DAYYAN (Heb. דַּיָּן; pl. דַּיָּנִים, dayyanim), judge. In talmudic literature the word dayyan (from דִּין, judgment) completely replaces the biblical name for a judge, shofet. Although found twice in the Hebrew portion of the Bible (Ps. 68:6 where God is called "the dayyan of widows" and I Sam. 24:15), it is essentially an Aramaic word and is used consistently by the Targum for shofet. In the Aramaic Ezra 7:25 it is coupled with shofetim.
It was possibly this juxtaposition, suggesting a lower status to the dayyan as compared with the shofet (translated "magistrate" and "judge"), which determined the definition given to the term in the Middle Ages that has persisted to the present day. The term is confined to the members of the bet din other than the head of the bet din, who is accorded the title of av bet din or rosh bet din, whereas they are ordinary members of the court. Sometimes elders of the community or guild functionaries were given the title of dayyan.
, such as those of
of 1595 (JJLG, 10 (1912), 331–3), show that these communities maintained courts of dayyanim of various degrees of competence, in monetary suits according to the amount involved in the case. In modern times the dayyan was also referred to as moreh ẓedek, in particular in Eastern Europe. In some communities, like that of
, the rabbi did not serve on the bet din in the modern period, several dayyanim being appointed to this office. Only in England has the custom been adopted of according the title dayyan, which is regarded as higher than that of the ordinary rabbi, to members of the official religious law courts, particularly that of the chief rabbi.
In the State of Israel shofet is used for a judge in the civil courts and dayyan for the judge of the rabbinical courts.
Sources:ET, S.V. Bet Din; Baron, Community, 2 (1942), 74, 84, 95.
[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz and Isaac Levitats]
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