How did the Sanhedrin Know All Languages?

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    How is it possible the Sanhedrin knew all 70 languages? Did they use Rosetta Stone or the Pimsleur system?

    Why was it so important to know ALL these languages? Was it in any way bittul torah?


    1. They didn’t know English or Yiddish.

    2. Unless you are an American, it’s easy to learn languages.

    3. They probably only knew those of people in the immediate region. I doubt they had any reason to chat with an American Indian or an Australian Aboriginee.

    4. The Rosetta stone only had Egyptian and Greek, and wasn’t intended as a teaching device (it as a bilingual text in a region that was bilingual).


    I believe there is a Tosfos that says that not each of them had to know all 70. Also, they didn’t need to speak it, just understand it.


    No. They used Google Translate.


    because they werent allowed to use a translator for the eidim as it wouldn’t be kashur eidus – it would be eid mepei eid.


    They had to know them in order to hear witness first hand.


    Was it in any way bittul torah?

    Everything that is for the right perpose & needed is Kiyum Hatorah.



    I’m assuming that anyone on the Sanhedrin was a genius and brilliant people with great memories can learn things rather quickly even language. Theres a story where the Rogatchover gaon who lived a 100 or so years ago was so brilliant that he said about himself that he could learn Russian in an hour! He was a huge genius. So it’s not so hard to imagine that the Sanhedrin memorized that many languages. As for the method I have no clue. I doubt that it is brought down anywhere either but I assume they had a method that would cut the bittul torah to a minimum.


    They were geniuses. I am not extraordinarily gifted and I have a knack for picking up languages. If it’s easier for me…. so they probably did a language a day or bathroom visit.



    No big deal. He probably grew up speaking Yiddish and learning in Lashon Kodesh (meaning a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic). That means he was already, by bar mitzvah, bilingual in both a Semitic (Lashon Kodesh) and an Aryan/Indo-European language (Yiddish). That makes it fairly easy to pick up languages. Also the local dialect was a slavic language, so picking up a new slavic language would be a “piece of cake”. Picking up a more distantly related Aryan language, such as Iranian or Greek might have taken a bit longer, and a language from an unrelated family (Chinese, Mohawk, etc.) would have been harder. There are tremendous economies of scale in learning languages. The reasons Americans are so dumb at language has to do with laziness and arrogance since we are spoiled by the fact that English is the de facto “lingua franca” among the goyim – in the 18th century educated Americans typically knew several languages, and throughout history frum Jews have always been excellent in learning languages.


    Akuperma, it is mashma they knew all 70.


    Please discuss this issue with the pope; Unusually they are very fluent in many languages.


    Another reason that Americans generally aren’t multilingual is that they don’t have to be. unless he travels abroad frequently, anywhere he goes in North America he can get by in English or broken Spanish. Europeans, on the other hand, are almost forced to be multilingual because of the close proximity of other language groups. If you leave, say, Paris and drive 1000 kilometers, you cross at least two frontiers and encounter three languages. If you leave New York and drive 1000 kilometers, you’re half way to Chicago. BTW, Russians are also often language challenged for the same reason. Anywhere they go, everyone speaks Russian. Also English is the most commonly spoken language in the world. There are more English speakers than those of any other language including 300 million Americans, 150 or so million Britons, Australians, South Africans, etc. and about one billion Indians. All these plus anyone else who wants to get along in the world. (N.B. not necessarily native English speakers. The most commonly spoken native language is Mandarin)


    “BTW, Russians are also often language challenged for the same reason. Anywhere they go, everyone speaks Russian”


    In 19-th century in Russia every noble/respected family tought their children French. At this time French was the language of international comminication. So, they spoke 2 languages.


    Most of people from former Soviet Union know/can understand at least 3 languages:

    1 – language of the repablic, they were born/rised (Ukrainian/Georgian/Tukmenian and so on)

    2 – Russian, because of the government’ requirement to speak/learn Russian

    3- English or French or German everyone had to learn as a subject in a school


    Also, why nobody surprised, that Mordechay spoke /understood all languages?


    “They didn’t know English or Yiddish.”

    Neither existed yet.


    charliehall: You must be one of those modern scientific types who gets hung up with all the “Timey-Whiney” (as a popular television series calls it) stuff. No problem for us fanatics who aren’t into strictly linear temporal mechanics.

    P.S. Of course, knowing seventy languages would have been easier depending on how you define “language”, and I was hoping for someone to insist there were speakers of Yiddish and English during Bayis Sheini.


    cv, Mordechai was one of the members of Sanhedrin – that is why he also needed to know 70 languages.


    Funny you mention that, because the full quote is:

    “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly…timey-wimey…stuff.”


    Typical akuperma shtusim. Remember them when you see his opinion-pieces on Israel.


    If you want to know just how good Mordechai was at languages, see Tosafos to Bava Kama 82b d”h ???.


    If I remember correctly, the Aruch HaShulchan (somewhere in the beginning few simanim of Choshen Mishpat) mentions that the justices on the Sanhedrin knew the major languages, but typically not all 70. Mordechai was an outstanding member of the Sanhedrin who did know all 70.


    Interesting. So how does that solve the issue l’masseh?


    I think they used the Pimsleur method.


    Normally, a court cannot listen to testimony from a translator, as this has the same status as hearsay (eid mipi eid). So, what is a sanhedrin (specifically a minor sanhedrin, but I don’t see any reason why this shouldn’t apply to the Sanhedrin as well) in a capital case to do when they receive testimony in a language they don’t understand?

    The answer (based on the Margaliyas Yam and K’hilos Ya’akov) is that three of them who do understand the language form a bais din on their own and listen to the testimony. The beis din can then issues a p’sak din about the testimony they received. The sanhedrin can then use that p’sak without it being a case of eid mipi eid.

    That being said, there was no need for every member of the Sanhedrin to speak all languages. Rather, you simply needed to have at least three speakers of all the languages among the group.

    The Wolf

    One of the chevra

    For the first and third parts of the original post: How is it possible the Sanhedrin knew all 70 languages?… Was it in any way bittul torah?

    I will answer both with 1 answer. the Sanhedrin knew EVERYTHING they knew DIRECTLY FROM THE TORAH ITSELF.

    The seforim say (I don’t recall exact sources)that ALL languages originated from LOSHON HAKODESH, thus the sanhedrin who had extremely Broad and deep in-site into the Torah, which is the original source of Losshon hakodesh, were able to learn other languages from this too. Hence, how they knew the languages, and no bitul Torah involved.

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