Sanhedrin 17aסנהדרין י״ז א
The William Davidson Talmudתלמוד מהדורת ויליאם דוידסון
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17aי״ז א

עמך עמך ואת בהדייהו ורבי יהודה עמך משום שכינה

with you” (Numbers 11:16), i.e., they will stand “with you,” and you are to be counted with them, leading to a total number of seventy-one. And Rabbi Yehuda holds that the term “with you” is mentioned due to the Divine Presence that rested on Moses. According to Rabbi Yehuda, Moses was instructed to remain with the seventy Elders in order for the Divine Presence to rest upon them as well. He was not formally part of their court and therefore the number of Sages on the Great Sanhedrin is seventy.

ורבנן אמר קרא (במדבר יא, יז) ונשאו אתך במשא העם אתך ואת בהדייהו ורבי יהודה אתך בדומין לך

The Gemara asks: And how would the Rabbis respond to this line of reasoning? The Gemara answers: The verse states: “And they shall bear the burden of the people with you” (Numbers 11:17), which indicates: “With you,” and you are to be counted with them. And how would Rabbi Yehuda respond to that? He would explain that the term “with you” means similar to you, meaning, that the Elders appointed to the court had to be of fit lineage and free of blemish, like Moses.

ורבנן (שמות יח, כב) מוהקל מעליך ונשאו אתך נפקא וילפא סנהדרי גדולה מסנהדרי קטנה

And from where do the Rabbis derive that halakha? They derive it from what was stated with regard to the appointment of the ministers of thousands and the ministers of hundreds: “And they shall make it easier for you, and bear the burden with you” (Exodus 18:22), understanding the term “with you” to mean: Similar to you. And the halakha of the judges of the Great Sanhedrin of seventy is derived from the halakha of the judges of the lesser Sanhedrin, i.e., those ministers, that Moses appointed.

ת"ר (במדבר יא, כו) וישארו שני אנשים במחנה יש אומרים בקלפי נשתיירו

§ Apropos the appointment of the Elders by Moses, the Gemara discusses additional aspects of that event. There were seventy-two candidates for Elder but only seventy were needed. They were chosen by lots with their names put into a box. The Sages taught: The verse states: “And there remained two men in the camp; the name of one was Eldad and the name of the other Medad, and the spirit rested upon them, and they were among those who were written but who did not go out to the tent, and they prophesied in the camp” (Numbers 11:26). Where did they remain? Some say this means they, i.e., their names, remained excluded from those selected from the lots in the box.

שבשעה שאמר לו הקב"ה למשה אספה לי שבעים איש מזקני ישראל אמר משה כיצד אעשה אברור ששה מכל שבט ושבט נמצאו שנים יתירים אברור חמשה חמשה מכל שבט ושבט נמצאו עשרה חסרים אברור ששה משבט זה וחמשה משבט זה הריני מטיל קנאה בין השבטים

The baraita explains: At the time that the Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moses: “Gather for Me seventy men of the Elders of Israel” (Numbers 11:16), Moses said: How shall I do it? If I select six from each and every tribe, there will be a total of seventy-two, which will be two extra. But if I select five from each and every tribe, there will be a total of sixty, lacking ten. And if I select six from this tribe and five from that tribe, I will bring about envy between the tribes, as those with fewer representatives will resent the others.

מה עשה בירר ששה ששה והביא שבעים ושנים פיתקין על שבעים כתב זקן ושנים הניח חלק בללן ונתנן בקלפי אמר להם בואו וטלו פיתקיכם כל מי שעלה בידו זקן אמר כבר קידשך שמים מי שעלה בידו חלק אמר המקום לא חפץ בך אני מה אעשה לך

What did he do? He selected six from every tribe and he brought seventy-two slips [pitakin]. On seventy of them he wrote: Elder, and he left two of them blank. He mixed them and placed them in the box. He then said to the seventy-two chosen candidates: Come and draw your slips. Everyone whose hand drew up a slip that said: Elder, he said to him: Heaven has already sanctified you. And everyone whose hand drew up a blank slip, he said to him: The Omnipresent does not desire you; what can I do for you?

כיוצא בדבר אתה אומר (במדבר ג, מז) ולקחת חמשת חמשת שקלים לגולגולת אמר משה כיצד אעשה להן לישראל אם אומר לו תן לי פדיונך וצא יאמר לי כבר פדאני בן לוי

The Gemara comments: You can say something similar to this to explain the verse about the redemption of the firstborn by the Levites: “Take the Levites in place of all of the firstborn of the children of Israel…and as for the redemption of the 273 of the firstborn of the children of Israel who are in excess over the number of the Levites…you shall take five shekels per head” (Numbers 3:45–47). It can be explained that Moses said: How shall I do this for the Jews? If I say to one of the firstborns: Give me money for your redemption and you may leave, as you are among the 273 extra firstborns, he will say to me: A Levite already redeemed me; what is the reason you think that I am among those who were not redeemed?

מה עשה הביא עשרים ושנים אלפים פיתקין וכתב עליהן בן לוי ועל שלשה ושבעים ומאתים כתב עליהן חמשה שקלים בללן ונתנן בקלפי אמר להן טלו פיתקיכם מי שעלה בידו בן לוי אמר לו כבר פדאך בן לוי מי שעלה בידו חמשת שקלים אמר לו תן פדיונך וצא

What did he do? He brought 22,000 slips (see Numbers 3:39), and he wrote on them: Levite, and on 273 additional ones he wrote: Five shekels. He mixed them up and placed them in a box. He said to them: Draw your slips. Everyone whose hand drew up a slip that said: Levite, he said to him: A Levite already redeemed you. Everyone whose hand drew up a slip that said: Five shekels, he said to him: Pay your redemption money and you may leave.

רבי שמעון אומר במחנה נשתיירו בשעה שאמר לו הקב"ה למשה אספה לי שבעים איש אמרו אלדד ומידד אין אנו ראויין לאותה גדולה אמר הקב"ה הואיל ומיעטתם עצמכם הריני מוסיף גדולה על גדולתכם ומה גדולה הוסיף להם שהנביאים כולן נתנבאו ופסקו והם נתנבאו ולא פסקו

Rabbi Shimon says: Eldad and Medad remained in the camp, as they did not want to come to the lottery for the Elders. At the time that the Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moses: Gather for me seventy Elders, Eldad and Medad said: We are not fitting for that level of greatness; we are not worthy of being appointed among the Elders. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: Since you have made yourselves humble, I will add greatness to your greatness. And what is the greatness that he added to them? It was that all of the prophets, meaning the other Elders, who were given prophecy, prophesied for a time and then stopped prophesying, but they prophesied and did not stop.

ומה נבואה נתנבאו אמרו משה מת יהושע מכניס את ישראל לארץ אבא חנין אומר משום רבי אליעזר על עסקי שליו הן מתנבאים עלי שליו עלי שליו

Apropos Eldad and Medad being prophets, the Gemara asks: And what prophecy did they prophesy? They said: Moses will die, and Joshua will bring the Jewish people into Eretz Yisrael. Abba Ḥanin says in the name of Rabbi Eliezer: They prophesied about the matter of the quail that came afterward (Numbers 11:31–33), saying: Arise quail, arise quail, and then the quail came.

רב נחמן אמר על עסקי גוג ומגוג היו מתנבאין שנאמר (יחזקאל לח, ג) כה אמר ה' אלהים האתה הוא אשר דברתי בימים קדמונים ביד עבדי נביאי ישראל הנבאים בימים ההם שנים להביא אותך עליהם וגו' אל תיקרי שנים אלא שנים ואיזו הן שנים נביאים שנתנבאו בפרק אחד נבואה אחת הוי אומר אלדד ומידד

Rav Naḥman says: They were prophesying about the matter of Gog and Magog, as it is stated with regard to Gog and Magog: “So says the Lord God: Are you the one of whom I spoke in ancient days, through my servants, the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days for many years [shanim] that I would bring you against them?” (Ezekiel 38:17). Do not read it as: “Years [shanim]”; rather, read it as: Two [shenayim]. And who are the two prophets who prophesied the same prophecy at the same time? You must say: Eldad and Medad.

אמר מר כל הנביאים כולן נתנבאו ופסקו והן נתנבאו ולא פסקו מנא לן דפסקו אילימא מדכתיב (במדבר יא, כה) ויתנבאו ולא יספו אלא מעתה (דברים ה, יח) קול גדול ולא יסף ה"נ דלא אוסיף הוא אלא דלא פסק הוא

The Master says: The baraita said: All of the prophets prophesied and then stopped, but Eldad and Medad prophesied and did not stop. The Gemara asks: From where do we derive that the other prophets stopped prophesying? If we say it is from that which is written about them: “And they prophesied but they did so no more [velo yasafu]” (Numbers 11:25), that is difficult: But if that is so, then concerning that which is stated in relation to the giving of the Torah: “These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly…with a great voice, and it went on no more [velo yasaf]” (Deuteronomy 5:19), so too shall it be understood that the great voice did not continue? Rather, the intention there is that it did not stop, interpreting the word yasafu as related to sof, meaning: End. Consequently, with regard to the seventy Elders as well, the word can be interpreted to mean that they did not stop prophesying.

אלא הכא כתיב ויתנבאו התם כתיב (במדבר יא, כז) מתנבאים עדיין מתנבאים והולכים

Rather, the proof is as follows: It is written here with regard to the seventy Elders: “They prophesied” (Numbers 11:25), and it is written there: “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp” (Numbers 11:27), from which it can be derived that they were continuously prophesying.

בשלמא למ"ד משה מת היינו דכתיב (במדבר יא, כח) אדוני משה כלאם אלא למ"ד הנך תרתי מאי אדני משה כלאם דלאו אורח ארעא דהוה ליה כתלמיד המורה הלכה לפני רבו

With regard to the content of Eldad and Medad’s prophecy, the Gemara asks: Granted, according to the one who says their prophecy was that Moses will die, this is the reason for that which is written there: “And Joshua, son of Nun, the servant of Moses from his youth, answered and said: My master Moses, imprison them” (Numbers 11:28), as their prophecy appeared to be a rebellion against Moses. But according to the one who says those other two opinions with regard to the content of the prophecy, according to which their prophecy had no connection to Moses, what is the reason that Joshua said: “My master Moses, imprison them”? The Gemara answers: He said this because it is not proper conduct for them to prophesy publicly in close proximity to Moses, as by doing so they are like a student who teaches a halakha in his teacher’s presence, which is inappropriate.

בשלמא למ"ד הנך תרתי היינו דכתיב מי יתן אלא למ"ד משה מת מינח הוה ניחא ליה לא סיימוה קמיה

The Gemara asks: Granted, according to the one who says those other two opinions, this is the reason for that which is written: “And Moses said to him: Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all of the Lord’s people were prophets” (Numbers 11:29). But according to the one who says that Eldad and Medad prophesied that Moses will die and Joshua will bring Israel into the land, would it have been satisfactory to Moses that all of the people of God would utter similar prophecies? The Gemara answers: They did not conclude it before him. Moses was not aware of what they had said, but only that they were prophesying.

מאי כלאם א"ל הטל עליהן צרכי ציבור והן כלין מאיליהן:

The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of: “Imprison them [kela’em]”? The Gemara answers: Joshua said to him: Place responsibility for the needs of the public upon them, so that they will be occupied like the other Elders of Israel and they will cease [kalin] prophesying, on their own. Due to the burden of public responsibility they would not be able to be prophets.

מניין להביא עוד שלשה:

§ The mishna derives the halakha that there are twenty-three judges on a lesser Sanhedrin from the verses: “And the congregation shall judge,” and: “And the congregation shall save” (Numbers 35:24–25). The mishna understands that the term “congregation” is referring to ten judges, so that the two congregations, one in each verse, total twenty judges. The mishna then asks: From where is it derived to bring three more judges to the court? The mishna answers: The implication of the verse: “You shall not follow a multitude to convict” (Exodus 23:2), is that your inclination after a majority to exonerate is not like your inclination after a majority to convict, and a conviction must be by a majority of two.

סוף סוף לרעה ע"פ שנים לא משכחת לה אי אחד עשר מזכין ושנים עשר מחייבין אכתי חד הוא אי עשרה מזכין ושלשה עשר מחייבין תלתא הוו א"ר אבהו אי אתה מוצא אלא במוסיפין ודברי הכל ובסנהדרי גדולה ואליבא דרבי יהודה דאמר שבעים

The Gemara objects: Ultimately, you do not find an occurrence of the inclination for evil according to a majority of two judges. If eleven judges vote to acquit the defendant and twelve vote to convict, this is still only a majority of one, and if ten vote to acquit and thirteen vote to convict, they are a majority of three. With a court of twenty-three judges, there is no possible way to convict with a majority of two. Rabbi Abbahu says: You do not find such a scenario except in a case where they add two additional judges because one of the judges abstained from the deliberation, the other judges are split in their decisions, and the two added judges both vote to convict. And this is a possibility according to all tanna’im, and in a case tried by the Great Sanhedrin according to the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda, who says there are seventy judges on the Great Sanhedrin. With an even number, it is possible to have a majority of two.

וא"ר אבהו במוסיפין עושין ב"ד שקול לכתחילה פשיטא מהו דתימא האי דקאמר איני יודע כמאן דאיתיה דמי ואי אמר מילתא שמעינן ליה קמ"ל דהאי דקאמר איני יודע כמאן דליתיה דמי ואי אמר טעמא לא שמעינן ליה

And Rabbi Abbahu says: When they add additional judges, they create a court consisting of an even number of judges ab initio. The Gemara asks: Isn’t that obvious? What is the novelty in Rabbi Abbahu’s statement? The Gemara answers: Lest you say: This judge who says: I do not know, is viewed as one who is still there, and if he says something afterward, we listen to him and include him in the count, so there are actually an odd number of judges on the court; therefore, Rabbi Abbahu teaches us that this judge who says: I do not know, is viewed as one who is not still there, and if he says a reason to rule in a certain manner afterward, we do not listen to him. Consequently, the court consists of an even number of judges.

אמר רב כהנא סנהדרי שראו כולן לחובה פוטרין אותו מ"ט כיון דגמירי הלנת דין למעבד ליה זכותא והני תו לא חזו ליה

§ Rav Kahana says: In a Sanhedrin where all the judges saw fit to convict the defendant in a case of capital law, they acquit him. The Gemara asks: What is the reasoning for this halakha? It is since it is learned as a tradition that suspension of the trial overnight is necessary in order to create a possibility of acquittal. The halakha is that they may not issue the guilty verdict on the same day the evidence was heard, as perhaps over the course of the night one of the judges will think of a reason to acquit the defendant. And as those judges all saw fit to convict him they will not see any further possibility to acquit him, because there will not be anyone arguing for such a verdict. Consequently, he cannot be convicted.

א"ר יוחנן אין מושיבין בסנהדרי אלא בעלי קומה ובעלי חכמה ובעלי מראה ובעלי זקנה ובעלי כשפים ויודעים בע' לשון שלא תהא סנהדרי שומעת מפי המתורגמן

§ Rabbi Yoḥanan says: They place on the Great Sanhedrin only men of high stature, and of wisdom, and of pleasant appearance, and of suitable age so that they will be respected. And they must also be masters of sorcery, i.e., they know the nature of sorcery, so that they can judge sorcerers, and they must know all seventy languages in order that the Sanhedrin will not need to hear testimony from the mouth of a translator in a case where a witness speaks a different language.

אמר רב יהודה אמר רב אין מושיבין בסנהדרין אלא מי שיודע לטהר את השרץ מה"ת אמר רב אני אדון ואטהרנו

Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: They place on the Sanhedrin only one who knows how to render a carcass of a creeping animal pure by Torah law. The judges on the Sanhedrin must be so skilled at logical reasoning that they could even produce a convincing argument that creeping animals, which the Torah states explicitly are ritually impure, are actually pure. Rav said: I will discuss the halakha of the creeping animal and render it pure, i.e., I am able to demonstrate how it is possible to construct such a proof: