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Home -- Content: Series 7 (Laws) -- Translation: English -- Book: 1 (Tora) -- Part: 1 (Positive) -- Command: 176 -- Text
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The Sharia of Moses in the TORA
Part 1 - The 248 Positive Commandments of the Tora

176 - APPOINTING JUDGES AND OFFICERS OT THE COURT


Deuteronomy 16:18 -- "You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the LORD your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.”

For every city with a sufficient number of inhabitants (a minimum of 120) twenty-three judges – constituting the Lesser Sanhedrin – are to be appointed. In Jerusalem there is to be appointed the Great Court of seventy judges, and over these seventy a Head of the Assembly, who is also called by the sages the Nasi (i.e. Prince).

The appointment of all these courts, namely the Greater and Lesser Sanhedrin, the Court of Three (Judges), and the rest, can take place only in the Land of Israel, outside which there is no ordination.

On the object of this commandment Maimonides says: “If sinners and robbers were not punished, injury would not be prevented at all: and persons scheming evil would not become rarer. They are wrong who suppose that it would be an act of mercy to abandon the laws of compensation for injuries; on the contrary, it would be perfect cruelty and injury to the social state of the country. It is an act of mercy that God commanded, You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates.”*

* Moreh Nebuchim III, 35

On the qualifications of any ordinary judge in Israel Maimonides states: “Though as regards (the judges presiding in) a court of three no such exacting conditions need be observed as have been specified in connection with those presiding in the Great Court , each of them (nevertheless must possess the following seven qualifications: wisdom, meekness, fear (of Heaven), disdain for money, love of truth, being beloved of his fellow-men, and being the possessor of a good name. All these qualifications are expressly stated in the Torah. The words Choose wise, understanding (Deuteronomy 1:13) refer to men of wisdom, and (the words), and knowledgeable men from among your tribes (ibid.), to men beloved of their fellow men; and what should endear them to their fellow-men is that they are possessed of a ‘good eye’ (being content with what they have, and free from all manner of covetousness), are meek in the extreme and of pleasing conduct in company, gentle in their manner of address and in all their dealings with their fellow-men. Again, the words, Moreover you shall select from all the people able men (Exodus 18:21) refer to such men as are indomitable in their observance of the commandments, extremely exacting in their conduct – so completely mastering all evil inclinations as to be free from the possibility of disgrace or evil name – and extremely commendable in their demeanor in all ways. The words able men further imply that the men in question possess extraordinary courage in their readiness to relieve the oppressed from his oppressor, as it is said, But Moses stood up and helped them (ibid. 2: 17). Just as Moses, our teacher was ever meek in the extreme. (Again, the words,) such as fear God (Exodus 18:21), obviously refer to God-fearing men, and (the words,) hating covetousness (ibid.), to men who are not overmuch attached even to their own wealth, and pursue not riches – since want is bound to overtake him that is overmuch attached to riches (Proverbs 28: 22). (The words,) men of truth (Exodus 18:21), refer to such men as pursue righteousness from sheer love thereof – being inherently minded to do so – loving truth and hating violence, and shunning all manner of injustice.”*

* Mishneh Torah, Shoftim, Hilchoth Sanhedrin II, 7

The appointment of judges throughout the Land of Israel was one of the functions of the Great Sanhedrin.*

* ibid., 8

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