Shabbat Parashat Miketz | 5770
Hemdat HaDaf HaYomi: A Single Judge (120b)Rav Ofer Livnat
Kislev 25- Tevet 2, Baba Batra 114-120
This week in the Daf Yomi the Gemara (120b) states that if a person made a vow and he regrets the vow, he can go to a single "mumcheh" (expert Rabbi) or three non-experts, and they can cancel his vow. Similarly, we find regarding monetary disputes that the Gemara (Sanhedrin 5a) says that they can be judged by three judges, or even a single judge if he is a "mumcheh lerabim" (public expert). We will try to clarify whether the concept of a mumcheh for the cancelation of vows is similar to the mumcheh lerabim for judging monetary cases.
Regarding the cancelation of vows, some of the Rishonim (Rammah, Rashba and others) claim that the expert must be one who received semicha. The semicha referred to is the semicha which is passed from sage to sage all the way back to Moshe Rabbeinu. This semicha must be done in Eretz Yisrael, and therefore, during the exile, it ceased to be performed. However, most Rishonim (Rashbam, Rambam Shevuot 6, 1 and others) claim that the expert does not require semicha, but rather that he be a talmid chacham with outstanding knowledge of the Torah.
However, regarding judging monetary cases alone, we find in the Rishonim another condition. The Rambam (commentary to the Mishna Sanhedrin 1, 1) defines a mumcheh lerabim as one whose wisdom is known to the public through his rulings, which were checked by other sages and found to be worthy. This is stated as well by Rav Sherira Gaon (quoted by the Tur Choshen Mishpat 3), who requires that he be an expert who was tested many times and was found to not be mistaken at all. This is the definition of mumcheh lerabim, whose expertise is known to the public through his experience. Apparently, in order that one be able to judge monetary cases properly, one must have an understanding that comes only through experience.
Summary and Ruling:
In our days, the Poskim write that there are no sages who qualify to be a mumcheh, and therefore no one should judge monetary cases or cancel vows alone (Yoreh Deah 228, 1, Choshen Mishpat 3, 2). However, from the wording of the Shulchan Aruch it appears that, for monetary disputes, if both sides wish that he judge alone, than he may. Nevertheless, the Shach (ibid 1) writes that it is proper for the judge to state that he does not know how to judge precisely according to the Torah law, and that they should request that he should nevertheless judge alone, and then he may do so.
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