Sanhedrin 2 - 8
Three Steps to Twenty-Three
A sanhedrin ketanah - a lower court with the power to judge capital offenses - consisted of 23 judges.
Three steps must be taken to arrive at this number:
|The Torah speaks of "a community convicting" and "a community acquitting" regarding a capital case. Since the minimum number for a community is ten we establish that there must be enough members of the court for it to divide into two opposing factions of ten each.
|The Torah directs us to acquit a defendant even if there is only a majority of one in his favor but not to convict him unless there is a majority of at least two against him. We must therefore add two to the "convicting community" of ten.
|No court can have an even number of judges because it creates the possibility of being evenly divided and incapable of rendering a decisive judgment. We must therefore add one more judge in order to achieve an odd number.
- Sanhedrin 2a
First Things First - And Second
"The first thing a man is judged on in the World to Come,"
says Rabbi Hamnuna, "is whether he learned Torah."
A question arises regarding this statement: The Gemara in Masechta Shabbos (31a) states that judgment regarding Torah study comes only after a man is tried regarding his honesty in business.
Tosefos resolves the problem with this explanation:
There are people who study Torah but don't consider it important enough to set aside a specific schedule for such learning which he will not readily disrupt. The first thing a man is held accountable for is whether he studied Torah at all. Accountability for having a fixed schedule for learning comes only after being judged in regard to his honesty.
- Sanhedrin 7a