Monday, April 22, 2013

Major Change to the Minor Sanhedrin Courthouse

Last week I posted a description of the minor Sanhedrin courthouse but have since learned that a major change must be made to the overall design. Rashi to the Mishnah on the bottom of Sanhedrin 36b writes that the three rows of students who sat before the judges also arranged themselves in a semicircle, and this view is followed by Tiferes Yisrael (upon whom my model is based) to Sanhedrin 4:4 §24. The new description is as follows:

In these courts the judges sat on chairs or benches arranged in a semicircle facing south (where the door of the chamber was located) and three rows of 23 students each, also arranged in semicircles one behind the other, sat on the ground in front of the judges. A person is one amah wide which means that each semicircle had a diameter of about 16 amos and a radius of about 8 amos. Thus, from east to west the court would need 16 amos of space (to account for the diameter of the semicircle) while from north to south it needed 19 amos (8 amos for the radius of the judges' semicircle, one amah of space between the judges and students for the witnesses and litigants to enter before the court, 8 amos for the radius of the first row of students, and 2 more amos behind them for the next two rows).

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