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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin
MISHNAH. CIVIL ACTIONS [ARE TO BE TRIED] BY THREE. EACH [LITIGANT] CHOOSES ONE, AND THE TWO JOINTLY CHOOSE A THIRD: SO HOLDS R. MEIR. BUT THE SAGES RULE: THE TWO JUDGES NOMINATE THE THIRD. EACH PARTY MAY OBJECT TO THE JUDGE CHOSEN BY THE OTHER, SO HOLDS R. MEIR. BUT THE SAGES SAY: WHEN IS THIS SO? ONLY IF THE OBJECTOR ADDUCES PROOF THAT THEY ARE EITHER KINSMEN OR [OTHERWISE] INELIGIBLE; BUT IF FIT OR RECOGNISED BY THE BETH DIN AS MUMHIN,1 THEY CANNOT BE DISQUALIFIED.
EACH PARTY MAY REJECT THE WITNESSES PRODUCED BY THE OTHER:2 SO HOLDS R. MEIR. BUT THE SAGES SAY, WHEN IS THIS SO? ONLY WHEN PROOF IS BROUGHT THAT THEY ARE EITHER KINSMEN OR [OTHERWISE] INELIGIBLE; BUT IF THEY ARE [LEGALLY] ELIGIBLE, NO ONE CAN DISQUALIFY THEM.
GEMARA. Why should each of the parties choose one [Beth din]:3 do not three [judges] suffice? — The Mishnah is meant thus: If each party chose a different Beth din, [so that one is not mutually accepted], they must jointly choose a third.4 Can then the debtor too reject [the Beth din chosen by the creditor]? Did not R. Eleazar say:5 This refers only to the creditor; but the debtor can be compelled to appear for trial in his [the creditor's] town? — It is as R. Johanan said [below]: we learnt this only in reference to Syrian lawcourts;6 and so here too; but not Mumhin.7 R. Papa said: It may even refer to Mumhin, e.g., the courts of R. Huna and R. Hisda,8 for he [the debtor] can say: Am I giving you any trouble?9
We learnt: THE SAGES RULE: THE TWO JUDGES NOMINATE THE THIRD. Now, should you think it means as we have said, viz., Beth din;10 can a Beth din, after being rejected, go and choose them another?11 Again, how interpret, EACH PARTY CHOOSES ONE?12 — But it means thus: Each [litigant] having chosen a judge, these two [litigants] jointly select a third. Why should they do so? — They said in 'the West'13 in the name of R. Zera: Since each selects a judge, and together they [the litigants] select the third, a true judgment will be rendered.14
BUT THE SAGES RULE etc. Shall we say that they15 differ in regard to the law cited by Rab Judah in the name of Rab? For Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: Witnesses may not sign a deed unless they are aware who is to sign with them:16 R. Meir thus disagreeing with the dictum of Rab Judah given in the name of Rab,17 while the Rabbis accept it?18 — No, all agree with Rab Judah's statement in Rab's name and none dispute that the [third judge] must have the consent of his colleagues; they only differ as to whether the consent of the litigants is necessary. R. Meir maintains that the consent of the litigants is also required, while the Rabbis hold, only that of the judges is required, but not that of the litigants.
The [above] text [states]: Rab Judah said in Rab's name: Witnesses may not sign a deed etc. It has been taught likewise: The fair minded19 of the people in Jerusalem used to act thus: They would not sign a deed without knowing who would sign with them; they would not sit in judgment unless they knew who was to sit with them; and they would not sit at table without knowing their fellow diners.
EACH PARTY MAY OBJECT TO THE JUDGE CHOSEN BY THE OTHER.
Has then anyone the right to reject judges? — R. Johanan said: This refers to the Syrian courts.20 But [you say that] Mumhin cannot be rejected? Surely since the last clause states, BUT THE SAGES SAY: WHEN IS THIS SO? ONLY IF THE OBJECTOR ADDUCES PROOF THAT THEY ARE EITHER KINSMEN OR [OTHERWISE] INELIGIBLE; BUT IF FIT OR RECOGNISED BY THE BETH DIN AS MUMHIN, THEY CANNOT BE DISQUALIFIED: does it not follow that R. Meir refers even to Mumhin! — It is meant thus: But if they are fit, they rank as Mumhin appointed by the Beth din, and so cannot be disqualified.
Come and hear: 'The Rabbis said to R. Meir: It does not rest with him to reject a judge who is a Mumheh for the public'?21 — Say [thus]: It does not rest with him to reject a judge whom the public has accepted as a Mumheh. It has been taught likewise: One may22 go on rejecting judges until he undertakes [that the action shall be tried] before a Beth din of Mumhin:23 this is the view of R. Meir.24
But witnesses [when not disqualified] are as Mumhin;25 yet R. Meir said: EACH PARTY MAY REJECT THE WITNESSES PRODUCED BY THE OTHER! — Surely it has been stated regarding this: Resh Lakish said: Imagine a holy mouth [sc. R. Meir] uttering such a thing!26 Read [therefore] 'THE WITNESS', [singular].27 But for what purpose is a single witness [competent]? Shall we say, for the actual payment of money?28 then his testimony is Biblically invalid! If for [the administration of] an oath, then his evidence is [legally] as trustworthy as that of two!29 — In fact, he refers to the payment of money, but it [sc. R. Meir's ruling] arises only where both parties have voluntarily accepted his testimony as equivalent to that of two witnesses. Then what does he thereby teach: that he may retract? But we have already learnt this once:30 If one says, I accept my father or thy father as trustworthy,31 or I have confidence in three herdsmen,32 R. Meir says, He may [subsequently] retract; but the Sages rule, He cannot.
1 — Both are necessary. Had he stated only the law regarding the 'fathers' it might have been assumed that only there do the Rabbis2 rule that he cannot retract, because 'my father' and 'thy father' are fit [to act as judges] in other cases; but where one witness is accepted as two, one might have thought that the Rabbis agreed with R. Meir, since he is unfit in general.3 Whilst had the law been stated in this instance, I might have thought that only here does R. Meir rule thus; but in the other case, he agrees with the Rabbis.4 Hence both are necessary. But since the first clause mentions, 'JUDGE' [singular], whilst the second reads, 'WITNESSES' [plural], it follows that it is to be taught literally?5 — Said R. Eleazar: This is a case where he [the litigant] together with another come forward to disqualify them.6 But is he empowered to do this, seeing that he is an interested party?7 — R. Aha the son of R. Ika said: [Yes;] e.g., where he makes public the ground of his objection. What objection is meant? Shall we say, an objection based on a charge of robbery? But does that rest with him, seeing that he is an interested party? Hence it must be an objection on the grounds of family unfitness.8 Now, R. Meir contends that they [sc. the litigant and his supporter] testify against the man's family,9 whilst he is automatically disqualified; and the Rabbis hold that after all said and done, he is an interested party.
When R. Dimi came [from Palestine]10 he said in R. Johanan's name: The controversy arises only where [the plaintiff said that he could produce] two pairs of witnesses. Now, R. Meir holds that the litigant is obliged to verify [his statements regarding his second set of witnesses];11 while the Rabbis say that he is not so obliged.12 But if only one pair of witnesses [are offered], all agree that they cannot be disqualified.
R. Ammi and R. Assi said in R. Dimi's presence: What if there is only one pair [of witnesses]? [You ask, what if] there is only one set? Have you not just said, 'but if only one pair of witnesses [are offered] all agree that they cannot be disqualified'? But the question is, what if the second pair is found to consist of kinsfolk or to be [otherwise] ineligible?13 — He answered them: The first witnesses have already testified.14
Others say that R. Ashi gave the above answer.
Shall we say that their [sc. R. Meir and the Rabbis'] dispute is the same as that of Rabbi and R. Simeon b. Gamaliel? For it has been taught: If one comes to be judged on the strength of a deed and hazakah;15 Rabbi said: The case must be determined by a deed.16 Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel ruled: It is determined by hazakah [alone]. But we raised this question thereon: By hazakah [only], and not by deed?17 But rather say thus: Even by hazakah [alone]. And it is an established fact that their dispute is whether the defendant is obliged to verify [his statement]!18 — No, according to the view of Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel, none [i.e. neither R. Meir nor the Rabbis] differ here;19 they only differ on the basis of Rabbi's opinion. Thus, R. Meir agrees with Rabbi. But the Rabbis can tell thee: Rabbi gives this ruling there only in the case of hazakah, which is valid proof20 only in virtue of there having been a deed.21 But here, since the legal standing of one pair is independent of the other, even Rabbi agrees that the claimant need not verify [his statements in full].
When Rabin came [from Palestine]22 he said in R. Johanan's name: The first clause [of the Mishnah]
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