[Our tracate begins with a discussion of the the sizes of courts required to judge particular issues. Not surprisingly, larger courts are required to judge more serious issues. It is perhaps interesting to note that the seriousness of the case determines the number of judges required, but not the qualifications of the judges. The mishna is one of the longest in the talmud.]

Mishna: Monetary cases are judged by three (judges). Robbery and personal injury by three. [Rashi: Robbery in this context extends to all cases of unlawfully taking another's property, even a custodian who misappropriates a deposit. But it does not extend to a borrower who does not want to repay a loan, which is included in the general category of _monetary cases_; the question of how inclusive the term _monetary cases_ is meant to be is discussed in the gemara.]

Full and half damages, double compensation and four- or five-fold compensation are judged by three. [If I own an ox that has gored three times, I am liable for all the damage that it causes by goring (Ex. 21:36). But if my ox does not have such a history of goring, I am liable for only half of the damage that it causes (Ex. 21:35). If I steal an item, I must repay twice its value (Ex. 22:3). If I steal a sheep or a goat and slaughter it or sell it, I am must pay four times the value; and if I steal an ox and slaughter it or sell it, I must repay five times its value (Ex. 21:37).]

A rapist, a seducer, and a slanderer are judged by three; these are the words of R. Meir. [One who rapes or seduces a young virgin must either marry her or pay a fine (Ex 22:15-16 and Deut 22:28-29).

The slanderer refers to a man who claims that his wife was not a virgin at the time of marriage (Deut. 22:13-19). Such a claim has monetary significance, since it would limit the wife's rights for payment of her ketubah rights in case of divorce or the husband's death.]

But the Sages say that the slanderer is judged by 23, because it involves a capital crime. [The husband charges that she had committed adultery when she was already "betrothed" to him {a period before marriage in which she cannot be intimate with her future husband, but during which she otherwise has the status of a married woman, intercourse with whom is adulterous}. If she is indeed guilty, she and her correspondent face the death penalty (Deut. 22:22) The gemara will go into details on this later on.]

Lashes [cases in which the punishment is judicial flogging] are judged by three. R. Yishmael said: 23.

Extending the month is done by three. [Months in the halakhic calendar are either 29 or 30 days. Before our current calendar was established, the decision of the length of a month was judicial.]

Intercalation of a month [i.e., adding an entire month to the calendar to ensure that Passover falls in the Spring rather than retrogressing to the winter] is done by three. These are the words of R. Meir. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said that they start with three, discuss it with five, and conclude with seven. But if they concluded with three, it is valid.

Leaning of the elders and decapitating the heifer is done by three; R. Shimon says by five. [The person who brings a sacrifice to the Temple leans on it as part of the ritual (Levit. 1:4). If a Sanhedrin ruled erroneously and the majority of the population relied on that ruling, the court must bring a bull as acommunal offering and lean on it before it is sacrificed (Levit. 4:13-21). If a body is found between two cities, the residents of the nearest city must ritually decapitate a heifer {Deut 21:1-4}. Our mishna rules that a court of three is empowered to decide which city is the nearest.]

Halitza and refusal are by three. [Levirate marriage (Deut 25:5-10) refers to a case in which a man died without children; his brother is required to marry the widow. Should he choose not to do so, he must go through the ritual of halitza, which must be carried out before a court of three. If a minor girl's father died, her brothers and mother are empowered to marry her, but only rabbinically, because - according to the Torah - it is only the father's right. Under these circumstances, she can invalidate the marriage when she reaches the age of majority simply by expressing her refusal before a court of three.]

Fourth year fruit and Second Tithe whose value is unknown are decided by three. [The first three years of a tree's fruit cannot be eaten; the fruit of the fourth year is eaten in Jerusalem, or can be sold, with the proceeds used to buy food in Jerusalem (Levit. 19:23-24). Similarly, the tithes of the second, fourth and fifth years of every sabbatical year cycle must be eaten in Jerusalem, or sold with their proceeds used to buy food in Jerusalem (Deut. 14:22-24). If the produce has spoiled, a court of three can determine its original value.]

Consecrated items by three. [If I consecrated an item to give to the Temple treasury, and choose to give its value instead, a court of three must determine its value.]

_Erekh_ evaluations of personal property are by three. R. Yehuda says that one of the three must be a kohen. Land (is evaluated) by nine and a kohen; the same is true of a person's value. [Erekh value is a fixed value of a person, described in Lev 27:1-8, with eight different classes of people. The gemara will later discuss how there can be an erekh evaluation of personal property or land.]

Capital offenses are tried by [a court of] 23. An animal that covers (a woman, i.e., has sexual relations with her) or that is covered (by a man, i.e, is used sexually, is tried) by 23, as it is written (Lev 20;16) "thou shalt kill the woman and the beast" and it says (Lev 20:15), "[And if a man lie with a beast he shall surely be put to death] and ye shall slay the beast."

An ox to be stoned is judged by 23, as it says (Ex 21:29, referring to an ox with a history of goring who killed a person) "the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death." Just as the owner (is judged by a court of 23) so is the animal. [The gemara will later explain that the death penalty for the owner cannot be taken literally.]

A wolf or lion or bear or leopard or panther or snake (that kills a person) are sentenced to death by 23. [Rashi explains that the death penalty biblically prescribed for the ox {with a history of goring} applies to any animal that kills a person, {if its owner can be presumed to know that it is dangerous}.]

R. Eliezer says: Whoever kills them first merits. R. Akiva says: Their death is by 23. [The gemara will later explain both of these opinions.]

[The mishna now goes on to cases requiring a court of 71 judges.]

We do not judge a tribe or a false prophet or a High Priest except by a court of 71. [A "tribe" refers to a situation in which the majority of a tribe engages in idolatry. The case of a High Priest refers to a High Priest accused of a capital crime.]

And we do not declare a discretionary war except by a court of 71. [A discretionary war is distinguished from the biblically-ordained wars by Joshua to conquer the Land of Israel.]

And we do not add to the city [of Jerusalem] or the Temple courtyards except by a court of 71.

And we do not create tribal Sanhedrins (of 23) except through a court of 71.

And we do not declare a subverted town except with a court of 71. [A subverted town is one in which most residents are guilty of idolatry. Its residents are killed, and all their property is destroyed [cf Deut 13:13-19}.]

A border town cannot be declared a subverted town [Rambam explains that its destruction would make the border vulnerable to raids by the enemy]. Nor can three towns, but one or two may be.

The Great Sanhedrin was of 71, and the Lesser Sanhedrin was of 23.

What is the source that the Great one had 71? As it says (Num 11:16) "Gather unto Me seventy men of the elders of Israel," and Moses was over them [i.e., presided over the 70, making 71]. R. Yehuda says 70 [Rambam: According to R. Yehuda, Moses did not sit in the Sanhedrin, as its function was to relieve him of the duty of judging the people rather than to sit in judgement with him.].

What is the source that the Lesser (Sanhedrin) had 23? As it says (Num 35:23-25): "then the congregation shall judge [between the smiter and the avenger of blood according to these ordinances], and the congregation shall deliver [the manslayer out of the hand of the avenger of blood ...]": A congregation judges [i.e., condemns] and a congregation delivers [i.e. acquits], which makes 20.

[The mishna now proves that a "congregation" means 10.] And from where do we know that a congregation is 10? As it says (Num 14:27, regarding the spies sent to scout Canaan) "How long shall I bear with this evil congregation," excluding Joshua and Caleb [who said good things about the land, leaving an "evil congregation" of 10].

And from where do we learn that we add 3 (to the 20)? From (Ex 23:2) "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil (to condemn)" I might infer that one _does_ follow the multitude to do good [i.e, to acquit]. But if so, why does it say [in the same verse] "to turn aside after a multitude?" [Rashi: From the first part of the verse, saying that I should not follow a majority to condemmn, I understand that I must follow a majority to acquit. Therefore, the second part of the verse tells me that I _should_ follow the majority even to condemn.]

[In order to resolve the apparent contradiction, we must understand it to mean] your decision to acquit should not be like your decision to convict. Your decision to acquit can be on a single-vote majority, but your decision to convict (cannot, but) requires a two-vote majority. [Rashi: This implies a court of 22. Only with a court of 22 can there be 10 votes for acquittal and 12 votes for conviction.]

But a court cannot consist of an even number of judges [lest there be a tie vote], so we add one, for a total of 23.

And how many [residents] must be in a city for it to qualify for a (Lesser) Sanhedrin? 120. R. Nehemiah says 230, corresponding to "rulers of tens." [Ex 18:21 describes the judicial hierarchy, the lowest level of which were "rulers of tens." Each member of the Lesser Sanhedrin must be at least a ruler of ten, so the total population of the city must be at least 230.]

[We end at the end of the mishna on San 2b.]

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