Sanhedrin 16 - 22
The Object of Objectivity
Every Rabbinical court had to be totally objective in deciding the case before it. Even the slightest favor received from one of the litigants was enough to disqualify a judge. These exacting criteria extended as well to the judges who had to decide whether to add an extra month to the year.
Neither the king nor the Kohen Gadol, ruled our Sages, may participate in the panel that decides on adding a month. Each of them is suspect of being swayed from total objectivity by the particular demands of his office.
- The king pays his soldiers by the year and therefore has a vested interest in each year being longer.
- The Kohen Gadol, whose Yom Kippur service in the Beis Hamikdash exposes him to barefoot contact with a cold floor and numerous immersions in a cold mikveh, is naturally prejudiced against an extra month which causes Yom Kippur to fall well into winter.
"Charm is false and beauty is vain,"says King Solomon in the well known Mishlei chapter about the Eishes Chayil - the woman of valor whose qualities are used as a parable for Torah.
"Charm is false," says the Gemara, refers to the generation of Moshe Rabbeinu and Yehoshua while "beauty is vain" alludes to the generation of King Chizkiyahu. Both of these were golden eras of Jewish dedication to Torah learning but they pale in comparison to the generation of Rabbi Yehuda Berebi Iloi which deserves Solomon's accolade of "the woman who fears Hashem deserves to be praised."
What was so special about Rabbi Yehuda's generation? They were so poor that six Torah students had to share one garment, but this did not prevent them from pursuing their studies.
How can six people possibly share one garment? Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz zatzal, Rosh Hayeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Jerusalem, explained that if everyone is pulling the garment to himself then many garments will not suffice, but if everyone is more concerned that the other fellow is warm then one garment is enough even for six.
- Sanhedrin 20a