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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua

Judges of Eretz Yisrael / Eretz Hemdah

Rabbi Yossef CarmelSivan 16 5780
14
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Dealing with the praise of Eretz Yisrael, which was called Eretz Hemdah in the context of the spies not appreciating it (Tehillim 106:24), is something that we like to do on Parashat Shelach. The happiness with building the Land that was desired by the patriarchs atones for the crying of our unappreciative ancestors in the desert on the tragic night after the spies’ return, which made that night a night of crying for generations (Tisha B’Av).

The obligation to establish batei din of those who are ordained to serve as religious judges is one that singles out Eretz Yisrael. This is the site of the Great Rabbinical Court, the court of 23 and many simple courts of three spread throughout the Land.

What are the characteristics we demand for each dayan, a matter that we hammered out with the guidance of Harav Shaul Yisraeli z.t.l.? And how do they find expression in who we invite to join Eretz Hemdah’s program, whose participants are trained to serve as dayanim?

The Rambam (Sanhedrin 2:1) writes that to be a member of a Sanhedrin, men need to be "smart and wise, exceptional in the wisdom of the Torah, possessing great knowledge." It is obvious that in order to be a dayan, one needs broad and deep knowledge of Torah, i.e., Shas and poskim. That is the reason that our program includes the study of all of Seder Nezikin and the Choshen Mishpat section of Shulchan Aruch, as well as Seder Nashim and the corresponding Even Ha’ezer section of the Shulchan Aruch.

However, ability to master these materials is insufficient to be fit to serve as a dayan in our understanding. Notice how many adjectives the Rambam (above) uses for the intellectual qualifications of the dayan: smart, wise, …

In describing the investigation that a kohen did into a person’s tzara’at, it twice mentions seeing within the same time frame (see Vaikra 13:3). What is the difference between the two seeings? The Meshech Chochma explains that the first one is to evaluate if the lesion is one that identifies as tzara’at. The second one, he argues, is to see if the person is in the situation to be declared a metzora. For example, if he is a new groom or if it is a holiday, it is not the opportune time to declare him impure, as it would contravene the concept that the Torah’s ways "are ways of pleasantness." The kohen must take a good look at the person upon whom he is passing judgement.

The Meshech Chochma’s idea is another reminder that book-knowledge is a condition for many things including dayanut, but it is not sufficient. One must turn the Torah into a Torah of life by seeing things more deeply and in additional dimensions.

The Rambam continues that the dayan needs to know a little about the rest of the areas of knowledge, such as medicine, mathematics, and astronomy. These too are necessary for one to have the title of Yadin Yadin. Furthermore, the Rambam mentions that knowing foreign languages is also valuable for the dayan. Nowadays, someone who is fluent in English can communicate effectively with most people in Israel who do not speak Hebrew. Since in the Rambam’s time there was no such language, he was more stringent and required knowing most of the languages. In any case, a great portion of the Eretz Hemdah’s dayanim are fluent in a language other than Hebrew and have an academic degree.

We pray that Eretz Yisrael and Eretz Hemdah will be praiseworthy for having more and more dayanim who sanctify His Name, and can connect heavens and earth through a Torah "whose ways are ways of pleasantness."
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