I often hear Exodus 23:2 referred to as the source for the majority rule (e.g., the accepted answer to Beis Hillel vs Beis Shammai - so what that the latter are sharper?).


You shall neither side with the mighty to do wrong—you shall not give perverse testimony in a dispute so as to pervert it in favor of the mighty

The text seems to be saying not to follow the majority (when it does wrong).

Is there a better source for the majority rule?

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    The source is the last part of the verse, which you left out
    – robev
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 20:57
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    @robev: okay, I put there the full verse and I still do not see where it tells us to follow the majority.
    – sds
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 21:06
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    @sds R' Baruch Simon points this out in the first of his semikha shiurim on Yoreh Deah. To my recollection, he doesn't see it as a problem, but as an irony that Chazal's derasha of the pasuk is the opposite of the simple meaning
    – Yehuda
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 3:39
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    @pcoz: yep, Rashi seems to agree with me ;-)
    – sds
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 13:46
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    @robev: my Hebrew is, admittedly, limited, but I looked at several other translations and they all have the same gist. How would you translate it?
    – sds
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 13:48

1 Answer 1



The source, ultimately, is the verse you cited

However, the Torah doesn't work by deriving laws directly from verses on our own, Hashem gave us the Torah Shebaal Peh to tell us what verses are sources for what laws and why (see Rambam introduction to the Mishnah).

The source in the Talmud for the idea of following the majority rule in judgment is the beginning of tractate Sanhedrin

ומנין להביא עוד שלשה ממשמע שנאמר (שמות כג, ב) לא תהיה אחרי רבים לרעות שומע אני שאהיה עמהם לטובה אם כן למה נאמר אחרי רבים להטות לא כהטייתך לטובה הטייתך לרעה הטייתך לטובה על פי אחד הטייתך לרעה על פי שנים

And from where is it derived to bring three more judges to the court? From the implication of that which is stated: “You shall not follow a multitude to convict” (Exodus 23:2), I would derive that I may not convict a person on the basis of a majority but I should follow the majority to exonerate. If so, why is it stated in the same verse: “To incline after a multitude,” from which it can be understood that the majority is followed in all cases? In order to resolve the apparent contradiction it must be explained: Your inclination after the majority to exonerate is not like your inclination after the majority to convict. Your inclination after the majority to exonerate can result in a verdict by a majority of one judge. But your inclination after the majority to convict a transgressor must be by a more decisive majority of at least two. Therefore, the court must have at least twenty-two judges.

Technically, the question didn't specify if there's a difference between dinei nefashos and dinei mamonos.

The source in the Gemara there for 3 judges in monetary cases is a bit more nuanced.

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