Shabbat Parashat Tetzaveh | 5770
Hemdat HaDaf HaYomi: Receiving Permission to Judge (13b)Rav Ofer Livnat
Adar 7-13, Sanhedrin 9-15
This week in the Daf Hayomi, the Gemara (13b) deals with the way Semicha, which had been passed down starting from Moshe Rabbeinu, was given to Talmidei Chachamim. This Semicha was very important, as only judges who receive this Semicha can issue fines and judge capital punishment cases. Nowadays, when this Semicha no longer exists, judges are limited in the issues that they can judge.
The Semicha is first and foremost the recognition of a person's wisdom and worthiness to function as a judge. The Gemara explains that the Semicha is not literally the placing of hands on one's head, but rather, it is figurative, and implies that a person is now to be called a Rabbi and may now judge cases of fines and penalties.
The Rishonim disagree if the Semicha has any additional implications. According to the Rambam (Sanhedrin 4, 8-14), the Semicha also gives the judge the power to force litigants to be judged by him. Therefore, when Semicha is issued, those who issue it may state regarding which issues one is receiving the power of semicha, and the power of semicha may also be time-limited. However, even a judge who has not received Semicha, but has received permission to judge from the Jewish authority, may also judge forcibly. In contrast, the opinion of the Rosh (1, 2) is that a judge whose expertise has been recognized by the public may judge forcibly, even if he has not received Semicha and has not been given permission by the Jewish authority.
Summary and Ruling:
According to the Rosh, an expert judge has the power to force litigants to be judged by him. However, according to the Rambam, he cannot judge forcibly unless he has received permission from the Beit Din, or from the Jewish authority. The Remma (Choshen Mishpat 3, 2) rules that nowadays no person is defined as an expert who can forcibly rule by himself.
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