Deuteronomy 1:13 – Prepare for yourselves wise and understanding men, known among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.
Sifri: “They should be known to you”
Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #9:
The Sifri explains that it is not appropriate to appoint a judge when it is not known “who he is” even though he may be a great scholar. The Rambam in Chapter 2, Halacha 7 of Sanhedrin explains the phrase “known among your tribes” is in reference to the known saying that a judge must be someone who is pleasing to the people. This is according to the Gemora Sanhedrin 88b that states “Anyone who is wise and pleasing to the people may be appointed as a judge.”
However, it does need to be explained how the Rambam connects the idea of being “known to the tribe” to the idea of being pleasing to the people, especially since the Gemora itself does not use our verse to support this teaching. Perhaps one can say that the idea of “being known” is that people can see the content of his soul and can see his good actions and that through this the [potential] judge is someone beloved to the tribes. This is also alluded to in the previous note where it states that the word “men” means that a judge’s humanity is what needs to be known. [שבאנושיותם יהיו ידועים]
In other words, the judges need to be righteous, beloved and pleasing to the people.
Editor’s Note: The Torah Temimah says that one cannot appoint a judge unless his “menshlichkeit” or humanity is known.