Playback speed

Sanhedrin 4:4-5

Sanhedrin 4:4

Three rows of scholars sat opposite the court, each of whom knew his relative position (i.e., they sat in the order of their greatness). If they needed to appoint a new judge, they appointed someone from the first row, then someone moved from the second row to the first, someone moved from the third row to the second, and they selected a new person from the gallery and sat him in the third row. This new person would not take the seat that was just vacated; rather, he would sit at the end (and everyone else would move up a seat).

Sanhedrin 4:5

They adjured the witnesses in capital cases as follows: they would bring them in and warn them against speaking from supposition, assumptions or from hearsay, even from another witness in court or a reliable person, plus, they will be cross-examined to investigate their testimony. Also, capital cases are not like financial cases. In financial cases, a person can atone by making restitution but when it comes to capital cases, the defendant’s life and the life of his potential descendants are all on the line. We derive this from Cain, who killed his brother. Genesis 4:10 says, “the bloods of your brother cry out” - not “blood,” but “bloods,” meaning both his blood and that of his descendants. Another understanding of “bloods” is that Abel’s blood was splattered on the trees and rocks. Only one man, Adam, was originally created in order to teach us that if one destroys a single life, it’s as if he destroyed an entire world, while if one saves a single life, it’s as if he saved an entire world. Also, only one person was initially created for the sake of peace, so that no one should be able to claim lineage superior to another person, also so that heretics could not use multiple creations to support the idea of multiple deities. This also demonstrates God’s greatness because a human can stamp out many coins using the same die and they’re all identical but God “stamped out” every person from the “seal” of Adam but no two are alike. Therefore, every person should say, “The world was created for my sake.” Hearing all this, the witnesses might wonder why they should even bother testifying. Therefore,  Leviticus 5:1 says, “If he’s a witness, whether he has seen or known, if he does not tell of it (then he shall bear his sin),” (i.e., the Torah obligates us to testify). If a witness asks why he should be responsible for the potential execution of the accused, Proverbs 11:10 says, “When the wicked perish, there is joy.”

Author: Rabbi Jack Abramowitz