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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 14a

these laws might have been abolished; because once the wicked Government,1  [as an act of religious persecution],2  decreed that whoever performed an ordination should be put to death, and whoever received ordination should he put to death, the city in which the ordination took place demolished, and the boundaries3  wherein it had been performed, uprooted. What did R. Judah b. Baba do? He went and sat between two great mountains, [that lay] between two large cities; between the Sabbath boundaries of the cities of Usha and Shefaram4  and there ordained five elders:5  viz., R. Meir, R. Judah, R. Simeon, R. Jose and R. Eliezer b. Shamua'. R. Awia adds also R. Nehemia in the list. As soon as their enemies discovered them he [R.J.b.B.] urged them: 'My children, flee.' They said to him, 'What will become of thee, Rabbi?' 'I lie before them like a stone which none [is concerned to] overturn,'6  he replied. It was said that the enemy did not stir from the spot until they had driven three hundred iron spear-heads into his body, making it like a sieve.7  — With R. Judah b. Baba were in fact some others, but in honour to him, they were not mentioned.

Was R. Meir indeed ordained by R. Judah b. Baba? Did not Rabbah b. Bar Hannah say in R. Johanan's name: He who asserts that R. Meir was not ordained by R. Akiba is certainly in error? — R. Akiba had indeed ordained him, but the ordination was not acceptable;8  while R. Judah b. Baba's later ordination, on the other hand, was accepted.

R. Joshua b. Levi said: There is no ordination outside Palestine. What is to be understood by, 'There is no ordination'? Shall we assert that they9  have no authority at all to adjudicate cases of Kenas10  outside Palestine?11  But have we not learnt: The Sanhedrin has competence both within and without Palestine! — This must therefore mean that ordination cannot be conferred outside Palestine.

It is obvious, that if the ordainers are outside Palestine and those to be ordained in Palestine, [then] surely as has been said, they cannot be ordained. But what if the ordainers are in Palestine, and those to be ordained outside? — Come and hear: [It is related] of R. Johanan that he was grieved when R. Shaman b. Abba was not with them [in Palestine] to receive his ordination. [Again it is related of] R. Simeon b. Zirud and another who was with him, viz., R. Jonathan b. Akmai, or according to others [who invert the order,] R. Jonathan b. Akmai and another who was with him, viz., R. Simeon, b. Zirud,12  that the one who was with them was ordained, and the other, who was not, was not ordained.13

R. Johanan was very anxious to ordain R. Hanina and R. Oshaia, but his hope could not be realised,14  and it grieved him very much. They said to him: Master, you need not grieve, for we are descendants of the house of Eli.15  For R. Samuel b. Nahman, quoting R. Jonathan, said: Whence do we learn that none of the house of Eli are destined to be ordained? — From the verse, And there shall be no zaken16  [old man] in thy house for ever.17  What does the word 'zaken' mean [here]? Shall we say, literally, 'an old man', but it is written [immediately after], and all the increase of thy house shall die [young] men! — It must therefore refer to ordination.18

R. Zira used to hide himself to avoid ordination, because R. Eleazar had said: Remain always obscure,19  and [so] live.20  But later, having heard yet another saying of R. Eleazar, viz., One does not attain greatness unless all his sins are forgiven,21  he himself strove [to obtain it]. When they ordained him, they22  sang before him, 'Neither paint nor rouge nor [hair-]dye, yet radiating charm.'23

When the Rabbis ordained R. Ammi and R. Assi, they sang thus of them: Only such men, only such men ordain ye for us, but ordain not for us any of the 'sarmitin' and 'sarmisin', or as some say, 'hamisin' or 'termisin'.24

When R. Abbahu arrived at the Emperor's Court25  from College, the ladies of the court went out to receive him and sang to him: Great man of thy people, leader of thy nation, lantern of light, thy coming be blessed with peace.

BREAKING THE HEIFER'S NECK IS BY THREE. Our Rabbis taught: And thy Elders and thy judges shall come forth.26  'Elders' [indicates] two; [similarly,] 'judges', two. And as a court must not be evenly-balanced, another is added; hence there are five: this is R. Judah's view. R. Simeon says: 'Elders' indicates two, and as a court cannot consist of an even member, another is added, making three in all. Now, according to R. Simeon, what purpose is served by the words 'thy judges'? — It is needed, in his view, to indicate the necessity of choosing the most distinguished of 'thy judges'.27  And R. Judah?28  — [He deduces it] from the pronominal suffix [appended] to Zaken.29  And R. Simeon? — [He maintains:] Had 'elders' [alone] been written,30  I might have said that it refers to [any] old men of the street.31  Hence the Torah says: 'thy elders'.32  Yet had 'thy elders' [alone] been written, I might have said that it refers to [the members of] the minor Sanhedrin. Therefore Scripture wrote, 'thy judges', to indicate that the reference is to the most distinguished of 'thy judges'.33  And R. Judah?34  — He derives this35  from a comparison of the word elders [as used here]36  and in the verse, And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands [on the head of the bullock].37  Just as there, the most distinguished of the congregation38  [are necessary],39  so here, too, the most distinguished of thy elders [are required]. But if this deduction be made, let us infer everything from that passage!40  and what need then is there for 'thy elders' and 'and thy judges'? — But [we should say: In R. Judah's opinion,] the [superfluous] waw [and] of, and thy judges, intimates the number.41  And R. Simeon42  — He does not employ the conjunction 'waw' for interpretative purposes.

But according to this line of argument, we might further deduce from the clauses, and they shall come forth, and, and they shall measure — each indicating two — that nine should be required, in R. Judah's opinion, and seven in R. Simeon's? — But these clauses are necessary, even as it has been taught: And they shall come forth, [meaning,] they, and not their deputies. And they shall measure; in all circumstances, even when the corpse is found

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. That of Hadrian, in the second century.
  2. [[H] given in some versions, v. D.S.]
  3. Heb. [H] denotes the boundaries without the town, as far as which one may go on the Sabbath. That such was meant here is evident from the following passage, which states that Judah b. Baba chose a spot between two Sabbath boundary lines.
  4. Two Galilean cities prominent in the second century as places of refuge for the Sanhedrin. His purpose was that no city or region should suffer.
  5. Persons ordained bore the title of 'zaken'.
  6. I.e., as something worthless: let them do their worst.
  7. Hence it is evident that even one person was authorised to bestow the degree of Rabbi.
  8. Lit., 'they did not accept (him)', because of R. Meir's youth at the time (Rashi). [Herford, R.T., Pirke Aboth, 108, suggests a probable explanation, viz. that R. Akiba had ordained him while on one of his journeys on which R. Meir accompanied him (v. Yeb. 121a). Such an ordination, having been performed outside the land, would not be recognised as valid. V. infra.]
  9. Who have been ordained in Palestine.
  10. V. Glos.
  11. That is, ordination, even if conferred in Palestine, is of no avail outside Palestine for such cases.
  12. The order is intended to show who was the principal ordainer and who was his assistant.
  13. Hence, a scholar outside Palestine cannot be ordained.
  14. Because when they were with him, he could not procure another two to assist him, ordination requiring a board of three.
  15. And therefore cannot receive that dignity. V. infra.
  16. [H]
  17. I Sam, II, 32.
  18. I.e., there shall be no ordained person, etc. [H], accordingly, is understood in its Rabbinical connotation, 'one who has acquired wisdom', viz., an ordained Rabbi,
  19. I.e., without office.
  20. V. infra 92a.
  21. I.e., office brings with it moral improvement.
  22. The schoolmen.
  23. A snatch of a song sung at weddings in honour of the bride (Rashi).
  24. Interpretations of these words are varied. Jastrow says that it was a jest at Talmudic scholars using foreign words, and translates: Do not ordain for us any of those using words like 'sermis' (semis), 'sermit', (prob. distortion of 'tremis') 'hemis' and 'tremis'. Krupnik-Silberman translate, 'superficial scholars' (halbwisser). Dalman suggests, 'half-wits' and 'third-wits' (idiots and madmen).
  25. At Caesarea where his academy was.
  26. Deut. XXI, 2.
  27. I.e., members of the Great Sanhedrin.
  28. Whence does he deduce this?
  29. [H], thy.
  30. Alone, without the suffix.
  31. I.e., any people advanced in age.
  32. 'Thy' intimates that the reference is to distinguished elders.
  33. I.e., members of the Great Sanhedrin.
  34. How does he know that neither old men in general nor the members of the minor Sanhedrin are meant?
  35. The law that they must be members of the Great Sanhedrin.
  36. Deut. XXI, 2.
  37. Lev. IV, 15.
  38. I.e., the Great Sanhedrin.
  39. Cf. supra 13b.
  40. I.e., the number of Elders also.
  41. In truth, he does not employ the analogy, but derives the necessity of the presence of the Great Sanhedrin from the pronominal suffix to shofet ('thy judges') and their number, again from the conjunction 'waw', for it could have been written, And they shall go forth, thy elders, thy judges.
  42. Who requires only three.

Sanhedrin 14b

at the entrance of a town, measurement must be made.

Our Mishnah1  is not in accord with the following Tanna. For it has been taught: R. Eliezer b. Jacob says, Thy elders and thy judges shall come forth.2  'Thy elders', refers to the Sanhedrin; 'and thy judges', to the King and High Priest. [That it 'refers to] the King' is deduced from the verse, The King by justice establisheth the land.3  'The High Priest', as it is written, And thou shalt come unto the Priests, the Levites and unto the Judges.4

The schoolmen asked: Does R. Eliezer b. Jacob differ from the Mishnah in one thing, or in two? Does he differ only with respect to the King and High Priest,5  but as to the [number of the members of the] Sanhedrin, [he agrees with] either R. Judah or R. Simeon; or does he differ on that point too, requiring the whole Sanhedrin to come forth? — Said R. Joseph: Come and hear! If he [sc. the rebellious elder]6  found them7  at Beth Pagi,8  and there rebelled against their decision, one might assume that his rebellion was punishable.9  Scripture therefore declares, And then shalt thou arise and get thee up unto the place,10  [thus teaching] that it is the place that conditions [the act].11  Now, how many had gone out? If only part of the Sanhedrin [how could the elder be condemned?] Perhaps those remaining inside would have agreed with him? It is clear therefore that the whole of the Sanhedrin must have gone out, But if so, for what? Shall we say, for a secular purpose! Are they then permitted to go out? Is it not written, Thy navel is like a round goblet wherein no mingled wine is wanting?12  Hence it was obviously for a religious purpose, and for what else, if not for measuring in connection with the heifer, the author of the passage being R. Eliezer b. Jacob, who holds that the attendance of the whole Sanhedrin is required?13  Abaye retorted: No; they might have gone out for the purpose of enlarging the city14  or the Temple court-yards, as we learnt: The city or the Temple court-yards may be enlarged only by [the sanction of] a court of seventy-one.15

The following Baraitha agrees with R. Joseph:16  If he17  met them18  at Beth Pagi and rebelled against their decision, when, for example, they had gone out for the purpose of measuring in connection with the heifer, or for the enlargement of the city or the Temple Courtyards, you might assume that his rebellion is culpable;19  but it is written, — And thou shalt arise and get thee up to the place,20  to teach that it is the place that conditions [the act].

THE VALUATION OF THE FOURTH YEAR'S FRUIT, AND THE SECOND TITHE THE VALUE OF WHICH IS NOT KNOWN, IS BY THREE. Our Rabbis taught: What kind of second tithe has no established price? Decayed fruit, wine that has grown a skin,21  and rusty coins.22

Our Rabbis taught: The second tithe that has no fixed price is to be redeemed [at the valuation of] three [experienced] dealers, but not by three who are inexperienced.23  Even a Gentile or the owner may be amongst the assessors. R. Jeremiah propounded: What of three who are business partners,24  [can they be appointed valuers]? — Come and hear! 'A man and his two wives may redeem the second tithe of unknown value.'25  Perhaps in a case such as that of R. Papa and [his wife], the daughter of Abba from Sura.26

DEDICATION IS BY THREE. Our Mishnah is not in accordance with the following Tanna: For it has been taught: R. Eliezer b. Jacob said: Even a hook of the sanctuary requires ten persons [to assess it] for its redemption.27

R. Papa said to Abaye: As to R. Eliezer b. Jacob's opinion, it is well, its grounds being Samuel's dictum. For Samuel said: There are ten Biblical references to Priest in the Chapter.28  But whence do the Rabbis learn that only three [are required]? And should you answer: Because it [sc. the word Priest] appears three times in relation thereto;29  then since with reference to land [redemption] the word appears four times, let four be sufficient? And should you say that this is indeed so, have we not learnt: THE VALUATION OF LAND REQUIRES NINE PERSONS AND A PRIEST? But what [will you say]? — That this is because with these verses the ten references are completed? Then should not other consecrated objects,30  with the section on which six such references are completed, require six assessors? The difficulty was not solved.

THE ASSESSMENT OF MOVABLE OBJECTS etc. What is meant by THE ASSESSMENT OF MOVABLE OBJECTS?31  R. Giddal, reporting Rab, says: For example, one who says, 'I undertake to give the value of this vessel';32  for, R. Giddal said, reporting Rab:

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Which requires only members of the Sanhedrin to come forth.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Prov. XXIX, 4. The deduction is based on the cognate words 'judges' and 'justice', whence it follows that the same person is meant in both.
  4. Deut. XVII, 9.
  5. Viz., that they must come forth,
  6. Deut. XVII, 8.
  7. The Sanhedrin.
  8. 'The house of figs', a place within the walls of Jerusalem, which is treated as Jerusalem in all matters. The place cannot be exactly identified. V. Neubauer, Geographie, 147ff.
  9. Lit., 'is a rebellion', which is punishable by strangulation.
  10. Deut. XVII, 8.
  11. I.e., on the Temple Mount alone can a rebellious elder be judged. (V. infra 87a).
  12. Cant. VII, 3. I.e., if one wished to leave, it must be seen that twenty-three remain. Cf. infra 37b.
  13. Thus proving that he differs in both matters.
  14. Of Jerusalem.
  15. Shebu. 14a.
  16. Who assumes that their purpose was for measuring in connection with the heifer.
  17. The rebellious elder.
  18. The Sanhedrin.
  19. V. p. 67, n. 10.
  20. Deut. XVII, 8.
  21. Gone sour.
  22. I.e., if the second tithe was redeemed, and the redemption money became rusty, and lost its face value, the coins must be assessed and redeemed (i.e., exchanged) for others of current acceptance.
  23. Lit., 'who are not dealers'.
  24. Lit., 'Three who throw into one purse'.
  25. And those have a common purse.
  26. Who traded on her own, and he had therefore no share in her profits (cf. Keth. 39a).
  27. V. infra 88a.
  28. Relating to the laws of Redemption; thrice in reference to human beings, Lev. XXVII, 8; thrice in reference to beasts; ibid. 11-13, and four times in reference to land, ibid. 14, 18, 23, — from which he deduces the need of ten persons for valuation.
  29. I.e., in the section dealing with the redemption of animals, and presumably the same applies to the redemption of all forms of hekdesh.
  30. Such as unclean beasts.
  31. For the laws of assessment in Lev. XXVII comprise only men, beasts and land.
  32. To the Sanctuary.