The av beit din (Hebrew: אָב בֵּית דִּין ʾabh bêth dîn, "chief of the court" or "chief justice"[1]), also spelled av beis din or abh beth din and abbreviated ABD (אב״ד‎), was the second-highest-ranking member of the Sanhedrin during the Second Temple period, and served as an assistant to the Nasi (Prince).[2] The Av Beit Din was known as the "Master of the Court;" he was considered the most learned and important of these seventy members.[3]

Menahem the Essene served as Av Beth Din in the 1st century BCE, before abdicating to "serve the King" in 20 BCE. The House of Shammai attained complete ascendency over the Sanhedrin from 9CE until Gamaliel became Nasi in 30CE. Apparently the post of Av Beit Din was eventually filled, since the Babylonian Talmud states that Joshua ben Hananiah was Av Beit Din[4] and Nathan the Babylonian was Av Beit Din.[5] The Jerusalem Talmud tells the story of how Gamaliel II was deposed and Eleazar ben Azariah replaced him as Nasi. After Gamaliel was reinstated, Eleazar ben Azariah was made Av Beit Din.[6] The parallel story in the Babylonian Talmud has Eleazar ben Azariah remaining as a co-Nasi with Gamaliel.[7]

Modern usageEdit

In modern times the title av beis din is often used as an honorific for the presiding rabbi of a beth din (rabbinical court), who is typically the salaried rabbi of the local Jewish community and usually a posek ("decisor" of Halakha). It is also abbreviated as AB"D when it is after the name of the Chief Rabbi of a national Jewish community.

It can also refer to the most senior member of the court.[8] Although the title Av Beit Din historically is higher than that of Rosh Beit Din, the rankings are sometimes reversed.[9][10] The London Beth Din specifically addresses this, saying: "The title of Av Beth Din is formally held by the Chief Rabbi" but that "Due to his extensive workload as well as convention of his office" he's "not generally personally involved;" the court is run by the Rosh Beth Din."[11]

Rosh Beit DinEdit

The holder of the title Rosh Beit Din (Rosh Beth Din; ראש בית דין‎, literally "Head of the Court", abbreviated ראב"ד‎) is often the person to whom outsiders look for rulings. In 1934, Yehezkel Abramsky was given this title. Federation of Synagogues' Yisroel Yaakov Lichtenstein used this title when he published a major response in 2009, even though he was ABD.[12] In smaller communities, the av beth din also serves as the rosh.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Yaakov Yosef Reinman (2002). Medrash Rabba HaMeVoAr. ISBN 1583306102.
  2. ^ Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (9 May 2009). "The Jewish Court System".
  3. ^   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "BET DIN". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
  4. ^ Bavli Baba Kamma 74b
  5. ^ Bavli Horayot 13b
  6. ^ Yerushalmi Berachot ch.4 halacha 1
  7. ^ Bavli Berachot 27b
  8. ^ "What is a Beit Din".
  9. ^ For cRc, R'Schwartz is #1 as Rosh, whereas for Beth Din of America, he is #1 as ABD: "Beth Din Zedek Ecclesiastical Judicature of the Chicago Rabbinical Council".
  10. ^ Here, #2 at cRc is #3: "Beth Din of America". founded in 1960 by the Rabbinical Council of America
  11. ^ "About the London Beth Din". Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  12. ^ "An Insight into 'Chalak Beit Yosef' by Dayan Y. Y. Lichtenstein, Rosh Beth Din, Federation of Synagogues". HaMaor. September 2009.