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Sanhedrin of Seventy

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Topic: Anshei Knesset Hagedola, Why 120 Members

Avraham Shimon Becher age 11 wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

The Anshei Knesset Hagedola had 120 judges. I think the Talmud says that you're not meant to have an even numbered beit din (rabbinical court) so as to avoid a tied vote. So how could the Anshei Knesset Hagedola have 120 judges?


Dear Avraham Shimon Becher,

The Anshei Knesset Hagedola was not a beit din for the purpose of judging civil or criminal cases. The maximum beit din in that regard was 71 members, like the "Beit Din Hagadol" also known as the "Sanhedrin Gedola." This number is derived from the verse in the Torah where G-d tells Moshe to gather 70 elders; including Moshe himself there were 71.

Rather, the Anshei Knesset Hagedola was a body that issued Rabbinic enactments, compiled parts of the Bible and instituted the blessings and prayers.

Sources:

  • Bamidbar 11:16
  • Sanhedrin 2a, 3a & 40a
  • Megillah 2a
  • Bava Basra 15b
  • Berachos 33a


 
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