Found on Rabbi Nassan Slifkin’s Rationalist Judaism article The “Da’as” in Da’as Torah links to this unofficial transcript of a speech given Rabbi Dr. Ahron Lichtenstein about Da’as Torah.
“The Sifri and the Talmud in Sanhedrin (17:A) establish that one should elect dayanim to the
Sanhedrin who are fluent in seventy languages. The Netziv explains that mastery of
numerous ‘languages’ grants a dayan exposure to various cultures and forms of wisdom. The
dayan described by the Netziv is a person who is open, well educated, and possesses broad
horizons. This stands in complete contrast to a dayan who encloses himself in the ‘four
cubits’ of halacha, to the extent that he is not even fluent in Hebrew, and when he reaches a
comment of Rashi that deals with grammatical issues, he is accustomed to skip it, and I need
not say more.
Did this dayan never learn or hear about the resolute comments of the Gra in the ‘Sifra
D’Tzniuta’ on the great importance of delving into linguistics and in praise of the study of
There are so many rabbis and halachic scholars nowadays who do not merely lack knowledge
of ‘seventy languages’, or even two languages, but in actual fact they do not possess mastery
of their one and only language! They find grammar difficult and their speech is garbled.”