Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Disputes in the Land of Israel: How Judges in Israel Came to Be

Nadene Goldfoot     
dedicated to my son                                       
Joshua leading the  Israelites into Canaan, former home of Jacob and his 12 sons

Joshua Entering Canaan
A representative of the tribe of Ephraim among the 12 spies of Canaan when
he and Caleb were the only ones who had an encouraging report for Moses.
He was the Israelite's first judge after Moses had died.  
Moses led his people of the Exodus for 40 years
before reaching Canaan where he died at age 120.  He was about 80
when he came down the mountain after receiving the 10 Commandments. 
To start with, only G-d was the judge of Israel.  Before the settlement in Canaan of Joshua and the 601,7300 Hebrews and others that he led out of Egypt, the elders of the community acted as judges.  Then Moses and Joshua were the people's national leader.  

Afterwards, the soldier-leader, priest, or prophet took on the additional role to his chief function of a judge.  There were courts in every town and city commanded for by the Torah (the 5 books of Moses).  They had a system of justice.

Samuel, the last judge, who was also a prophet, traveled from place to place to judge. He had said, "Hashem (THE NAME) is our king when people spoke of wanting  a national leader.

A problem that was very human that these former slaves had was just  becoming involved in settling in their respective provinces and setting up homes and farms.  Because of their reluctance to eradicate all Canaanite influence from the land, they often adopted the corrupt practices of their neighbors.  This happened even with a system where everyone could be heard and considered in their court system.  As it is written in the book of JUDGES, "In those days there was no king in Israel;  every man did what was proper in his own eyes."  Because of this we see episodes of people becoming very bad.  Judges, chosen by G-d,  had to change their attitudes, get them to trust in G-d again, and regain their allegiance to the Torah.
Deborah leading the charge
Famous judges were "Deborah or Othniel, Joshua's greatest contemporaries.  Gideon was a young man of enormous but unknown potential.  Jephthah was a judge.  Samson was a judge, whose individual exploits kept the brutal Philistines at bay.  " He came along at a time when the Israelites did not deserve to conquer their enemies.
Samson enslaved forced to grind grain when blinded
                                   LIST OF JUDGES in ORDER OF TIME by Gaon of Vilna

1. Joshua  28 years
2. Othniel 40 years
3. Ehud     80 years
 . Shamgar
4. Deborah and Barak  40 years
5. Gideon  40 years
6. Abimelech  3 years
7. Tola      23 years
8. Jair        22 years
9. Ammonite Rule   18 years
10. Jephthah   6 years
11. Ibzan        7 years
12. Elon        10 years
13. Abdon      8 years
14. Samson   20 years
15. Eli           39 years
16. Samuel    11 years
After his establishment of King Saul, the king was to act as a judge. 
 This is where King Solomon had to choose between two women as to who was the birth mother of a baby that both claimed to be theirs.
King David, Solomon's father, was said to have appointed 6,000 Levites as officers and judges.  King Jehoshaphat had set up a special court in Jerusalem where the judges were taken from among the priests, Levites and heads of fathers houses.  

This seems to correspond to the Great Sanhedrin of 71 judges in Jerusalem in the time of the 2nd Temple for an establishment of judges listed in Deut. 17:8-11.  It's function was to judge disputes from all parts of the country." According to Jewish tradition, the institution of the Sanhedrin was founded by Moses, at the command of God" :Jews had returned from Babylonia slavery in 538 BCE to rebuild the Temple and live in Eretz Yisrael again.  They had been taken away in 597 BCE and again in 586 BCE.

The Sanhedrin judged accused lawbreakers, but could not initiate arrests. It required a minimum of two witnesses to convict a suspect. There were no attorneys. Instead, the accusing witness stated the offense in the presence of the accused and the accused could call witnesses on his own behalf. The court questioned the accused, the accusers and the defense witnesses.  The Great Sanhedrin dealt with religious and ritualistic Temple matters, criminal matters appertaining to the secular court, proceedings in connection with the discovery of a corpse, trials of adulterous wives, tithes, preparation of Torah Scrolls for the king and the Temple, drawing up the calendar and the solving of difficulties relating to ritual law.

 71 sages  met in the Chamber of Hewn Stones in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Great Sanhedrin met daily during the daytime, and did not meet on the Sabbathfestivals or festival eves. It was the final authority on Jewish law and any scholar who went against its decisions was put to death as a zaken mamre (rebellious elder). The Sanhedrin was led by a president called the nasi (lit. "prince") and a vice president called the av bet din (lit. "father of the court"). The other 69 sages sat in a semicircle facing the leaders. It is unclear whether the leaders included the high priest.

Besides having the Great Sanhedrin, there were lesser Sanhedrins that had 23 judges in towns with a certain minimum population.  These judges were appointed by the Great Sanhedrin.

Then there were the Courts of Three called the Bet Din, set up to adjust civil disputes that existed in all towns, appointments being made by the president of the Sanhedrin called the Nasi.
The Great Sanhedrin lost its authority to decide on capital cases in about 30 CE, a time when Jerusalem was being occupied by the Romans.  The 2nd Temple was destroyed by these very Romans in 70 CE. 

 The General (Aluf) Bar Kokhba, revolted in 132 and regained Jerusalem for 3 years, losing the battle to the Romans by 135 with Bar Kokhba's death.  Afterwards,even cases involving fines or corporal punishment could not be heard, because Roman law prohibited the ordaining judges of the Sanhedrin. Evidently there were Jews remaining here that had not been taken away as slaves or that had chosen to stay from the soldiers of Bar Kokhba.                                 

"From the time of Moses and for over 1,500 years, the Jewish People had legislative-judicial councils that went by various names and exercised powers that were sometimes expansive, other times circumscribed.
Since the year 358 C.E. when the last Sanhedrinwas disbanded, and 425 C.E. when the last rabbinical patriarch Gamaliel VI was executed by Roman emperor Theodosius II, there have been numerous attempts to revive this ancient institution and its leadership positions. "
Swearing in ceremony of Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Israel
Prime Minister and President are in front row

Supreme Court
בית המשפט העליון
Emblem of Israel dark blue full.svg
Emblem of Israel[1]
LocationJerusalemGivat Ramgovernment quarter
Composition methodThe Israeli Judicial Committee
No. of positions15
President of the Supreme Court
CurrentlyEsther Hayut
Deputy-President of the Supreme Court
CurrentlyHanan Melcer

The Supreme Court (Hebrewבית המשפט העליון‎, Beit HaMishpat HaElyon) is the highest court in Israel. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all other courts and, in some cases, original jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court consists of 15 justices who are appointed by the Judicial Selection Committee. Once appointed, Justices serve until retirement at the age of 70, unless they resign, or are removed from office. The current President (Chief Justice) of the Supreme Court is Esther Hayut. The Supreme Court is situated in Jerusalem's Givat Ram governmental campus. Its jurisdiction applies to all of Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories.
Later, and during the Middle Ages (Period476 AD – 1492), when in most countries rabbis judged members of their own community,  it was felt necessary to reestablish authority to impose fines, and in extreme cases, the death penalty.  It's noted today that in Israel, there is no death penalty except in the extreme case of the Nazi, Adolf Eichmann.  That's because Jewish law sets high moral, intellectual and even physical requirements for a judge, especially in one of the higher courts.  It requires strict impartiality, disqualifying a judge to decide any case where there may be the slightest possibility of bias.  

The Christian accounts of the Sanhedrin, and the role that the council played in the crucifixion of Jesus, are frequently cited as causes of Christian anti-Semitism, and are thus normally considered a sensitive topic.  As it happens, the Sanhedrin is spoken of in the New Testament under unfavorable accounts concerning the death of Jesus.  

In Israel, magistrates and district judges are appointed by the MINISTER OF JUSTICE who got his position by the recommendation of a special committee.  Supreme Court justices are chosen by he president of the state, also on the recommendation of a special committee.
As for religious issues, a judge called a Dayyan serves on the rabbinical court.  Not all rabbis are qualified to be Dayyanim.  The ordinary rabbi may decide only on matters of a specifically religious nature, but the Dayyan is also qualified to judge money matters and problems of civil law brought before a Jewish court.  In England, the title of Dayyan is given to rabbis of the chief rabbi's court.

Resource:  The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Tanach-Stone Edition

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