Torah Portion: Mishpatim
Follow the majority (Shemos 23:2).
It is a positive commandment to follow the majority; that is, whenever there is a disagreement among the sages regarding any law of the Torah, as well as with regarding private cases of law, such as between two litigants and the judges of the city disagree about whether the defendant is guilty or not — in all such situations, it is a mitzvah to follow the majority, as it is written, Follow the majority.
However, this rule applies only when the two disagreeing groups are equally knowledgeable of the Torah, but one group of sages certainly outweighs a group of ignoramuses, even if the latter are the majority, and even if they should be as numerous as those who left Egypt in the Exodus. But when both groups are equal in knowledge, then the Torah informs us that the majority opinion is always the one that conforms with the truth rather than the minority. And even if it seems to a person listening to both opinions that the majority is not correct, we nevertheless follow the majority. The exception to this is the rule of following the majority in the Sanhedrin. There we follow the majority even if the minority of the judges are the greater experts in Torah. The reason for this is that [the Sanhedrin] is comprised of an exact number of judges as proscribed by the Torah, and it is as if the Torah explicitly commanded that we follow the majority of the Sanhedrin [no matter what]. Besides, [in truth], all members of the Sanhedrin were in fact great Sages.
Among the roots of this mitzvah is that we were commanded about this in order to strengthen the fulfillment of our Faith, for if the Torah was meant to be fulfilled as we understand it ourselves, then each individual among Yisrael would say, “My mind is inclined to say that the truth about issue X is such-and-such,” and even if the entire world would say otherwise — the individual would have no choice but to follow his own personal understanding and would actually be forbidden to do anything contrary to his own mind. This would cause ruin, for then the Torah would become splintered, with each person judging situations according to his own meek mind. But now that the Torah explicitly commands us to accept the opinion of the majority of sages, there is only one, single Torah, and no matter what we may not budge from their understanding. By keeping the instructions [of the majority of sages] we fulfill the command of God. And even if it could occasionally happen that the opinion of the sages might not coincide with the truth, Heaven forbid, the sin will be upon them, not us.
This mitzvah applies in all places and at all times, to both men and women. One who transgresses this and did not follow the majority, violates a positive commandment and his sin is very great, for following the majority is the pillar upon which the entire Torah stands.