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Torah Reading

Number of Judges

In the weekly portion of Yitro, Moses appoints judges over 10’s, 50’s, 100’s, and 1000’s (see Exodus 18:25). With the exception of the judge over 50, each judge was in charge of a group of 10. Why was there a judge over 50? He doesn’t seem to fit the pattern.

Your question is a very good one, to which there are probably many answers.

The ‘Oznaim laTorah’ (Insights into the Torah) explains that the officers of 1000 and 100 were the judges – the upper and lower courts. The officers of 50 and 10 were the policemen. The judges of 100 were nevertheless capable judges, and therefore could be supervised on a ratio of 1:10 by the higher court system. However the policemen were basically average people (despite being selected for their honest and upright moral character), and therefore required the higher ratio of 1:5 for supervision.

This is only one possible answer (as I said). Keep your eyes open everywhere for other answers.

Thank you for the question.

Rabbi David Sedley

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