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Sanhedrin, 17


QUESTION: The Gemara discusses the prophecies of Eldad and Meidad who reached a high level of prophecy after they were not accepted as part of the seventy elders when the Jewish people were traveling in the desert. One opinion says that they were prophesying that "Moshe will die and Yehoshua will lead Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael." Another opinion says that they were prophesying about the incident of the Slav (the birds which Hashem sent after the Jewish people complained about the lack of meat). A third opinion says that they were foretelling what would happen at the end of the days during the War of Gog and Magog.

The Gemara asks that according to the latter two opinions, we understand why -- when he heard that they were prophesying -- Moshe joyfully said, "If only all of Hashem's nation would be prophets!" (Bamidbar 11:29). According to the first opinion, though, which says that their prophecy was an inauspicious one for the fate of Moshe, why did Moshe exclaim that everyone should have such prophecy? The Gemara answers that when the prophecy of Eldad and Meidad was reported to Moshe, "they did not complete it in front of him," implying that the report omitted the part about Moshe's death.

How could the report have omitted the part about Moshe's death, if that was the very first part of their prophecy? How does the Gemara answer its question by saying that "they did not complete it in front of him?"


(a) The ARUCH LA'NER prefaces his answer by citing the Gemara in Sotah (14a). The Gemara there asks why Moshe yearned to go into Eretz Yisrael -- "Did he want to eat its fruits?" the Gemara asks rhetorically. The Gemara answers that he wanted to fulfill the Mitzvos that can be performed only in Eretz Yisrael. The Aruch la'Ner says that Moshe was not concerned with dying; he did not beg to be permitted to enter Eretz Yisrael in order to delay his death. Rather, he wanted to be able to fulfill all of the Mitzvos of the Torah.

Accordingly, when Moshe was informed of the first part of the prophecy of Eldad and Meidad -- that he was going to die, he was not concerned with that information, because he expected that he would die in the near future. However, those who brought him the report did not tell him about the second part of the prophecy -- that Yehoshua would lead the nation into Eretz Yisrael. It was that second part of the prophecy that would have caused Moshe great anguish, due to his great yearning to fulfill all of the Mitzvos. This is what the Gemara means when it answers that "they did not complete" the prophecy in front of Moshe. Since they made no mention of the part of the prophecy that said that Moshe would not enter Eretz Yisrael, Moshe had no reason to feel distressed about their prophesying.

(b) The CHOCHMAS MANO'ACH explains simply that the Gemara means that they told him that Eldad and Meidad were prophesying, but they did not tell him *what* they were prophesying.

(c) The PIRCHEI SHOSHANIM explains that we know that there is a principle that a good prophecy is never rescinded, while a bad prophecy can be repealed. While the prophecy about the death of Moshe certainly was bad, the prophecy about Yehoshua becoming the leader certainly good. Therefore, as long as they did not reveal the last part of the prophecy ("they did not complete it in front of him"), Moshe could maintain that the prophecy of his death could be easily repealed, and thus he was able to ignore the actual prophecy and rejoice at the fact that they were prophesying. (See additional approach cited (and rejected) by MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM; see also YA'AROS DEVASH 1:13.) (Y. Montrose)

QUESTION: Rav Kahana states that when all of the judges of the Beis Din unanimously decide that the defendant is guilty in a case of capital punishment, he is automatically exonerated from punishment -- "Potrin Oso."

The Gemara explains that the reason for this is because Beis Din is required to delay the final judgment until the next day so that the judges will be able to think of reasons to exonerate the defendant. In this case, though, none of the judges will be able to find a way to exonerate him, since they all ruled that he is guilty, and therefore the condition waiting until the next day cannot be fulfilled.

Why, though, does the punishment of the perpetrator depend on fulfilling this condition? The purpose of waiting until the next day is to give more time to the judges to find a reason to exonerate him. If there clearly is no reason to exonerate him, then why does the lack of ability to wait until the next day invalidate the Beis Din's authority to put him to death?


(a) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Sanhedrin 9:1) learns that whenever all of the members of the Great Sanhedrin agree to the defendant's guilt in a case of capital punishment, the defendant is deemed innocent. (The RADVAZ questions why the Rambam says this only with regard to the Great Sanhedrin of seventy-one judges, when the Gemara itself does not differentiate between the Great Sanhedrin and any Beis Din of twenty-three judges. He suggests that perhaps the Rambam is saying that *even* in the case of the Great Sanhedrin ruling unanimously that the defendant is guilty, the defendant is exonerated, and we should not think that the greatest judges in the nation cannot be wrong and thus this law does not apply to them.)

What does this mean, though? If all of the greatest sages agree on a certain matter, then it should be clear that this is the truth! The MAHARAL explains that a judgement must be a totally pure and straight matter. If all of the judges see that they and their colleagues have decided already that the person is guilty, than no one that night will make a serious attempt to find a way to prove the defendant's innocence. If the Torah asserts that it really cannot be clear to a human judge unless he deliberates the matter overnight, then this deliberation *must* take place, and when it cannot take place the defendant is exonerated. If he is indeed guilty, the Maharal says, then the Judge of the world will deal with him appropriately.

(b) The RASH ALGAZI quotes RABEINU MEIR as explaining that "Potrin Oso" does not mean that we exempt him, but rather that he kill him immediately, without having to wait until the next day. According to this explanation, the Gemara's reasoning is that since the judges do not need to deliberate on the matter because it is a clear case of guilt, they should administer the punishment right away and not wait until the next day. Moreover, it is *prohibited* to wait until the next day, because delaying the punishment causes more distress and anguish to the defendant ("Inuy ha'Din"). (Some also say that this is the opinion of the SMAK.) (Y. Montrose)


OPINIONS: Rav Yehudah in the name of Rav says that we do not establish a Sanhedrin (a Beis Din of twenty-three judges) in "any city which does not have two people to speak and one person to hear." What does this mean?

(a) RASHI explains that "two people to speak" means that there must be at least two people in the city who are able to speak all seventy languages. "One person to hear" means that there also must be at least one person who is able to understand all seventy languages even though he cannot speak them.

The RAN explains that Rashi means that there must be at least three judges of the court who are able to hear testimony from witnesses in whatever language the witnesses might speak.

The RAN himself, however, questions Rashi's explanation. He says that Rashi seems to hold that all of the judges in a Beis Din of twenty-three judges do not need to hear the testimony of witnesses themselves, but rather only three of them need to hear the testimony, even in a case of capital punishment. However, we know that there is a rule that all of the judges are required to hear (and understand) the testimony directly from the witnesses. If the other judges hear the testimony only from the three judges who understood it, then that is considered "Ed mi'Pi Ed," hearing the testimony from a secondary source.

The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM answers the Ran's question on Rashi's explanation by saying that there is no problem of "Ed mi'Pi Ed" when a proper Beis Din (of three judges) hears the testimony directly from the witnesses. He mentions that this is also the opinion of RAV SA'ADYAH GA'ON (see RAMBAN to Devarim 19:15). It is not clear, though, how this answers the question on Rashi. Even if "Kabalas Edus," hearing the testimony of witnesses, suffices with three of the judges, the other judges still need to be informed of the testimony in order to be able to judge the case. When the three judges tell them the testimony, although it is not a problem of "Ed mi'Pi Ed" (since the testimony was already accepted by the three judges on behalf of the entire Beis Din and it does not need to be formally repeated as Edus), nevertheless the judges who heard the testimony are now serving as witnesses in conveying the information to the other judges, and thus they should not be able to serve as judges ("Ein Ed Na'aseh Dayan")!

The KEHILOS YAKOV (#12) explains that when the three judges convey the testimony to the rest of the court, they do so by first issuing a P'sak Din, a formal ruling, about the testimony that they heard from the witnesses. The rest of the court (including the three judges who heard the testimony) then judge the case based on this P'sak Din. This is learned from the Gemara in Bava Basra (165b) which discusses a case in which one witness testifies in front of one Beis Din, and a second witness testifies in front of another Beis Din. The Gemara says that the two courts may come together and judge the case. It would appear problematic, though, for the two courts to come together and judge the case, because each court needs to relate to the other court the testimony that it heard from one witness, and even though the "Kabalas Edus" of the testimony of each witness was done properly (by a court of three judges), nevertheless the fact that the judges of each court now have to convey that information to the other court should create a problem of "Ein Ed Na'aseh Dayan." The RABEINU YONAH (cited by the Shitah Mekubetzes there) explains that each Beis Din issues a P'sak Din stating the details of the "Kabalas Edus" that it performed. When the two courts then come together, one court is not judging the case based on the testimony that it is hearing from the other court, but rather each court is judging the case based on the P'sak Din of the other court that there was a witness who testified with such-and-such testimony. It then is considered as though each Beis Din has received the testimony of the two witnesses. (For further discussion on the issue of how many judges may hear the testimony in a capital case, see OR SAME'ACH, Hilchos Sanhedrin 13:7. See also AVI EZRI of Rav Shach zt'l, Hilchos Edus 4:4, for an entirely different approach to explaining the view of Rashi.)

(b) The RAN explains instead that this statement has nothing to do with languages, nor with three judges. Rather, it means that two people in the city *besides* the Sanhedrin must be able "to speak" in the entire Torah, with a comprehensive knowledge of all areas of Torah. "One person to hear" means that *one* of those two must be able to listen and respond to any question right away (as described in Kidushin 30a). The Ran states that this is also the opinion of the RAMBAM (Hilchos Sanhedrin 1:5). (The RADVAZ also understands this to be how the RAMBAM explains the Gemara. Accordingly, the LECHEM MISHNEH changes the Girsa of the Gemara to be referring to only two people, and not three. According to the way that the Ran learns, however, it does not seem necessary to change the Girsa to understand that the Gemara is referring to only two people.)

(c) The KESEF MISHNEH agrees with the Ran concerning the basic meaning of "two people to speak" and "one person to hear," but he argues and says that the Rambam is not saying that there must be two such people in the city *besides* the members of the Sanhedrin. Rather, he says that the Rambam understands that the Gemara is referring to the members of the Sanhedrin its elf. It is teaching that one member of the Sanhedrin must be knowledgeable in the entire Torah, and one must have the special quality of listening and responding to any question in any area of Torah. The other members of the Sanhedrin do not need to be experts in the entirety of Torah, but rather in different areas of the Torah. (Y. Montrose)

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