Presidents Day and the Talmud

Sanhedrin I 2d high res

The Enyclopaedia Britannica defines this American national holiday as:

Presidents’ Day, officially Washington’s Birthday, in the United States, holiday (third Monday in February) popularly recognized as honoring George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The day is sometimes understood as a celebration of the birthdays and lives of all U.S. presidents. 

Sanhedrin I DY for 3dEven if one is not an American we can all recognize the significance of our past and present political leaders for both the good and the bad. However you may feel about various political leaders we can all agree that in order for a political system of any nature to work the people must voluntarily place trust in their leader to do what is right and in return the elected leader is expected to assume responsibility for their citizens and to take care of the masses.

As we approach this U.S. holiday we thought to take time to learn a passage from the The Noé Edition Koren Talmud Bavli as we had done for Martin Luther King Day just a few weeks ago.

This time we look at tractate Sanhedrin (Part 1) Daf 8 Amud A which discusses the relationship between the judges of the Sanhedrin (the religious body of the Land of Israel as described in the Bible) and the People of Israel. Be sure to also read the “Notes” section to the left of the text:presday


The judges of the Sanhedrin and the people of Israel were required to maintain an almost parent/child relationship as the judges are required to behave as a “nursing father” and the people are required to have “awe” of the judges. What does it mean practically for both the judge and Am Yisrael? Check out the below “Halakha” note:


Although a president (or any current political leader) cannot be accurately compared to a Talmudic judge we do see some similarities between the expected behavior of both subjects and rulers. A political system can only survive as long as everyone maintains the expectations of their respective role.

Have thoughts? Suggestions for future passages to highlight in the Koren blog? Want to write your own blog post on this site? Please leave your comments below!

We wish everyone a “shavua tov” and we look forward to continue learning with you all. If you haven’t already, buy your set of the The Noé Edition Koren Talmud Bavli today.


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