Shekalim 14 - The knowledge of foreign languages

One of the Temple's administrators we mentioned before , Petachia, was really Mordechai of the Purim festival, but he is called here Petachia (one who opens) because he knew basically all foreign languages (denoted as the symbolic number of 70 languages), and moreover could understand what people meant when they would mix these languages together.

Mordechai was one of the members of the High Court, or the Sanhedrin. All judges in the Sanhedrin had to know 70 languages, so that they could understand the witnesses directly, and not through an interpreter, but at least two judges needed to be able to also speak the languages. If they had four such judges, it was called an outstanding Sanhedrin. We should mention here that Shekalim is part of the Jerusalem Talmud, and that Babylonian Talmud has a more lenient opinion - that all judges together needed to know the majority of languages.

Another administrator was Nechunia the digger of wells. He went to great lengths and expense for this, and there are miracle stories of his daughter being saved from drowning; nevertheless, his son died of thirst in a desert, to illustrate that God is exacting with the righteous. Gevini was the Crier, and his announcements were heard for miles around. Hugras the Levi was a conductor and a singer, and he had an ability to sing multiple notes simultaneously.

The Talmud also describes the families of incense makers and Temple bakers who kept their professional secrets, and the checks and balances instituted in the Temple and in general for those with authority over the congregation, especially in money matters.

Art: The Language of the Fan by Jules Joseph Lefebvre