Mishnah Sanhedrin 4,4:

"ושלש שורות של תלמידי חכמים יושבין לפניהם כל אחד ואחד מכיר את מקומו"

Three rows of the Sages sit before [the Sanhedrin of 71], every one of them knows his place

Rambam's explanation:

"בכל שורה מהם ג"כ כ"ג מסודרין ראשון ושני ושלישי עד סופם כפי מעלתם בחכמה"

23 of them in every row arranged the first, the second, the third till the last one according to their wisdom

To elaborate how-were-judges-appointed: it seems to be a tough task - to compare different Rabbis, at times when no prophecy and no Halachic books existed. According to Rambam it was the standard procedure when appointing all sort of Beis Dins from the tree of Mamonos straight to the 71 of the Great Sanhedrin.

In other words: if the Sanhedrin was elected in our days, how would you evaluate the Gdoylim of the 20th century: Chofetz Chaim, Chazon Ish, R' Elyashiv, R' Moshe Feinstein, R' Shteinman, R' Ovadia or the Lubavicher Rebe Z"Ls?

  1. What was the procedure or tests to evaluate Rabbis' wisdom?

  2. How often did those tests take place? How many time were they re-evaluated and re-seated?

  3. What institution was in charge of this evaluation and how its members were elected?

  • From the names you mention, it seems you're asking about the modern era. Why bring in Maimonides, then? – msh210 Feb 5 '18 at 17:54
  • @msh210 The opposite, I just try to illustrate it with modern names, as if they were elected for Sanhedrin – Al Berko Feb 7 '18 at 1:15
  • They were all in Yerushalayim "hanging out" around the court. And they wouldn't compare "R' Elyashiv, R' Shteinman, R' Ovadia and Lubavicher Z"Ls" as 80 year old Gedolim. Presumably they'd be appointed (by their elders) to the Sanhedrin when young. – Shmuel Brin Feb 7 '18 at 1:51
  • great question, +1 – heshy Feb 7 '18 at 3:33
  • 1
    Not a complete answer, but maybe a hint is in the story at the end of Horayos, כל דאמר מילתא ולא מפריך להוי רישא. So it could have just been based on who they saw could more successfully defend their halachic positions. – Meir Mar 6 at 5:52

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