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מתני׳ דיני ממונות בשלשה גזילות וחבלות בשלשה נזק וחצי נזק תשלומי כפל ותשלומי ארבעה וחמשה בשלשה MISHNA: Cases concerning monetary law are adjudicated by three judges. Cases concerning robbery and personal injury are adjudicated by three judges. Cases concerning damage that one is responsible for because he or his property caused the damage are adjudicated by three judges as well. Likewise, cases concerning payment for half the damage, which is paid in the event that an ox whose owner has not been warned that it gored more than two times gores another animal (see Exodus 21:35); cases concerning payment of double the principal by a thief who was caught stealing (see Exodus 22:3); and cases concerning payment of four or five times the principal by a thief who slaughtered or sold a stolen ox or a lamb (see Exodus 21:37) are all adjudicated by three judges.
האונס והמפתה והמוציא שם רע בשלשה דברי ר"מ Cases concerning one who rapes or one who seduces a virgin girl, and must therefore pay the girl’s father fifty silver shekels (see Deuteronomy 22:29, Exodus 22:15); and cases concerning a defamer who falsely asserts that his wife was not a virgin when she married him, and brings false witnesses who testify that she committed adultery while betrothed to him and who must therefore pay the girl’s father one hundred silver shekels as well as receive lashes (see Deuteronomy 22:13–19): All of these are adjudicated by three judges; this is the statement of Rabbi Meir.
וחכמים אומרים מוציא שם רע בעשרים ושלשה מפני שיש בו דיני נפשות And the Rabbis say: Cases concerning a defamer are adjudicated by a court of twenty-three judges, which is the type of court authorized to judge cases of capital law, because this case includes the possibility of becoming a case of capital law. The husband brings witnesses that his wife committed adultery. If she is found guilty, she is liable to receive the death penalty. This punishment applies to the witnesses if they are exposed as conspiring witnesses.
מכות בשלשה משום רבי ישמעאל אמרו בעשרים ושלשה Cases concerning the violation of prohibitions that render one liable to receive lashes are adjudicated by three judges. The Sages stated in the name of Rabbi Yishmael: Cases concerning lashes are adjudicated by twenty-three judges.
עיבור החדש בשלשה עיבור השנה בשלשה דברי ר"מ רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר בשלשה מתחילין ובחמשה נושאין ונותנין וגומרין בשבעה ואם גמרו בג' מעוברת: The intercalation of the month is performed by a panel of three judges. The intercalation of the year, meaning the decision to add an extra month to the year when necessary, is also decided by a panel of three judges; this is the statement of Rabbi Meir. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: The deliberations begin with three judges, and they debate the matter with five judges, and they conclude the matter with seven judges, due to the significance of the decision. And Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel concedes that if they concluded the matter with only three judges, the intercalation is valid and it is a leap year.
סמיכת זקנים ועריפת עגלה בשלשה דברי ר' שמעון ר' יהודה אומר בחמשה החליצה והמיאונין בשלשה Both the laying of hands by the Sages and the breaking of the heifer’s neck in a case where a person was found murdered and it is not known who killed him (see Deuteronomy 21:1–9) are performed in front of a panel of three judges; this is the statement of Rabbi Shimon. Rabbi Yehuda says: These rituals are performed in front of five judges. Both ḥalitza, the ritual through which the yavam, a surviving brother of a married man who died without sons, frees the yevama, the widow, of her levirate bond in a case where the yavam does not wish to marry the yevama (see Deuteronomy 25:5–10), and the refusal of a girl before reaching majority to remain married to the man to whom her mother or brother married her off, are performed before a court of three judges.
נטע רבעי ומעשר שני שאין דמיו ידועין בשלשה ההקדשות בשלשה הערכין המטלטלים בשלשה ר' יהודה אומר אחד מהן כהן The halakha concerning fruit of a fourth-year sapling and second-tithe produce is that they are to be brought to Jerusalem and eaten there. If this is impractical, the produce can be redeemed and the redemption money brought to Jerusalem, where it is used to purchase food and drink. Valuation of fruit of a fourth-year sapling or second-tithe produce in cases where their value is not known is performed by three judges. The valuation of consecrated property for purposes of redemption is performed by three judges, and the valuations that are movable property (see Leviticus 27:1–8) are performed by three judges. Rabbi Yehuda says: One of the three judges must be a priest.
והקרקעות תשעה וכהן ואדם כיוצא בהן And the valuation of consecrated land is performed by nine judges and, in addition, one priest. And the valuation of a person for the purpose of a vow is performed in a similar manner to that of land.
דיני נפשות בעשרים ושלשה הרובע והנרבע בעשרים ושלשה שנאמר (ויקרא כ, טז) והרגת את האשה ואת הבהמה ואומר ואת הבהמה תהרוגו § Cases of capital law are judged by twenty-three judges. An animal that copulated with a person and an animal that was the object of bestiality are judged by twenty-three judges, as it is stated: “And if a woman approaches any animal to lie with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal” (Leviticus 20:16), and it states: “And if a man lies with an animal, he shall be put to death and you shall kill the animal” (Leviticus 20:15). In cases of bestiality, the verse juxtaposes the execution of the animal to the execution of the person, and therefore the case of the animal is adjudicated in the same way as cases of capital law.
שור הנסקל בעשרים ושלשה שנאמר (שמות כא, כט) השור יסקל וגם בעליו יומת כמיתת בעלים כך מיתת השור הזאב והארי הדוב והנמר והברדלס והנחש מיתתן בעשרים ושלשה רבי אליעזר אומר כל הקודם להורגן זכה רבי עקיבא אומר מיתתן בעשרים ושלשה: Similarly, an ox that is to be stoned because it killed a person is judged by twenty-three judges, as it is stated: “But if the ox was wont to gore in time past, and warning has been given to its owner, but he did not guard it and it kills a man or a woman the ox shall be stoned and also its owner shall be put to death” (Exodus 21:29). From this verse it is derived that just as the manner of the death of the owner, so is the manner of the death of the ox. The same halakha applies in the case of a wolf or a lion, a bear or a leopard, or a cheetah, or a snake that killed a person: Their death is decreed by twenty-three judges. Rabbi Eliezer says these dangerous animals do not need to be brought to court; rather, anyone who kills them first merits the performance of a mitzva. Rabbi Akiva says: Their death is decreed by twenty-three judges.
אין דנין לא את השבט ולא את נביא השקר ולא את כהן גדול אלא על פי בית דין של שבעים ואחד ואין מוציאין למלחמת הרשות אלא על פי בית דין של שבעים ואחד אין מוסיפין על העיר ועל העזרות אלא על פי בית דין של שבעים ואחד אין עושין סנהדריות לשבטים אלא על פי בית דין של שבעים ואחד § The court judges cases involving an entire tribe that sinned, or a false prophet (see Deuteronomy 18:20–22), or a High Priest who transgressed a prohibition that carries a possible death sentence, only on the basis of a court of seventy-one judges, i.e., the Great Sanhedrin. And the king may bring the nation out to an optional war, i.e., a war that was not mandated by the Torah and is not a war of defense, only on the basis of a court of seventy-one judges. They may extend the city of Jerusalem or the courtyards of the Temple only on the basis of a court of seventy-one judges. And they may appoint a lesser Sanhedrin of twenty-three judges for the tribes only on the basis of a court of seventy-one judges.
אין עושין עיר הנדחת אלא על פי בית דין של שבעים ואחד אין עושין עיר הנדחת בספר ולא שלש אבל עושין אחת או שתים A city may be designated as an idolatrous city, i.e., a city whose residents all practice idolatry, and therefore according to Torah law all the residents must be killed and the city must be destroyed (see Deuteronomy 13:13–19), only in accordance with the ruling of a court of seventy-one judges. Additionally, the court may not designate a city as an idolatrous city if it is on the frontier, close to the borders of Eretz Yisrael, and three adjoining cities may not be designated as idolatrous cities. But the court may designate one city, or two adjoining cities, as idolatrous cities.
סנהדרין גדולה היתה של שבעים ואחד וקטנה של עשרים ושלשה מנין לגדולה שהיא של שבעים ואחד שנאמר (במדבר יא, טז) אספה לי שבעים איש מזקני ישראל ומשה על גביהן ר' יהודה אומר שבעים § With regard to the number of judges in the different courts the mishna presents a halakhic midrash: The Great Sanhedrin was composed of seventy-one judges, and a lesser Sanhedrin was composed of twenty-three. From where is it derived that the Great Sanhedrin was composed of seventy-one judges? As it is stated: “Gather Me seventy men of the Elders of Israel, whom you know to be the Elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them into the Tent of Meeting, and they shall stand there with you” (Numbers 11:16), and together with Moses at the head of this body, there are a total of seventy-one. Rabbi Yehuda says: Moses was indeed at the head of the body, but he is not counted as part of the group. Consequently, a future Great Sanhedrin modeled after these Elders is to be composed of seventy judges.
ומנין לקטנה שהיא של עשרים ושלשה שנאמר (במדבר לה, כד) ושפטו העדה והצילו העדה עדה שופטת ועדה מצלת הרי כאן עשרים And from where is it derived that a lesser Sanhedrin is composed of twenty-three judges? As it is stated: “And the congregation shall judge between the assailant and the avenger…and the congregation shall save the manslayer from the hands of the avenger” (Numbers 35:24–25). Therefore, there must be a congregation, which consists of at least ten judges, that judges the accused and attempts to convict him, and there must be a congregation, also consisting of at least ten judges, which attempts to save the accused by finding him innocent. Together, there are twenty judges here.
ומנין לעדה שהיא עשרה שנאמר (במדבר יד, כז) עד מתי לעדה הרעה הזאת יצאו יהושע וכלב Before proceeding to derive the requirement for the final three judges, the mishna clarifies: And from where is it derived that a congregation consists of at least ten men? As it is stated concerning the spies: “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation that keep complaining about me?” (Numbers 14:27) There were twelve spies; excluding Joshua and Caleb, who did not complain, there would be ten men who are called: A congregation. Accordingly, the verses describing a congregation that attempts to convict the accused and a congregation that attempts to acquit him together add up to twenty judges.
ומנין להביא עוד שלשה ממשמע שנאמר (שמות כג, ב) לא תהיה אחרי רבים לרעות שומע אני שאהיה עמהם לטובה אם כן למה נאמר אחרי רבים להטות לא כהטייתך לטובה הטייתך לרעה הטייתך לטובה על פי אחד הטייתך לרעה על פי שנים And from where is it derived to bring three more judges to the court? From the implication of that which is stated: “You shall not follow a multitude to convict” (Exodus 23:2), I would derive that I may not convict a person on the basis of a majority but I should follow the majority to exonerate. If so, why is it stated in the same verse: “To incline after a multitude,” from which it can be understood that the majority is followed in all cases? In order to resolve the apparent contradiction it must be explained: Your inclination after the majority to exonerate is not like your inclination after the majority to convict. Your inclination after the majority to exonerate can result in a verdict by a majority of one judge. But your inclination after the majority to convict a transgressor must be by a more decisive majority of at least two. Therefore, the court must have at least twenty-two judges.