I remember reading that, in the Sanhedrin, the most junior rabbis were encouraged to speak first, so that they would not be swayed or intimidated by the more senior ones. Is this true and what is the source?

  • "Now Elihu waited [to reply] to Job with words because they were older than he in days." (Job 32:4) Apparently what you are saying wasn't true in Job's time.
    – ezra
    Oct 29, 2018 at 16:56
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    @ezra, i think such a custom of having the younger speak first is specific to the Sanhedrin which requires a fair vote. If some judges are unduly influenced then the vote is not fair. However, there is no such need for absolute fairness in a family or friend discussion, hence we respect the elders first. Job is not a contradiction to Sanhedrin. Oct 29, 2018 at 17:01

1 Answer 1


This is the rule for capital cases so as to be extra sure every possible leniency is considered before executing someone. See Mishna Sanhedrin 4:2 with commentaries.

  • But in monetary cases, the most prestigious rules first. (Just clarifying the implication.) Oct 29, 2018 at 17:14
  • So, let me summarize. "The young speak first" is ONLY in Sanhedrin trials where the defendant may get the death penalty. In all other cases, especially for halachic rulings, that is not so. Correct? "Not so" or "Not necessarily so" (i.e., are the young even ALLOWED to speak first)? Oct 29, 2018 at 19:36
  • According to Rambam this is necessarily so. See Mishneh Torah, Sanhedrin, ch. 11, law 6. "With regard to cases involving monetary matters and similarly questions of ritual purity and impurity, the judge of the greatest stature gives his ruling first and the other judges hear his ruling. With regard to laws involving capital punishment, we begin from the side. The words of the judge of the highest stature are not heard until the end." Oct 29, 2018 at 20:23
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    @Maurice not necessarily so. It depends if the senior members demand the respect they are owed. They could choose to waive their right to speak first. IINM R Yehuda HaNasi was known for doing so.
    – Double AA
    Oct 29, 2018 at 20:25
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    @Benyomin hmm try the Tosfot Yom Tov to that Mishna. Or maybe Bartenura?
    – Double AA
    Oct 29, 2018 at 20:31

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