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According to Sanhedrin 1:6, the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem had either seventy or seventy-one sages. But according to Zevachim 1:3, Yadayim 3:5 and 4:2, there were seventy-two sages in Yavneh on the day they replaced Rabban Gamliel with Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah. Why was there an extra sage?

Note: I am open to the possibility that the extra sage was R' Elazar ben Azariah, who based on the Talmud's drosh in Berakhot was actually too young to have been a sage prior to that point, but I would like to see a source that says so. Also, note that Rabbi Eliezer, who had been on the council previously, was in Lod that day, so can't be included in the total (Yadayim 4:3).

  • See Harav Sherki's section on this here. He says there were 70 "regular" members and number 71 was the president. According to Rabbi Reuven Margaliot, number 72 was the "מופלא" or "אב"ד", see there for sources. – Cauthon May 11 '16 at 10:08
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  1. How many judges is there in the great Sanhedrin 70, 71, or 72?

    This question highlights many very important difficulty on pshat of the Mishnayot regarding the count of Beth Din Hagadol: Let's get into the thick of it.

    Mishna Sanhedrin 1, 6:

    סַנְהֶדְרִי גְדוֹלָה הָיְתָה שֶׁל שִׁבְעִים וְאֶחָד, ..., שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יא) אֶסְפָה לִּי שִׁבְעִים אִישׁ מִזִּקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וּמֹשֶׁה עַל גַּבֵּיהֶן, הֲרֵי שִׁבְעִים וְאֶחָד. רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר, שִׁבְעִים. ‏
    • we found on Shas Mishnayot three numbers 70, 71, 72. We learn 71, that include Moshe.
    • And we see a surprising rule for Rabbi Yehuda: an even number, 70, for a Beth Din. Chachamim (Tana Kama) learned from the verse "איתך" that Moshe is added to the count of 70. On the other hand, Rabbi Yehuda translates "איתך" as like yourself.
    • This leads to a question about the role of Moshe following Rabbi Yehuda.

  2. The Mufley, a supernumerary judge

    1. See Tif'eret Israel, Yachin, Sanhedrin 1, mishna 6, note number 44 .
      The mishna said:
      סַנְהֶדְרִי גְדוֹלָה הָיְתָה שֶׁל שִׁבְעִים וְאֶחָד.‏
      The great Tribunal was composed by 71 (judges).
      Tif'eret Israel wrote:
      There was another (a 72nt) judge, their leader, which was not counted, called in German PREJUS (I am not sure for the spelling, in English "chief Justice"). He is called "המופלא שבבית דין" (Tosfot Sanhedrin 16b "Echad", Tosfot Succa 51b, "Vehaiinu"). They therefore teach in Mishna on the first chapter of Zevachim and on the last chapter of Yadaim that he was instructed by 72.
    2. To examine this last Tosfot Succa 51b will be very useful.
      The Gemara Succa 51b said:

      תניא, רבי יהודה אומר: ... והיו בה שבעים ואחת קתדראות של זהב כנגד שבעים ואחד של סנהדרי גדולה...‏
      It has been taught, Rabbi Judah stated, ... There were in it seventy-one cathedras of gold, corresponding to the seventy-one members of the Great Sanhedrin,

      Tosfot points out a contradiction. In Mishna Sanhedrin (1, 6) cited above, Rabbi Yehuda said that Sanhedrin include only 70 judges ("רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר, שִׁבְעִים.‏")
      And tosfot solves the problem. The 71nt was the "Mufley" (Chief Justice)

    3. Gemara Sanhedrin 16b:

      רבי יהודה אומר: אחד ממונה על כולן, שנאמר תתן-לך. ‏ Rabbi Judah says: One [judicial body] is set over all the others, as it is written, shalt thou make thee.

      This statement is also in name of Rabbi Yehuda. Obviously, Tosfot in Sanhedrin seems to assume that the presence of the Mufley is a specific "novelty" of Rabbi Yehuda. He quotes a Mishna (Horayot 1, 4) that indicates the presence a "Mufley": "אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא הָיָה מֻפְלָא שֶׁל בֵּית דִּין שָׁם" Can be a situation where the Sanhedrin was complete but the Mufley was absent. Tosfot also noted that this Mishna follows the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda, so 72 is impossible (because the addition of the Mufley lead to 70 + 1 for Rabbi Yehuda, and Chachamim without Mufley get 71 judges, no more).

    4. But Tosfot on Succa 51b responds by explaining that Mishnayot that mention the number 72 (Zevachim 1, 3; Yadaym 3, 5 and 4, 2) follow Rabbi Yehuda regarding the presence of the "Mufley novelty" but follow Rabanan regarding the number 71 for Sanhedrin.
    5. Fore more reference to "Mufley", see Yerushalmi quoted in the last Tosfot Sanhedrin 10b, and Midrash Shir Hashirim Rabba: The mufley is called Saris (castrate, but the meaning is castrator) because "he castrates the Halacha": after the intervention of the Mufley, there is no more discussion. See also the last Tosfot Sanhedrin 10b .
    6. The Tif'eret Israel on note 45 explained that Moshe did not sit with them during deliberations, they decide by majority. When they was ex-Aequo, they ask Moshe who was the "Mufley of the Tribunal". Rabbi Yehuda admitted that there was a Chairman of the Sanhedrin (as mentioned on note 44). At the time of Moshe, according to Chachamim, the Chairman was the holy one Blessed be He itself. When they was in doubt, they ask G_d. In the next generations, they ask the Chairman ("Mufley"). He do not sat with them.

  3. In conclusion without the mufley for Chachamim 71 dayanim and for Rabbi Yehuda 70, with the mufley, 72 and 71 respectively, as mentioned in mishna Zevachim and in Berayta Succa.

I am open to the possibility that the extra sage was R' Elazar ben Azariah, who based on the Talmud's drosh in Berakhot was actually too young to have been a sage prior to that point, but I would like to see a source that says so. Also, note that Rabbi Eliezer, who had been on the council previously, was in Lod that day, so can't be included in the total (Yadayim 4:3).

--> This has nothing to do.

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