אִישׁ. שׁוּרָה רִאשׁוֹנָה קְרוֹבָה לַסַּנְהֶדְרִין. וְשׁוּרָה שְׁנִיָּה לְמַטָּה הֵימֶנָּה. וּשְׁלִישִׁית לְמַטָּה הֵימֶנָּה. וְכָל שׁוּרָה וְשׁוּרָה יוֹשְׁבִין בָּהּ לְפִי מַעֲלָתָן בְּחָכְמָה:

8

If there is a difference of opinion among the judges and it is necessary to grant semichah to one student to add to the number, the scholar of the greatest stature from the first row is granted semichah. The first scholar in the second row advances and sits in the first row to make up for the lack, and the first scholar in the third row advances and sits in the second row to make up for the lack. One of the remaining people is chosen and is seated in the third row. Similarly, if they must grant semichah to a second or third judge, they follow this pattern.

ח

אִם נֶחְלְקוּ הַסַּנְהֶדְרִין וְהֻצְרְכוּ לִסְמֹךְ אֶחָד לְהוֹסִיף עַל מִנְיָנָן סוֹמְכִין מִן הָרִאשׁוֹנָה גָּדוֹל שֶׁבָּהּ וְהָרִאשׁוֹן שֶׁבְּשׁוּרָה שְׁנִיָּה בָּא וְיוֹשֵׁב בְּסוֹף שׁוּרָה הָרִאשׁוֹנָה כְּדֵי לְמַלְּאוֹת חֶסְרוֹנָהּ וְהָרִאשׁוֹן שֶׁבַּשְּׁלִישִׁית בָּא וְיוֹשֵׁב בְּסוֹף שׁוּרָה שְׁנִיָּה. וּבוֹרְרִין לָהֶן אֶחָד מִשְּׁאָר הַקָּהָל וּמוֹשִׁיבִין אוֹתוֹ בְּסוֹף שׁוּרָה שְׁלִישִׁית. וְכֵן אִם צָרְכוּ לִסְמֹךְ שֵׁנִי אוֹ שְׁלִישִׁי עַל הַסֵּדֶר הַזֶּה הֵם עוֹשִׂים:

9

Whenever a Sanhedrin functions, two legal scribes should stand before them: one at the right and one at the left. One writes the arguments of those who seek to hold the defendant liable, and one writes the arguments of those who seek to exonerate him.

ט

כָּל מָקוֹם שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ סַנְהֶדְרִין יִהְיוּ שָׁם שְׁנֵי סוֹפְרֵי דַּיָּנִים עוֹמְדִין לִפְנֵיהֶם אֶחָד מִן הַיָּמִין וְאֶחָד מִן הַשְּׂמֹאל. אֶחָד כּוֹתֵב דִּבְרֵי הַמְחַיְּבִין וְאֶחָד כּוֹתֵב דִּבְרֵי הַמְזַכִּים:

10

Why is a Sanhedrin appointed only in a city with a population of 120? So that there will be a Sanhedrin of 23 judges, three rows of 23 students each, ten sitters in the synagogue, two scribes, two court officers, two litigants, two witnesses, two witnesses who seek to invalidate the testimony of the witnesses, two witnesses who seek to invalidate the testimony of the second pair of witnesses and restore the validity of the first, two charity collectors, and a third to distribute these collections, a doctor who is a bloodletter, a scribe, and a teacher for young children. This reaches a total of 120.

י

וְלָמָּה אֵין [מַעֲמִידִין] סַנְהֶדְרִין אֶלָּא בְּעִיר שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהּ מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים. כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיֶה מֵהֶן סַנְהֶדְרִין שֶׁל עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה וְשָׁלֹשׁ שׁוּרוֹת שֶׁל עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה וַעֲשָׂרָה בַּטְלָנִין שֶׁל בֵּית הַכְּנֶסֶת. וּשְׁנֵי סוֹפְרִים וּשְׁנֵי חַזָּנִים וּשְׁנֵי בַּעֲלֵי דִּינִין. וּשְׁנֵי עֵדִים וּשְׁנֵי זוֹמְמִין. וּשְׁנֵי זוֹמְמֵי זוֹמְמִין. וּשְׁנֵי גַּבָּאֵי צְדָקָה וְעוֹד אֶחָד כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיוּ שְׁלֹשָׁה לְחַלֵּק צְדָקָה. וְרוֹפֵא אֻמָּן. וְלַבְלָר. וּמְלַמֵּד תִּינוֹקוֹת. הֲרֵי מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים:

Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 2

1

We appoint to a Sanhedrin - both to the Supreme Sanhedrin and to a minor Sanhedrin - only men of wisdom and understanding, of unique distinction in their knowledge of the Torah and who possess a broad intellectual potential. They should also have some knowledge concerning other intellectual disciplines, e.g., medicine, mathematics, the fixation of the calendar, astronomy, astrology, and also the practices of fortune-telling, magic, sorcery, and the hollow teachings of idolatry, so that they will know how to judge them.

We appoint to the Sanhedrin only priests, Levites, and Israelites of lineage of fine repute who can marry into the priesthood. This is derived from Number 11:16: "And they shall stand there with you." Implied is that they should resemble you, Moses in wisdom, the fear of heaven, and in lineage.

א

אֵין מַעֲמִידִין בְּסַנְהֶדְרִין בֵּין בִּגְדוֹלָה בֵּין בִּקְטַנָּה אֶלָּא אֲנָשִׁים חֲכָמִים וּנְבוֹנִים. מֻפְלָגִין בְּחָכְמַת הַתּוֹרָה בַּעֲלֵי דֵּעָה מְרֻבָּה. יוֹדְעִים קְצָת מִשְּׁאָר חָכְמוֹת כְּגוֹן רְפוּאוֹת וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן וּתְקוּפוֹת וּמַזָּלוֹת וְאִצְטַגְנִינוּת וְדַרְכֵי הַמְעוֹנְנִים וְהַקּוֹסְמִים וְהַמְכַשְּׁפִים וְהַבְלֵי עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בְּאֵלּוּ כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיוּ יוֹדְעִים לָדוּן אוֹתָם. וְאֵין מַעֲמִידִין בְּסַנְהֶדְרִין אֶלָּא כֹּהֲנִים לְוִיִּים וְיִשְׂרְאֵלִים הַמְיֻחָסִים הָרְאוּיִים לְהַשִּׂיא לִכְהֻנָּה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יא טז) "וְהִתְיַצְּבוּ שָׁם עִמָּךְ" בְּדוֹמִין לְךָ בְּחָכְמָה וּבְיִרְאָה וּבְיַחַס:

2

It is a mitzvah for there to be priests and Levites in the Supreme Sanhedrin, as Deuteronomy 17:9 states: "And you shall come to the priests and to the Levites. If appropriate ones are not found, it is permissible for all the judges to be Israelites.

ב

וּמִצְוָה לִהְיוֹת בְּסַנְהֶדְרִין גְּדוֹלָה כֹּהֲנִים וּלְוִיִּים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יז ט) "וּבָאתָ אֶל הַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם". וְאִם לֹא מָצְאוּ אֲפִלּוּ הָיוּ כֻּלָּם יִשְׂרְאֵלִים הֲרֵי זֶה מֻתָּר:

3

We should not appoint to a Sanhedrin a man of very old age or one who does not possess male physical attributes, for they possess the trait of cruelty, nor a man who is childless, so that the judges should be merciful.

ג

אֵין מַעֲמִידִין בְּכָל הַסַּנְהֶדְרִין לֹא זָקֵן מֻפְלָג בְּשָׁנִים וְלֹא סָרִיס מִפְּנֵי שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהֶן אַכְזָרִיּוּת. וְלֹא מִי שֶׁאֵין לוֹ בָּנִים כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּהֵא רַחֲמָן:

4

A king of Israel may not be included in the Sanhedrin, for we are forbidden to disagree with him and repudiate his words. The High Priest, by contrast, may be included in the Sanhedrin if his knowledge makes him fitting.

ד

ואֵין מוֹשִׁיבִין מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּסַנְהֶדְרִין שֶׁאָסוּר לַחְלֹק עָלָיו וְלַמְרוֹת אֶת דְּבָרוֹ. אֲבָל מוֹשִׁיבִין כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל אִם הָיָה רָאוּי בְּחָכְמָה:

5

Although the kings of the House of David may not be included in the Sanhedrin, they may sit in judgment over the people. Conversely, they may be called to judgment if a person has a complaint against them. The Kings of Israel, by contrast, may not serve as judges, nor may they be called to judgment. The rationale is that they do not humble themselves before the words of the Torah, and letting them serve as a judge or issuing a judgment against them may lead to a disaster.

ה

מַלְכֵי בֵּית דָּוִד אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין מוֹשִׁיבִין אוֹתָם בְּסַנְהֶדְרִין יוֹשְׁבִין וְדָנִים הֵם אֶת הָעָם. וְדָנִים אוֹתָם אִם יֵשׁ עֲלֵיהֶן דִּין. אֲבָל מַלְכֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵין דָּנִין וְאֵין דָּנִין אוֹתָם לְפִי שֶׁאֵין נִכְנָעִים לְדִבְרֵי תּוֹרָה שֶׁמָּא תָּבוֹא מֵהֶן תַּקָּלָה:

6

Just as the judges of a court must be on the highest level of righteousness; so, too, must they be unsullied by any physical blemishes.

An effort should be made that they all be white-haired, of impressive height, of dignified appearance, men who understand whispered matters, who understand many different languages so that the Sanhedrin will not need to hear testimony from an interpreter.

ו

כְּשֵׁם שֶׁבֵּית דִּין מְנֻקִּין בְּצֶדֶק כָּךְ צְרִיכִין לִהְיוֹת מְנֻקִּין מִכָּל מוּמֵי הַגּוּף. וְצָרִיךְ לְהִשְׁתַּדֵּל וְלִבְדֹּק וּלְחַפֵּשׂ שֶׁיִּהְיוּ כֻּלָּן בַּעֲלֵי שֵׂיבָה. בַּעֲלֵי קוֹמָה. בַּעֲלֵי מַרְאֶה. נְבוֹנֵי לַחַשׁ. וְשֶׁיֵּדְעוּ בְּרֹב הַלְּשׁוֹנוֹת כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא תְּהֵא סַנְהֶדְרִין שׁוֹמַעַת מִפִּי הַתֻּרְגְּמָן:

7

We are not careful to demand that a judge for a court of three possess all these qualities. He must, however, possess seven attributes: wisdom, humility, the fear of God, a loathing for money, a love for truth; he must be a person who is beloved by people at large, and must have a good reputation.

All of these qualities are mentioned explicitly in the Torah. When relating Moses' statements concerning the appointment of judges, Deuteronomy 1:13 mentions: "Men of wisdom and understanding." This refers to wisdom.

The verse continues: "Beloved by your tribes." This refers to those who are appreciated by people at large. What will make them beloved by people? Conducting themselves with a favorable eye and a humble spirit, being good company, and speaking and conducting their business with people gently.

When relating Jethro's advice to Moses to appoint judges, Exodus 18:21 speaks of "men of power." This refers to people who are mighty in their observance of the mitzvot, who are very demanding of themselves, and who overcome their evil inclination until they possess no unfavorable qualities, no trace of an unpleasant reputation, even during their early manhood, they were spoken of highly. The phrase "men of power" also implies that they should have a courageous heart to save an oppressed person from the one oppressing him, as Exodus 2:17 states: "And Moses arose and delivered them."

Just as we see that Moses was humble; so, too, every judge should be humble. Exodus 18:21 continues: "God-fearing" - the intent is obvious. It mentions: "men who hate profit," i.e., people who do not become overly concerned even about their own money. They do not pursue the accumulation of money, for anyone who is overly concerned about wealth will ultimately be overcome by want.

The verse continues: "men of truth," i.e., people who pursue justice because of their own inclination; they love truth, hate crime, and flee from all forms of crookedness.

ז

בֵּית דִּין שֶׁל שְׁלֹשָׁה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין מְדַקְדְּקִין בָּהֶן בְּכָל אֵלּוּ הַדְּבָרִים צָרִיךְ שֶׁיְּהֵא בְּכָל אֶחָד מֵהֶן שִׁבְעָה דְּבָרִים וְאֵלּוּ הֵן. חָכְמָה. וַעֲנָוָה. וְיִרְאָה. וְשִׂנְאַת מָמוֹן. וְאַהֲבַת הָאֱמֶת. וְאַהֲבַת הַבְּרִיּוֹת לָהֶן. וּבַעֲלֵי שֵׁם טוֹב. וְכָל אֵלּוּ הַדְּבָרִים מְפֹרָשִׁין הֵן בַּתּוֹרָה. הֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר (דברים א יג) "אֲנָשִׁים חֲכָמִים וּנְבֹנִים" הֲרֵי בַּעֲלֵי חָכְמָה אָמוּר. (דברים א יג) "וִידֻעִים לְשִׁבְטֵיכֶם" אֵלּוּ שֶׁרוּחַ הַבְּרִיּוֹת נוֹחָה מֵהֶם. וּבַמֶּה יִהְיוּ אֲהוּבִים לַבְּרִיּוֹת בִּזְמַן שֶׁיִּהְיוּ בַּעֲלֵי עַיִן טוֹבָה. וְנֶפֶשׁ שְׁפָלָה. וְחֶבְרָתָן טוֹבָה. וְדִבּוּרָן וּמַשָּׂאָן בְּנַחַת עִם הַבְּרִיּוֹת. וּלְהַלָּן הוּא אוֹמֵר (שמות יח כא) "אַנְשֵׁי חַיִל" אֵלּוּ שֶׁהֵן גִּבּוֹרִים בְּמִצְוֹת וּמְדַקְדְּקִים עַל עַצְמָם וְכוֹבְשִׁין אֶת יִצְרָן עַד שֶׁלֹּא יְהֵא לָהֶן שׁוּם גְּנַאי וְלֹא שֵׁם רַע וִיהֵא פִּרְקָן נָאֶה. וּבִכְלַל אַנְשֵׁי חַיִל שֶׁיִּהְיֶה לָהֶן לֵב אַמִּיץ לְהַצִּיל עָשׁוּק מִיַּד עוֹשְׁקוֹ כָּעִנְיָן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות ב יז) "וַיָּקָם משֶׁה וַיּוֹשִׁעָן". וּמָה משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ עָנָו אַף כָּל דַּיָּן צָרִיךְ לִהְיוֹת עָנָו. (שמות יח כא) "יִרְאֵי אֱלֹהִים" כְּמַשְׁמָעוֹ. (שמות יח כא) "שֹׂנְאֵי בָצַע" אַף מָמוֹן שֶׁלָּהֶם אֵינָן נִבְהָלִין עָלָיו. וְלֹא רוֹדְפִין לְקַבֵּץ הַמָּמוֹן. שֶׁכָּל מִי שֶׁהוּא נִבְהָל לַהוֹן חֶסֶר יְבוֹאֶנּוּ. (שמות יח כא) "אַנְשֵׁי אֱמֶת" שֶׁיִּהְיוּ רוֹדְפִין אַחַר הַצֶּדֶק מֵחֲמַת עַצְמָן בְּדַעְתָּן. אוֹהֲבִין אֶת הָאֱמֶת וְשׂוֹנְאִין אֶת הֶחָמָס וּבוֹרְחִין מִכָּל מִינֵי הֶעָוֶל:

8

Our Sages relate: From the Supreme Sanhedrin, they would send emissaries throughout the entire land of Israel to seek out judges. Whenever they found a person who was wise, sin-fearing, humble, modest, with a good reputation, and beloved by people at large, they have him appointed as a judge in his own city. From there, they promote him to the court which holds sessions at the entrance to the Temple Mount. From there, he is promoted to the court which holds sessions at the entrance to the Temple Courtyard, and from there, to the Supreme Sanhedrin.

ח

אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים שֶׁמִּבֵּית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל הָיוּ שׁוֹלְחִים בְּכָל אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל וּבוֹדְקִין כָּל מִי שֶׁיִּמְצָאוּהוּ חָכָם וִירֵא חָטָא וְעָנָו וְשָׁפוּי וּפִרְקוֹ נָאֶה וְרוּחַ הַבְּרִיּוֹת נוֹחָה הֵימֶנּוּ. עוֹשִׂין אוֹתוֹ דַּיָּן בְּעִירוֹ. וּמִשָּׁם מַעֲלִין אוֹתוֹ לְפֶתַח הַר הַבַּיִת וּמִשָּׁם מַעֲלִין אוֹתוֹ לְפֶתַח הָעֲזָרָה. וּמִשָּׁם מַעֲלִין אוֹתוֹ לְבֵית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל:

9

When one of the judges of a court of three is a convert, the court is disqualified. His mother must be a native-born Jewess. If, by contrast, one of the judges is a mamzer, even if all three of them are mamzerim, they are acceptable to pass judgment.

Similarly, if all of the members of a court of three were blind in one eye, it is acceptable. This does not apply with regard to a Sanhedrin. If, however, a judge is blind in both eyes, he is unacceptable to serve on all courts.

ט

בֵּית דִּין שֶׁל שְׁלֹשָׁה שֶׁהָיָה אֶחָד מֵהֶן גֵּר הֲרֵי זֶה פָּסוּל. עַד שֶׁתִּהְיֶה אִמּוֹ מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל. הָיָה אֶחָד מַמְזֵר אֲפִלּוּ שְׁלָשְׁתָּן מַמְזֵרִים הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ כְּשֵׁרִין לָדוּן. וְכֵן אִם הָיָה כָּל אֶחָד מֵהֶם סוּמָא בְּאֶחָד מֵעֵינָיו כָּשֵׁר מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן בְּסַנְהֶדְרִין. אֲבָל הַסּוּמָא בִּשְׁתֵּי עֵינָיו פָּסוּל לַכּל:

10

Although a court requires no less than three judges, it is permissible for one judge to adjudicate a case according to Scriptural Law, as Leviticus 19:15 states: "Judge your fellow countryman with righteousness." According to Rabbinic Law, however, there should be three judges. When two judges adjudicate a case, their ruling is not binding.

י

אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין בֵּית דִּין פָּחוֹת מִשְּׁלֹשָׁה מֻתָּר לְאֶחָד לָדוּן מִן הַתּוֹרָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יט טו) "בְּצֶדֶק תִּשְׁפֹּט עֲמִיתֶךָ". וּמִדִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים עַד שֶׁיִּהְיוּ שְׁלֹשָׁה. וּשְׁנַיִם שֶׁדָּנוּ אֵין דִּינֵיהֶן דִּין:

11

When a judge is an expert and he is known by many to possess such knowledge or if he was granted permission by the court, he may adjudicate a case alone. Nevertheless, he is not considered as a court.

Even though it is permitted for such a person to issue judgments alone, it is a mitzvah from the Sages for him to have others sit in judgment with him, for our Sages said: "Do not act as a judge alone, for there is only One who judges alone."

יא

אֶחָד שֶׁהָיָה מֻמְחֶה לָרַבִּים אוֹ שֶׁנָּטַל רְשׁוּת מִבֵּית דִּין הֲרֵי זֶה מֻתָּר לוֹ לָדוּן יְחִידִי אֲבָל אֵינוֹ חָשׁוּב בֵּית דִּין. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא מֻתָּר מִצְוַת חֲכָמִים הוּא שֶׁמּוֹשִׁיב עִמּוֹ אֲחֵרִים שֶׁהֲרֵי אָמְרוּ אַל תְּהִי דָּן יְחִידִי שֶׁאֵין דָּן יְחִידִי אֶלָּא אֶחָד:

12

A person may execute judgment himself if he has the power to do so. If he acts according to the dictates of our faith and according to law, he is not obligated to take the trouble to come to the court. This applies even if he would not suffer any financial loss if he would delay and bring the matter to the court.

Consequently, should the other litigant lodge a complaint against him and bring him to court, if the court investigates and discovers that he acted according to law, i.e., the decision which he arrived at was true, we do not abrogate his decision.

יב

יֵשׁ לְאָדָם לַעֲשׂוֹת דִּין לְעַצְמוֹ אִם יֵשׁ בְּיָדוֹ כֹּחַ הוֹאִיל וְכַדָּת וְכַהֲלָכָה הוּא עוֹשֶׂה אֵינוֹ חַיָּב לִטְרֹחַ וְלָבוֹא לְבֵית דִּין אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא הָיָה שָׁם הֶפְסֵד בִּנְכָסָיו אִלּוּ נִתְאַחֵר וּבָא לְבֵית דִּין. לְפִיכָךְ אִם קִבֵּל עָלָיו בַּעַל דִּינוֹ וֶהֱבִיאוֹ לְבֵית דִּין וְדָרְשׁוּ וּמָצְאוּ שֶׁעָשָׂה כַּהֲלָכָה וְדִין אֱמֶת דָּן לְעַצְמוֹ אֵין סוֹתְרִין אֶת דִּינוֹ:

13

Although a court of three is considered as a complete entity, whenever there are more judges, it is praiseworthy. It is preferable to make a decision with 11 judges than with ten. All the judges who sit in court must be Torah scholars and of appropriate character.

יג

אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁבֵּית דִּין שֶׁל שְׁלֹשָׁה בֵּית דִּין שָׁלֵם הוּא כָּל זְמַן שֶׁהֵן רַבִּים הֲרֵי זֶה מְשֻׁבָּח. וּמוּטָב שֶׁיֵּחָתֵךְ הַדִּין בְּאַחַד עָשָׂר יוֹתֵר מֵעֲשָׂרָה וּצְרִיכִין שֶׁיִּהְיוּ הַיּוֹשְׁבִים כֻּלָּם שָׁם בְּבֵית דִּין תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים וּרְאוּיִין:

14

It is forbidden for a wise man to sit in judgment until he knows with whom he will be sitting. This restraint is observed lest he be coupled with men who are unsuitable. Thus he will be part of "a band of traitors," and not part of a court.

יד

וְאָסוּר לְאָדָם חָכָם שֶׁיֵּשֵׁב בַּדִּין עַד שֶׁיֵּדַע עִם מִי יֵשֵׁב שֶׁמָּא יִצְטָרֵף עִם אֲנָשִׁים שֶׁאֵינָן הֲגוּנִים וְנִמְצָא בִּכְלַל קֶשֶׁר בּוֹגְדִים לֹא בִּכְלַל בֵּית דִּין:

Sanhedrin veha’Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 3

1

Until when should the judges hold session? A minor Sanhedrin and a court of three should hold sessions from after the morning service until the end of the sixth hour of the day. The supreme Sanhedrin, by contrast, would hold sessions from the time of the slaughter of the morning sacrifice until the offering of the afternoon sacrifice. On Sabbaths and on festivals they would hold sessions in the House of Study on the Temple Mount.

א

עַד אֵימָתַי יוֹשְׁבִין הַדַּיָּנִים בְּדִין. סַנְהֶדְרִי קְטַנָּה וּבֵית דִּין שֶׁל שְׁלֹשָׁה יוֹשְׁבִין מֵאַחַר תְּפִלַּת הַשַּׁחַר עַד סוֹף שֵׁשׁ שָׁעוֹת בַּיּוֹם. אֲבָל בֵּית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל הָיוּ יוֹשְׁבִין מִתָּמִיד שֶׁל שַׁחַר עַד תָּמִיד שֶׁל בֵּין הָעַרְבַּיִם. וּבְשַׁבָּתוֹת וְיָמִים טוֹבִים הָיוּ יוֹשְׁבִין בְּבֵית הַמִּדְרָשׁ שֶׁבְּהַר הַבַּיִת:

2

The High Court of 71 judges was not required to sit all together in their place in the Temple. Instead, when it was necessary for them to gather together, they would all gather together. At other times, whoever had private affairs would tend to his concerns and then return.

The above applies provided there would be no less than 23 judges in attendance whenever they were sitting. If a judge needs to leave, he should look at his colleagues who remain. If there are 23 remaining, he may leave. If not, he should not leave until another comes.

ב

אֵין בֵּית דִּין שֶׁל שִׁבְעִים וְאֶחָד צְרִיכִין שֶׁיִּהְיוּ יוֹשְׁבִין כֻּלָּן כְּאֶחָד בִּמְקוֹמָן שֶׁבַּמִּקְדָּשׁ. אֶלָּא בְּעֵת שֶׁיְּהוּ צְרִיכִין לְהִתְקַבֵּץ מִתְקַבְּצִין כֻּלָּן. וּבִשְׁאָר הָעִתּוֹת כָּל מִי שֶׁהָיָה לוֹ עֵסֶק יֵצֵא לַעֲשׂוֹת חֶפְצוֹ וְחוֹזֵר וְהוּא שֶׁלֹּא יִפְחֲתוּ מֵעֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה יוֹשְׁבִין תָּמִיד כָּל זְמַן יְשִׁיבָתָן. הֻצְרַךְ אֶחָד מֵהֶן לָצֵאת הֲרֵי זֶה מִסְתַּכֵּל בַּחֲבֵרָיו הַנִּשְׁאָרִים אִם יִשָּׁאֲרוּ שָׁם עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה יֵצֵא וְאִם לָאו לֹא יֵצֵא עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹא אַחֵר:

3

A court should not begin adjudicating a case at night. According to the Oral Tradition, this concept was derived as follows: Based on Deuteronomy 21:5 which mentions: "Every dispute and every blemish," an equation is established between the adjudication of disputes and blemishes. Just as blemishes are viewed only during the day; so, too, disputes should be adjudicated only during the day.

ג

אֵין מַתְחִילִין אֶת הַדִּינִין בַּלַּיְלָה. מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה לָמְדוּ שֶׁהַדִּינִין כִּנְגָעִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כא ה) "כָּל רִיב וְכָל נָגַע" מָה רְאִיַּת נְגָעִים בַּיּוֹם בִּלְבַד אַף הַדִּינִין בַּיּוֹם בִּלְבַד:

4

Similarly, we do not listen to the testimony of witnesses or validate the authenticity of legal documents at night. With regard to cases involving monetary law, if the judges began hearing the matter during the day, it is permitted for them to conclude the judgment at night.

ד

וְכֵן אֵין מְקַבְּלִין עֵדוּת וְאֵין מְקַיְּמִין שְׁטָרוֹת בַּלַּיְלָה. וּבְדִינֵי מָמוֹנוֹת אִם הִתְחִילוּ בַּיּוֹם מֻתָּר לִגְמֹר הַדִּין בַּלַּיְלָה:

5

The division of an inheritance resembles a judgment, for with regard to them, Numbers 35:29 states: "For the statutes of judgment." Therefore inheritances are not divided at night.

ה

הַנְּחָלוֹת כְּדִינִין שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בָּהֶן לְחֻקַּת מִשְׁפָּט. לְפִיכָךְ אֵין מַפִּילִין נְחָלוֹת בַּלַּיְלָה:

6

When two people enter to visit a person who is deathly ill, if he makes statements dividing his estate in their presence, they may record his statements, but they may not adjudicate the division of the estate. They were three, if they desire, they may record his statements, or they may adjudicate the division of the estate.

When does the above apply? During the day. During the night, they may record his statements, but they may not adjudicate the division of the estate.

ו

שְׁנַיִם שֶׁנִּכְנְסוּ לְבַקֵּר אֶת הַחוֹלֶה וְצִוָּה בִּפְנֵיהֶם. כּוֹתְבִים וְאֵין עוֹשִׂים דִּין. וְאִם הָיוּ שְׁלֹשָׁה רָצוּ כּוֹתְבִין רָצוּ עוֹשִׂין דִּין. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בַּיּוֹם. אֲבָל בַּלַּיְלָה כּוֹתְבִין וְאֵין עוֹשִׂין דִּין:

7

Whenever a suitable court among the Jewish people sits in judgment, the Divine Presence rests among them. Accordingly, the judges must sit in awe and fear, wrapped in tallitot, and conduct themselves with reverence. It is forbidden to act frivolously, to joke, or to speak idle matters in court. Instead, one may speak only words of Torah and wisdom.

ז

כָּל בֵּית דִּין שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁהוּא הָגוּן שְׁכִינָה עִמָּהֶם. לְפִיכָךְ צְרִיכִין הַדַּיָּנִים לֵישֵׁב בְּאֵימָה וְיִרְאָה וַעֲטִיפָה וְכֹבֶד רֹאשׁ וְאָסוּר לְהָקֵל רֹאשׁ אוֹ לִשְׂחֹק אוֹ לְסַפֵּר בְּשִׂיחָה בְּטֵלָה בְּבֵית דִּין אֶלָּא בְּדִבְרֵי תּוֹרָה וְחָכְמָה:

8

Whenever a Sanhedrin, a king, or an exilarch appoints a judge who is not fitting and/or is not learned in the wisdom of the Torah and is not suitable to be a judge - even if he is entirely a delight and possesses other positive qualities - the person who appoints him violates a negative commandment, as Deuteronomy 1:17 states: "Do not show favoritism in judgment." According to the Oral Tradition, we learned that this command is addressed to those who appoint judges.

Our Sages declare: "Perhaps a person will say: 'So and so is attractive, I will appoint him as a judge,' 'So and so is strong, I will appoint him as a judge,' 'So and so is my relative, I will appoint him as a judge,' or "So and so knows all the languages, I will appoint him as a judge.' This will lead to those who are liable being vindicated and those who should be vindicated held liable, not because the judge is wicked, but because he does not know Torah law. Therefore the Torah states: "Do not show favoritism in judgment."

Our Sages also declare: "Whoever appoints a judge who is not appropriate for the Jewish people is considered as if he erected a monument, as implied by Deuteronomy 16:22: "Do not erect a monument which is hated by God, your Lord." If he is appointed instead of a Torah scholar, it is as if one planted an asherah, as Ibid.:21 states: "Do not plant an asherah or any other tree next to God's altar."

And our Sages interpreted Exodus 20:20: "Do not make gods of silver and gods of gold together with Me" to mean "Do not appoint a judge because of silver and gold." This refers to a judge who was appointed because of his wealth alone.

ח

כָּל סַנְהֶדְרִין אוֹ מֶלֶךְ אוֹ רֹאשׁ גּוֹלָה שֶׁהֶעֱמִידוּ לָהֶן לְיִשְׂרָאֵל דַּיָּן שֶׁאֵינוֹ הָגוּן וְאֵינוֹ חָכָם בְּחָכְמַת הַתּוֹרָה וְרָאוּי לִהְיוֹת דַּיָּן. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא כֻּלּוֹ מַחֲמַדִּים וְיֵשׁ בּוֹ טוֹבוֹת אֲחֵרוֹת הֲרֵי זֶה שֶׁהֶעֱמִידוֹ עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר לֹא תַכִּירוּ פָנִים בַּמִּשְׁפָּט. מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה לָמְדוּ שֶׁזֶּה מְדַבֵּר כְּנֶגֶד הַמְמֻנֶּה לְהוֹשִׁיב דַּיָּנִין. אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים שֶׁמָּא תֹּאמַר אִישׁ פְּלוֹנִי נָאֶה אוֹשִׁיבֶנּוּ דַּיָּן. אִישׁ פְּלוֹנִי גִּבּוֹר אוֹשִׁיבֶנּוּ דַּיָּן. אִישׁ פְּלוֹנִי קְרוֹבִי אוֹשִׁיבֶנּוּ דַּיָּן. אִישׁ פְּלוֹנִי יוֹדֵעַ בְּכָל לָשׁוֹן אוֹשִׁיבֶנּוּ דַּיָּן. נִמְצָא מְזַכֶּה אֶת הַחַיָּב וּמְחַיֵּב אֶת הַזַּכַּאי לֹא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא רָשָׁע אֶלָּא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ. לְכָךְ נֶאֱמַר (דברים א יז) "לֹא תַכִּירוּ פָנִים בַּמִּשְׁפָּט". וְעוֹד אָמְרוּ כָּל הַמַּעֲמִיד לְיִשְׂרָאֵל דַּיָּן שֶׁאֵינוֹ הָגוּן כְּאִלּוּ הֵקִים מַצֵּבָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים טז כב) "וְלֹא תָקִים לְךָ מַצֵּבָה אֲשֶׁר שָׂנֵא ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ". וּבִמְקוֹם תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים כְּאִלּוּ נָטַע אֲשֵׁרָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים טז כא) "לֹא תִטַּע לְךָ אֲשֵׁרָה כָּל עֵץ אֵצֶל מִזְבַּח ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ". וְכֵן אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים (שמות כ כ) "לֹא תַעֲשׂוּן אִתִּי אֱלֹהֵי כֶסֶף" אֱלוֹהַּ הַבָּא בִּשְׁבִיל כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב זֶה הַדַּיָּן שֶׁמִּנּוּהוּ מִפְּנֵי עָשְׁרוֹ בִּלְבַד:

9

Whenever a judge pays money in order to be appointed, it is forbidden to stand in his presence. Our Sages commanded that he be denigrated and derided. And our Sages declare: "Consider the tallit with which he wraps himself as the saddle blanket of a donkey."

ט

כָּל דַּיָּן שֶׁנָּתַן מָמוֹן כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּתְמַנֶּה אָסוּר לַעֲמֹד מִפָּנָיו. וְצִוּוּ חֲכָמִים לְהָקֵל אוֹתוֹ וּלְזַלְזֵל בּוֹ. וְאָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים שֶׁהַטַּלִּית שֶׁמִּתְעַטֵּף בָּהּ תְּהִי בְּעֵינֶיךָ כְּמִרְדַּעַת שֶׁל חֲמוֹר:

10

This was the manner of conduct of the sages of the previous generations. They would flee from being appointed to a court and would undergo extreme pressure not to sit in judgment until they knew that there was no other person as appropriate as they were and that if they would refrain from participating in the judgment the quality of the legal system would be impaired. Even so, they would not sit in judgment until the people at large and the elders would compel them and implore them to do so.

י

כָּךְ הָיָה דֶּרֶךְ חֲכָמִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים בּוֹרְחִין מִלְּהִתְמַנּוֹת. וְדוֹחֲקִין עַצְמָן הַרְבֵּה שֶׁלֹּא יֵשְׁבוּ בַּדִּין עַד שֶׁיֵּדְעוּ שֶׁאֵין שָׁם רָאוּי כְּמוֹתָם וְשֶׁאִם יִמָּנְעוּ מִן הַדִּין תְּקַלְקֵל הַשּׁוּרָה. אַף עַל פִּי כֵן לֹא הָיוּ יוֹשְׁבִין בַּדִּין אֶלָּא עַד שֶׁמַּכְבִּידִין עֲלֵיהֶם אֶת הָעָם וְהַזְּקֵנִים וּפוֹצְרִים בָּהֶן:

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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