An elder who defies the authoritative rabbinic interpretation of the Mosaic Law. In the period when the Sanhedrin flourished this was a capital offense, punishable by strangulation (Sanh. xi. 1). This is based on Deut. xvii. 8-13, and according to the Talmud refers not to an ordinary man who refuses to abide by the decision of the priest or the judge, but to a regular ordained rabbi, or a judge, or an elder over the age of forty, or one of the twenty-three jurists constituting the minor Sanhedrin of a city or town. If such a judge dared to defy the decision of a majority of the major Sanhedrin, he became liable to the penalty of strangulation. R. Meïr, however, would convict only an elder whose opposition concerned a criminal act which, if committed unintentionally, would entail a sin-offering, or, committed intentionally, would be punished with excision (=). According to R. Judah, the elder could be convicted only of a schismatic decision concerning a law which had its origin in Scripture, but the interpretation of which was left to the Soferim.

The mode of procedure in such cases of contumacy is related in the Mishnah. There were three tribunals (in Jerusalem), one at the foot of the Temple hill (Mount Moriah), another at the entrance to the court of the Temple, and another at the granite corridor (=) of the Temple. The associate judges, with the accused, came before the tribunalat the foot of the Temple hill. The accused pleaded: "Thus and so have I expounded the Law, and thus and so have my associates; thus and thus have I taught the people, and thus have my associates." The judges of the tribunals, if they had any tradition bearing upon the case, gave their opinion; if not, they betook themselves to the tribunal at the entrance to the court of the Temple, where the same proceeding was repeated. Finally, they all appeared before the highest tribunal at the granite hall of the Temple, whence came the interpretation of the Torah. The Great Sanhedrin rendered a decision. Should the elder still maintain a schismatic position and persist in asserting it, he became liable to punishment. In this event he was brought before the supreme court for trial, conviction, and execution. According to R. Akiba, the execution took place on the first festival following his conviction, when, as a rule, the people were gathered together in Jerusalem, so "that the people may hear and fear." R. Meïr thought such a delay cruel, and would have had the culprit executed immediately after his conviction, which would be followed by a proclamation announcing the execution. The rebellious elder was classed with three other offenders: one who incites to idolatry (=), a rebellious son, and a perjured witness. In all these cases the execution was publicly announced (Sanh. 89a).

The question whether the supreme court might pardon the rebellious elder and overlook the insult done it by his dissent is a controverted point, and the opinion of the majority was that pardon was not permissible, as this would increase the number of schisms in Israel (Sanh. 88a and b).

S. S. J. D. E.
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