א׳ באב ה׳תשע״ז (July 24, 2017)

Sanhedrin 8a-b: An Impartial Judge

Our Gemara continues with a number of rules and regulations that the judges and courts must follow based on the instructions given by Moshe as described in the beginning of Sefer Devarim.

The Torah teaches lo takiru panim ba-mishpat (Devarim 1:17) – literally “do not recognize (respect) faces in judgment.” Rabbi Yehuda understands this to mean that when in court, the judge cannot show favoritism to someone with whom he is friendly. Rabbi Elazar suggests that it means that the judge must treat someone who he does not like as if he does not know him.

To illustrate this rule, the Gemara tells of Rav’s host who came to him on a legal matter and asked him to act as a judge. Rav argues that that relationship did not allow him to act as judge, and he asked Rav Kahana to play that role. Rav Kahana saw that the host was behaving as though he would receive preferred treatment given his relationship with Rav, and he rebuked him saying “if you listen, good and if not I will take Rav out of your ear!”

This odd statement is understood by most commentaries as meaning that he will make the host forget Rav by making it clear that Rav would not be helpful to him in any way.

In another case, Reish Lakish quotes the passage in Devarim (1:17) as obligating the judges to take up the case of a single peruta with the same interest that is devoted to a case of one hundred maneh. The Gemara objects that this is obvious, and concludes that the intention is to obligate the courts to accept cases as they come and not to deal with more prestigious cases before simpler cases.

A peruta is the smallest coin that was in use in the time of the Mishna; a single dinar contained 192 perutot, and a maneh contained 100 dinarim. As such, the 100 maneh mentioned by Reish Lakish is about two million perutot.

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