The Hopes of Justice
The Sanhedrin formed a semi-circle so that its members could see each other.
Two clerks of the court stood before the judges, one to the right and one to the left, and they recorded the arguments of those who would acquit and those who would condemn.
Rabbi Judah said: There were three court clerks, one recording the arguments for acquittal, the second the arguments for conviction, and a third both the ones for acquittal and the ones for conviction.
Three rows of students of the Law were seated before the judges. Each knew his place; if it became necessary to invest someone, the one appointed was from the first row; in such a case, a student from the second row moved up to the first and a student from the third row to the second. The most competent person in the assembled public was chosen and was placed in the third row. And the last to come did not sit in the place of the first (in the row, who had gone up to the other row) but in the place which was suitable for him.
Gemara - From which text does this come? Rav Aha bar Hanina said: We learn from verse 3, chapter 7 (of the Song of Songs): "Your navel is like a round goblet full of fragrant wine; your belly like a heap of wheat hedged about with roses."
"Your navel" - that is the Sanhedrin. Why the navel? For the Sanhedrin is in session at the navel of the universe.
"A goblet" (in Hebrew, aggan) because it protects (in Hebrew, meggin) the entire universe.
"Round" (in Hebrew, sahar, crescent of the moon), for it resembles the crescent of the moon.
"Full of drink" (in the text: not lacking in liquid: for if one of its members has to absent himself, it is ensured that twenty-three remain (in session), corresponding to the small Sanhedrin. Otherwise, he cannot leave.
"Your belly is like a heap of wheat": everyone profits from wheat; everyone finds to his taste the reasons adduced for the verdicts of the Sanhedrin.
"Hedged with roses": even if the separation is only a hedge of roses, they will make no breach in it.
About this, a "Min" said to Rav Kahana: You claim that during her time of impurity a woman forbidden to her husband nevertheless has the right to be alone with him. Do you think there can be fire in flax without its burning?
Rav Kahana answered: The Torah has testified for us through a hedge of roses; for even if the separation is only a hedge of roses, they will make no breach in it.
Resh Lakish said: It can be answered on the basis of the following text (Song of Songs 4:3): "Your brow (rakkathek) is like a pomegranate." Even those established as good-for-nothings among you are full of mitzyot, as a pomegranate is full of seeds.
Rav Zera said: That is to be deduced from the following text: "Ah, the smell of my son's clothes is like the smell of a field watered by the lord (Genesis 27:27). One should not read begadav (his clothes) but bogedav (his rebels).
About this it is told: some good-for-nothings lived in the neighborhood of Rav Zera. He brought them close to himself so that they could do Teshuvah (the return of the good). This irritated the sages. When Rav Zera died, the good-for-nothings said: Until now, the little-man-with-the-burned thighs prayed for us. Who is going to pray for us now? They thought about it and did Teshuvah.
"Three rows of
students..." Abaye said: It follows from this that when one moved,
they all moved. And when one said: up until now I was in first place and now I
am in last place, he was answered, according to Abaye: Be last among lions and do not be first among