Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Sanhedrin 18

Sanhedrin 18 continues a discussion which commences on Sanhedrin 17b about the numbers of residents a city must have in order to merit the installation of a Sanhedrin Kitana (a twenty three Judge unit). The discussion relates to the first Mishna of the mesechta which mentioned the machlokes between the Tanna Kamma and R' Nechemiah about the number of residents required in order to merit a Sanhedrin Kitana. The Tanna Kamma states that there must be at least 120 residents, while R' Nechemiah states that there must be at least 230 residents.

Following the completion of the discussion of the number of residents (the gemara does not resolve the issue and even adds in additional positions) the perek closes with a link to Yisro's suggestion to Moshe to appoint magistrate judges to assist with judging the Jews. During this conversation (found in Shemos 18:21) Yisro tells Moshe to appoint judges over the thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.

The gemara relates that since there were six hundred thousand Jews in the midbar, the "thousands" category had six hundred magistrates, the "hundreds" category had six thousand, the "fifties" category had twelve thousand judges and the "tens" category had sixty thousand - thus there were 78,600 assistant judges to Moshe.

Tosafos (d'h Nimtzu) points out the obvious problem - if we deduct the supervisor judges in the "thousands", "hundreds" and "fifties" categories from the 600,000 Jews in the midbar, then there are only 581,538 Jews in the "tens" category and there should only be 58,153 magistrates to judge them - not 60,000.

Tosafos offers two answers to the question. The first answer given is that the judges were more than sixty years old and thus were not members of the class of 600,000. The second answer Tosafos gives is that initially the 60,000 judges who were in the "tens" category were selected. Afterwards, the best of the "tens" were selected as the "fifties" the best of the "fifties" were chosen as "hundreds" and the best of the hundreds were chosen as the "thousands."

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