A summary of By Rabbi Rason Arusi's
Review of Parashath Mishpatim
with English translation by Hhaim Parchi and Site Admin. ban Hhaim Rahmiel
In Parashat Mishpatim, the laws that were brought to Moshe in Sinai were written in order to teach it to the rest of the people-- to know it and to live by it. It says “these are the laws that you put in front of them”.The words “in front of them” means that it was not just to teach them. He set them like a set table. In our Parasha, it says “you shouldn’t follow the majority for bad things and don’t be the one that sways a judgment (during litigation) towards the majority to sway the sentence”. RaShY explains this pasuch—if you see Rashayim (evil ones) that try to sway the sentence, even though they are in the majority—don’t be part of them (or follow them).
The Torah warned the judge should be very careful not to say anything that might sway the case towards the majority (RaShY). We must follow the majority only when it deals with good things. We must stick to the truth. Only (when they are aligned with truth) must you follow the majority.
The power of "majority rules" is not only in justice. It also applies to a dispute between teachers and Rabbonim regarding Halakha. [Although] The Halakha is decided by the majority. The same with creating laws. Majority rules. [On this] The RMb"M says that the command that G-D commanded --to follow the majority -- is if there is a dispute amongst the Rabbonim about the laws of Torah (Halakha). And also, we will [must] behave the same way in the private justice system. We must follow the majority ruling. In the time of the Bet HaMikdash (in the times of the Supreme court Sanhedrin), they used to negotiate and discuss [the issues] and then it would go by the majority. [BUT] According to this, the justice system, Halakha and law making system is not ruling [by majority rules] in an absolute way.
According to Ramban--As long as the majority and minority are negotiating to sway each other in order to agree on the true agreement—then you have to follow the majority. One –because this is G-D’s decree. Second-we can assume that the majority is seeking the truth and the truth is in the majority’s hand (Ramban).
[But] it is [still] not right for a party to force an individual to follow the party even though it is against what the individual thinks. In the justice system, the Judge can not make the decision according to the majority –only according to his understanding of the truth. In the time of of the wise men of Israel, there [was a discussion] at the attic of Hananiah ben Hezkiah ben Garon. The majority [of opinion] was with bet Shammai. But the Halakha was judged according to Bet Hillel --to show you that the truth is the one that rules –not the majority. 18 decisions were made on the same day. Both houses of Hillel and Shammai argued but everyone agreed to follow Hillel. According to this, in a court, we must listen to everyones input. We must let them say their peace and then the judge makes his decision. Also, since the majority has to show the truth and has to force itself on the minority—therefore—every concept is decided by a trial. On money matters—3 judges are enough. On life matters – court of 23 is required. [Issues regarding] Halakha and the decrees must have 71 people. Rav Arusi says: that in Israel (today)—there is no power for decisions that are made by the majority because the majority of people in Israel do not have a common consensus. [This is especially the case] in decisions that deal with values. Chaim Parchi (the main Yemenite translator) relates this to a lack of a constitution—saying that non-religious people won’t accept the Torah as a constitution.
A midrash from Viyra Rabba is then quoted- Perek Vav. Here is the summary: -- A gentile challenges Rabbi Yehoshuah about following the majority. He claims that Jews must follow the majority [according to Torah] and are therefore [required to] follow the Goyim. So the Jew asks about the gentile's sons. It turns out that gentile's sons are all fighting over which god to worship. So the Jew tells him to solve his own problems at home before asking him questions. [Then] The students asked Rabbi Yehoshuah to explain it to them. So R. Yehoshuah said the following: Eisav had six (descendents) while Yaacov had 70. But in the case of Yaacov, the Torah wrote nefesh (when refering to his descendents) in the singular form –because Esav had too many gods (and thus was not considered unified). But we [the children of Yaacov] believe in one G-D.
Bottom line: In an individualistic society, there is no way to unify everyone… even with a majority because there is no way to enforce the majority on individuals. Only a society that has one common set of values and laws can rule by the Majority. Only then can it make sense.
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