Monday, November 19, 2018

LEGO® Model of the Minor Sanhedrin Courthouse

Now that I finished revising the minor sanhedrin courthouse I used Bricklink Studio to put together a Lego® version as well. Even though the Lego® version is just for fun, it did bring to light an important Kessef Mishnah in Hilchos Sanhedrin that sheds light on the seating arrangement of the court.

Tosefta Sanhedrin states what seems to be a simple and very logical fact:

הנשיא יושב באמצע וזקנים יושבים מימינו ומשמאלו

The Nasi [leader of the court] sat in the middle [of the semicircle of judges] and the other judges were seated to his left and right. 

However, when Rambam (Hilchos Sanhedrin 1:3) describes the seating arrangement it looks like this:

הַגָּדוֹל בְּחָכְמָה שֶׁבְּכֻלָּן מוֹשִׁיבִין אוֹתוֹ רֹאשׁ עֲלֵיהֶן וְהוּא רֹאשׁ הַיְשִׁיבָה וְהוּא שֶׁקּוֹרִין אוֹתוֹ הַחֲכָמִים נָשִׂיא בְּכָל מָקוֹם וְהוּא הָעוֹמֵד תַּחַת משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ. וּמוֹשִׁיבִין הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁבַּשִּׁבְעִים מִשְׁנֶה לָרֹאשׁ וְיוֹשֵׁב מִימִינוֹ וְהוּא הַנִּקְרָא אַב בֵּית דִּין וּשְׁאָר הַשִּׁבְעִים יוֹשְׁבִין לְפָנָיו כְּפִי שְׁנֵיהֶם וּכְפִי מַעֲלָתָם. כָּל הַגָּדוֹל מֵחֲבֵרוֹ בְּחָכְמָה יִהְיֶה קָרוֹב לַנָּשִׂיא מִשְּׂמֹאלוֹ יוֹתֵר מֵחֲבֵרוֹ

Abridged translation: The wisest of the judges is the Nasi. Second to him is the Av Beis Din who sits to his right. The remaining judges sit to the left of the Nasi; the wiser they are the closer they sit to the Nasi.

From here it would emerge that the Nasi and Av Beis Din sat all the way to one side of the semicircle and the other judges sat to their left. Kessef Mishnah (here) points out that there is no contradiction, for when Tosefta says that the Nasi sat "in the middle" it does not mean that he sat in the very center of the court but only that he was sitting between other people. And he did not have equal numbers of judges to his right and left — he actually had only one judge to his right (the Av Beis Din) and all the remaining judges sat to his left.

[All of the above applies to the great sanhedrin of 71 members, for that is where the Nasi would preside. Rambam (above) writes that in the smaller courts there was also a leader, although he had no official title. This leader presumably sat in the same position occupied by the Nasi in the great sanhedrin.]

In my original rendering (below) this was not really a concern because all of my purple-robed judges are identical and you can't tell which is the Nasi/leader.
Minor sanhedrin courthouse
In my Lego® version I wanted to give the judges some more personality and so I dressed them all differently. When handing out the beards I gave the whitest and most distinguished one to the Nasi/leader and sat him second from the end. The Av Beis Din received a very respectable grey beard and sat to his right. On the other side of the Nasi are a few more beards and then the rest of the judges are younger and clean-shaven.
Minor sanhedrin courthouse in Lego®

The judges of the court

One note for this Lego® version: To preserve the accurate dimensions of this room it was important to seat the judges very close to one another and reduce the size of the semicircle as much as possible. Anyone who has ever tried to seat minifigs right next to one another knows the problem — their arms get in the way. In order to make this work certain sacrifices had to be made, which you can see if you look closely. Let's just say that the theme of this work is "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let me forget my right hand."

Nasi/Leader of the court

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