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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin
Our Rabbis taught: But there remained two men in the camp.9 Some say: They [i.e., their names]10 remained in the urn.11 For when the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses, Gather unto me seventy of the elders of Israel,12 Moses said [to himself]: 'How shall I do it? If I choose six out of each tribe, there will be two more [than the required number]; if I select five, ten will then be wanting. If, on the other hand, I choose six out of one and five out of another, I shall cause jealousy among the tribes.' What did he do? — He selected six men [out of each tribe], and brought seventy-two slips, on seventy of which he wrote the word 'Elder', leaving the other two blank. He then mixed them all up, deposited them in an urn, and said to them, 'Come and draw your slips.' To each who drew a slip bearing the word 'Elder', he said, 'Heaven has already consecrated thee.' To him who drew a blank, he said: 'Heaven has rejected thee, what can I do?' Similarly, thou readest, Thou shalt take five shekels apiece by the poll.13 Moses reasoned: How shall I act toward Israel? If I say to a man, 'Give me [the shekels for] thy redemption,' he may answer, 'A Levite has already redeemed me.' What did he do? He brought twenty-two thousand slips and wrote on each, 'Levite', and on another two hundred and seventy-three he wrote, 'five shekels'. Then he mixed them up, put them into an urn and said to the people, 'Draw your slips.' To each who drew a slip bearing the word 'Levite', he said, 'The Levite has redeemed thee.' To each who drew a ticket with 'five shekels' on it, he said, 'Pay thy redemption and go.'
R. Simeon said: They14 remained in the Camp. For when the Holy One, blessed be He, ordered Moses: Gather unto me seventy of the elders of Israel, Eldad and Medad observed, 'We are not worthy of that dignity.' Thereupon the Holy One, blessed be He, said, 'Because you have humbled yourselves, I will add to your greatness yet more greatness.' And how did He add to their dignity? — In that all [the other prophets] prophesied and ceased, but their prophesying did not cease. And what did they prophesy? — They said, 'Moses shall die and Joshua shall bring Israel into the land.'
Abba Hanin said on the authority of R. Eliezer: They prophesied concerning the matter of the quails,15 [saying], 'Arise, quail; arise, quail.'
R. Nahman said: They prophesied concerning Gog and Magog.16 as it is said, Thus saith the Lord God: Art thou he of whom I spoke in old time by My servants the prophets of Israel, that prophesied in those days for many years17 that I would bring thee against them? etc.18 Read not 'shanim' [years] but 'shenayim' [two].19 And which two prophets prophesied the same thing at the same time? — Say, they are Eldad and Medad.
The Master said: 'All the other prophets prophesied and ceased, but they prophesied and did not cease.' Whence do we infer that the others ceased? Shall we say, from the verse, They prophesied 'velo yasafu' [but they did so no more]?20 If so, what of the passage. With a great voice, velo yasaf?21 Does that too mean, it went on no more?22 But that must be interpreted, It did not cease!23 — But here24 it is written, And they prophesied,25 whereas there26 it is stated, [they] were prophesying,27 i.e., they were still continuing to prophesy.
Now, according to the statement [that they prophesied] that Moses would die, [Joshua's request,] My Lord Moses, forbid them, is understandable; but on these two other views,28 why [did he say], My Lord Moses, forbid them29 — Because their behaviour was not seemly, for they were like a disciple who decides questions in the very presence of his teacher. Now, according to these two other opinions [the wish expressed by Moses,] Would that all the Lord's people were prophets29 is reasonable; but on the view [that they prophesied] that Moses would die, was he then pleased therewith? — They did not complete their prophecy in his presence. How was Moses to 'forbid them' [as Joshua requested]? He [Joshua] said to him: Lay upon them public cares, and they will cease [prophesying] of themselves.30
WHENCE DO WE LEARN THAT WE MUST FIND ANOTHER THREE? But after all, a majority of two for an adverse verdict is impossible:31 if eleven find the man not guilty and twelve find him guilty, there is still a majority of only one;32 and if there are ten for not guilty and thirteen for guilty, there is a majority of three? — R. Abbahu said: [The majority of two] is possible only where [two] judges are added,33 and then the Mishnah agrees with the opinion of all, whilst in the major Sanhedrin, it is possible in accordance with the view of R. Judah, who holds their number to be seventy.34
R. Abbahu also said: Where judges are added, an evenly-balanced court may be appointed from the very outset. But is this not obvious?35 — You might have assumed that the one who says, 'I do not know' is regarded as an existing member, and that anything he says is to be taken into consideration. We are therefore informed that he who says, 'I do not know,' is regarded as nonexistent, and if he gives a reason [for a particular verdict] we do not listen to him.
R. Kahana said: If the Sanhedrin unanimously find [the accused] guilty, he is acquitted. Why? — Because we have learned by tradition that sentence must be postponed till the morrow in hope of finding new points in favour of the defence.36 But this cannot be anticipated in this case.37
R. Johanan said: None are to be appointed members of the Sanhedrin, but men of stature, wisdom, good appearance, mature age, with a knowledge of sorcery,38 and who are conversant with all the seventy languages of mankind,39 in order that the court should have no need of an interpreter. Rab Judah said in Rab's name: None is to be given a seat on the Sanhedrin unless he is able to prove the cleanness of a reptile from Biblical texts.40 Rab said: 'I shall put forward an argument to prove its cleanness.
Sanhedrin 17bIf a snake which causes so much uncleanness through killing is clean,1 should not a reptile, which does not kill and spread uncleanness, be clean?' But it is not so, [as is proved] by comparison with an ordinary thorn.2
Rab Judah said in Rab's name: A Sanhedrin must not be established in a city which does not contain [at least] two who can speak [the seventy languages] and one who understands them. In the city of Bethar there were three and in Jabneh four [who knew how to speak them]: [viz.,] R. Eliezer, R. Joshua. R. Akiba, and Simeon the Temanite, who used to discuss before them sitting on the ground.3
An objection is raised: A Sanhedrin that has three4 [able to speak the seventy languages] is wise [capable]; if four,5 it is of the highest standard possible.6 — He7 holds the same view as the Tanna [of the following Baraitha]: It has been taught: With two, [the Sanhedrin is] wise [capable]; with three, it reaches the highest standard possible.
[The following rules apply throughout the Talmud: The statement,] 'It was argued before the Sages,' refers to Levi who argued before Rabbi. 'It was discussed before the Sages,' refers to Simeon b. Azzai, Simeon b. Zoma, Hanan the Egyptian, and Hanania b. Hakinai.8 R. Nahman b. Isaac taught that there were five: the three Simeons,9 Hanan [the Egyptian] and Hanania [b. Hakinai].
'Our Rabbis in Babylon' refers to Rab and Samuel.
'Our Rabbis in Eretz Yisrael', to R. Abba.
'The judges of the Exile', to Karna.10
'The judges of Eretz Yisrael', to R. Ammi and R. Assi.
'The judges of Pumbeditha', to R. Papa b. Samuel,
'The judges of Nehardea', to R. Adda bar Minyomi.
'The elders of Sura', to R. Huna and R. Hisda.
'The elders of Pumbeditha', to Rab Judah and R. 'Aina.
'The keen intellects of Pumbeditha', to 'Efa and Abimi, sons of Rehabah.
'The Amoraim of Pumbeditha', to Rabbah and R. Joseph.
'The Amoraim of Nehardea', to R. Hama.
'They said in the School of Rab', refers to R. Huna. But did not R. Huna himself say, 'They said in the School of Rab'? — R. Hamnuna is therefore the one referred to.
'They said in the West',13 refers to R. Jeremiah.
'A message was sent from Palestine,'14 to R. Jose b. Hanina. 'They laughed at it in the West', to R. Eleazar. But do we not read: 'A message was sent from Palestine: according to R. Jose b. Hanina …'?15 — Therefore reverse it: 'A message was sent from Palestine' refers to R. Eleazar; 'They laughed at it in the West', to R. Jose b. Hanina.
WHAT MUST THE POPULATION OF A CITY BE IN ORDER THAT IT MAY QUALIFY FOR A SANHEDRIN? A HUNDRED AND TWENTY, etc. What is the reason for that NUMBER?16 — Twenty-three, corresponding to the number of the minor Sanhedrin, and three rows of twenty-three,17 make ninety-two. Adding the ten 'batlanim'18 of the Synagogue, we have a hundred and two. Then, a further two clerks,19 two sheriffs,20 two litigants, two witnesses, two zomemim,21 and two to refute the zomemim,22 gives a hundred and fourteen in all. Moreover, it has been taught: A scholar should not reside in a city where the following ten things are not found: A court of justice that imposes flagellation and decrees penalties; a charity fund23 collected by two and distributed by three;24 a Synagogue; public baths; a convenience; a circumciser; a surgeon, a notary;25 a slaughterer26 and a school-master.27 R. Akiba is quoted [as including] also several kinds of fruit [in the list], because these are beneficial28 to the eyesight.
R. NEHEMIA SAYS, [TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY etc.]. It has been taught: Rabbi said:
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