[Avodah] Halachic Requirement for Dayanim Evaluating In-Person Facial Expressions of Parties in Bais Din

Baruch Cohen via Avodah avodah at lists.aishdas.org
Tue Aug 4 10:49:07 PDT 2015

List Mates:

In an AMI issue that was reported in VosIzNais, Rabbi Hershel Schachter was
quoted as saying: ""*There is a Mishna in Pirkei Avos that the oilam says a
vort on. It says, "K'sheyihiyu habaalei dinim lifanecha, yihiyu b'einecha
k'resha'im. K'she'yaamdu m'lifanecha yihiyub'einecha k'tzaddikim, shekiblu
aleihem es hadin." ["When the litigants stand before you (the judges), they
should be in your eyes like wicked people. When they stand up from being in
front of you, they should be in your eyes like righteous people, because
they have accepted the judgment."] They say from a few different dayanim
that they would put a tallis over their face, to not see the face of a
rasha. But that is wrong; part of the din Torah is to look at the person
and see from his facial expression and how he talks...whether or not he is
saying the truth. You have to be able to detect whether he is telling the
truth*.'"  (

Is there a Halacha that you can direct me to that mandates in-person and
face-to-face participation by the parties to a Bais Din for the reasons
given by Rabbi Schechter?

I found this...

The seating configuration of the Sanhedrin סנהדרין היתה כחצי גורן עגולה כדי
שיהו רואין זה את זה The Mishnah describes how the members of the Sanhedrin
sat in a row in the shape of a half-circle in order *for each person to be
able to see everyone else*. Why was it necessary for everyone to be able to
have direct eye contact with everyone else? Rashi explains that it is only
when people have direct sight of each other that they can listen and then
argue and debate with each other. ח"מהרלב elaborates and says that when
people argue and express their views, they often rise from their seats. If
they did not sit facing each other, it is quite possible that they would
not be able to hear when a person turns as he speaks from a standing
position. Rambam (Hilchos Sanhedrin 1:3) explains that this arrangement was
used in order for the President (נשיא) and the Av Beis Din to be able to
see everyone. Lechem Mishneh notes that this was a sign of respect for
these leaders to sit in the middle and for everyone to easily be able to
listen to them. Rashi also addresses why the Sanhedrin sat in a half-circle
rather than in a full circle. From a technical standpoint, the witnesses
and litigants would have to have a way to enter the circle to present
themselves in front of the judges (see Rashi, Chullin 5a). Furthermore, if
the judges sat in a full circle, while the witnesses would be facing some
of the judges, their backs would be turned toward the others. *The judges
might have a hard time hearing the witnesses and litigants, or they would
not be able to see them as they spoke. Facial expressions and other
subtleties are essential in communication, and the judges must be able to
pick up on any and all such nuances during the deliberations*. The Tosefta
(8:1) cites differing opinions regarding the seating position of the
President of the Sanhedrin. Tanna Kamma holds that the President sat in the
center of the semi-circle, with thirty-five of the members of the Sanhedrin
seated on each side of him. R' Elazar b. Tzadok says that when Rabban
Gamliel sat in the Sanhedrin in Yavne, one of the sages sat to his right,
and all the others sat to his left. Rambam (ibid.) writes that the נשיא sat
with the Av Beis Din to his right, and the rest of the sages to his left,
seated according to their ages and their wisdom, with the wisest among them
to his immediate left, and the rest seated closer according to their level.
Radva"z and Kesef Mishneh ask why Rambam does not rule according to Tanna
Kamma, and, as he rules according to R' Elazar b. Tzadok, why the row
begins with the Av Beis Din, and not with the נשיא himself. Radva"z
explains that it was not only the Av Beis Din who sat to the right of the
נשיא, but the נשיא sat in the middle, as Tanna Kamma explains, with the Av
Beis Din to his immediate right. דוד חסדי explains that Rambam rules
according to R' Elazar b. Tzadok because he cites the actual case of Rabban


Baruch C. Cohen, Esq.
Law Office of Baruch C. Cohen, APLC
Los Angeles, CA 90010
e-mail: BCC4929 at gmail.com

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