“For every small town in Israel,” Moshe continued, “its court, called a Beis Din, shall have 3 judges. They can settle any case involving money or property – but no life-or-death matters. In large cities, the Beis Din should be of 23 judges – and they will handle these difficult cases.”
“But Moshe Rabbeinu! What would happen if even these wise judges are not able to figure out the verdict?!”
“In that case, let those people journey all the way up to that special place that HaShem will choose. Let them bring their case to the Sanhedrin – the Jewish Supreme Court.”
The Sanhedrin was comprised of 70 judges led by a Rosh Sanhedrin (Head of Sanhedrin), which came out to a grand total of 71 judges. They would gather each day in a place called the Lishkas HaGazis, which was partly inside the Beis HaMikdash.
Nowadays, a Beis Din, a 3-member court, can be found in many parts of the world. But, sadly to say, we no longer have a Sanhedrin. In our weekday Shmoneh Esray prayers, we beg Hashem, “Hashiva Shofteinu K’varishona” – “Bring back our judges as we had in the past!” We pray that Moshiach should come so that the Beis HaMikdash will be rebuilt, and the Sanhedrin will once again be established. Let it be speedily in our days! Amein!
Have you noticed how each of the three types of courts is made up of an ‘odd’ number of judges? It may be odd, but it’s definitely not strange.
There’s a simple reason. To reach a decision they would vote and follow the majority. The odd number makes sure that it would never be a tie. Oddly enough, now it all makes sense.
The Torah tells us that if there is a difficult question, that neither the court of 3 or the court of 23 can resolve, we are to “rise and go up to the place.” That’s the place of the Sanhedrin in the Beis HaMikdash, located in Yerushalayim. This ‘Supreme Court’ will certainly be able to answer all difficult questions.
Notice that the Torah says, “go up.” That’s because Yerushalayim is on a mountain. But there’s more. When you go to consult with the Sanhedrin on a Torah matter in the holiest place in the world, you are lifting yourself up to a higher, more spiritual level.
And there are a lot more Aliyos:
Oleh Regel – Three times a year Jews from all over would go up to celebrate the three festivals in Jerusalem.
Making Aliyah – Nowadays, the term has come to refer to someone who moves to Israel, as in, “Did you hear the news? The whole Greenberg family made Aliyah!”
Aliyah LaTorah – When a person is called up to make a blessing for the reading of the Torah, it is referred to as an “Aliyah,” which means “going up.” It’s a lot more than just climbing the steps of the Bimah to get to the Torah. You are being spiritually elevated, too.
Aliyas HaNeshameh – On the anniversary of someone’s passing we do a special Mitzvah, with the hope that the soul of the departed one should have an Aliyah – should raise to higher levels.