Dear M. Kornfeld,
I hope you remember me, I had two more questions and recalled your kind answers and hoped I could ask for your help again.
(a) We discussed that the reference in the Talmud to the events that occurred 40 years before the destruction of the second Temple and you told me that it had to do with the Sanhedrin. I have done some research on the Sanhedrin and am a bit puzzled. Some teach that the Sanhedrin originated with the 70 men who helped Moses to judge the people (but they seem to never again appear in the Tanakh-specially where we should expect to find them such as in the book of Judges where they are definitely missing and where were they when Israel did what was right in their own eyes?) Others say that the first reference to any Sanhedrin until 57 BCE. Other point out that there was the 71 member Sanhedrin and a 23 member Sanhedrin but that both of these existed only shortly before and shortly after the first century. And still other state that the Sanhedrin began after the 3rd century BCE, after Simon the Just died.
You can see why this is confusing. In referring to the events 40 years before the destruction of the second Temple which Sanhedrin are we talking about.
(b) The other question is that if I am told to look, for example, in "Yoma 31b" I know exactly how to look it up in the Talmud but what does it mean, for example, to look in "Chapter 4, folio 37"?
The Talmud I have access to (the Soncino edition) does not seem to have this sort of set up. I can find the Gemara and the Mishnah but what does chapter and folio mean? Is it a commentary by Maimonides or Rashi. Please pardon my ignorance, I need help.
Shalom and thank you very much,
(a) The Torah requires that there be appointed courts in every city (Sanhedrin 2b). These were 23 member courts (who had the authority to pass rulings in cases of capital offenses). In the Temple courtyard, there existed a 71-member Sanhedrin, which comprised the highest Halachic authority and which had the exclusive authority to pass rulings on matters that affected groups of Jews (e.g. cities), or those appointed over them. This Sanhedrin took part in certain ceremonial services as well (ibid.).
These entities were not always referred to as Sanhedrin. The Torah refers to them as "Zekeinim", see also Mishnah beginning of Pirkei Avos. The word Sanhedrin is apparently a Greek word, that was adopted to this purpose and perhaps modified, so that it reflects the quality of impartiality, "Sonei-Hadras" Panim b'Din (Bartenura, Mishnah Sotah 9:11). There certainly were 23 and 71 member courts throughout the generations, from Moshe and on, whether they were called "Sanhedrin" or "Zekeinim" or any other name.
(b) Folio usually means Daf (page). You can probably ignore the Chapter number.
Kollel Iyun Hadaf