Sanhedrin, Chapter One, Mishnah Two

 

Introduction

Mishnah two continues to list the numbers of judges needed for different types of cases.

 

Mishnah Two

1)                     [Cases concerning offenses punishable by] beating [are decided] by three.

a)                                           In the name of Rabbi Yishmael they said twenty-three.

2)                     The intercalation of the month and intercalation of the year [are decided] by three, according to Rabbi Meir.

a)                                           Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says:  “The matter is begun by three, discussed by five, and decided upon by seven. But if they decided upon it with three, the intercalation is valid.”

 

Explanation

Section one:  According to Deut. 25:1-3, in certain cases a criminal is punished by beating through lashes.  According to Rabbi Yishmael, although this is not truly a capital case, it nevertheless must be adjudicated by twenty-three probably because they occasionally will lead to death.

Section two:  A month according to the Jewish calendar is 29 or 30 days.  The court would decide each month whether the month should have 29 or 30 days.  This was the intercalation of the month.  The intercalation of the year was the decision whether or not to add another month of Adar (the twelfth month of the Jewish year if we begin counting at Nisan) in order to turn the twelve month year into a thirteen month year.  According to Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel, the process of the intercalation of the year is such a serious matter that it must be discussed by more than three judges.  The process is begun with three.  If they agree to intercalate the year two more judges are added.  If they still agree then yet another two judges are added.  If the seven agree then the year becomes intercalated.  However, if they decided with only three judges the intercalation is nevertheless valid.

 

Questions for Further Thought:

·                      Why do you think Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel considered the intercalation of the year to be such an important issue?

 

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