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« on: December 11, 2004, 11:26:12 AM »

Members of Reestablished Sanhedrin Ascend Temple Mount Wednesday,
December 8, 2004

In a dramatic but unpublicized move, members of the newly established
Sanhedrin ascended the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, this past

Close to 50 recently ordained s'muchim, members of the Sanhedrin, lined
up at the foot of the Temple Mount Monday morning. [The word s'muchim
comes from the same root as s'michah, , rabbinic ordination, to us
Christians, that is the basically the same as being ordained a minister to hold a
high office in some denominational headquarters, only greater.] The men,
many ascending the Temple Mount for the first time, had immersed in mikvaot
(ritual baths) that morning, and planned to ascend as a group. Despite
prior approval from the Israeli police who oversee entry to the Mount, the
officers barred the group from entering the Mount all together, and allowed them
to visit only in groups of ten.

Given the newly-mandated restrictive conditions, many of the s'muchim
refused to ascend at all, especially as a group of over 100 non-Jewish
tourists filed past the waiting rabbis and up towards the holy site.
“It is unconscionable that on the eve of Chanukah, which celebrates the
rededication of the Holy Temple, we should once again be barred from
worshipping – by our own people,” Rabbi Chaim Richman of Jerusalem’s
Temple Institute told IsraelNN’s Ezra HaLevi.

The Sanhedrin, a religious-legal assembly of 71 sages that convened
during the Holy Temple period and for several centuries afterwards, was the
highest Jewish judicial tribunal in the Land of Israel. The great court
used to convene in one of the Temple’s chambers in Jerusalem.

This past October, [
]the Sanhedrin was reestablished for the first time in 1,600 years, at
the site of its last meeting in Tiberias.

“There is a special mitzvah [commandment], not connected to time, but
tied to our presence in Israel, to establish a Sanhedrin,” Rabbi Meir
HaLevi, one of the 71 members of the new Sanhedrin, told Israel National
Radio’s Weekend Edition. “The Rambam [12th-century Torah scholar Maimonides]
describes the process exactly in the Mishna Torah [his seminal work
codifying Jewish Law]. When he wrote it, there was no Sanhedrin, and he
therefore outlines the steps necessary to establish one. When there is a
majority of rabbis, in Israel, who authorize one person to be a samuch,
an authority, he can then reestablish the Sanhedrin.”

Those behind the revival of the Sanhedrin stress that the revival of
the legal body is not optional, but mandated by the Torah. “We don’t have a
choice,” says Rabbi Richman. “It is a religious mandate for us to
establish a Sanhedrin.”

The Sanhedrin was reestablished through the ordination of one rabbi
agreed upon by many prominent rabbis in Israel and approved as “fitting to
serve” by former Chief Sefardi Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef and leading Ashkenazi Rabbi
Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. That rabbi, who is then considered to have received
authentic ordination as handed down from Moses, was then able to give
ordination to 70 others, making up the quorum of 71 necessary for the

“Even Mordechai HaYehudi of the Purim story was accepted, as it is
written, only ‘by the majority of his brethren,’ and not by everybody,"
Rabbi HaLevi explained. "Anyone who deals with public issues can not be
unanimously accepted.”

The rabbis behind the Sanhedrin’s reconstitution claim that, like the
State of Israel, the old-new Sanhedrin is a work-in-progress. They see
it as a vessel that, once established, will reach the stature and
authority that it once had.

“The first members requested that their names not be published, so as
to allow it to grow without public criticism of individuals,” HaLevi said.
“We want to give it time to develop and strengthen the institution,
giving a chance for more rabbis to join.” He added that each of the current
members of the Sanhedrin has agreed to be a conditional member until a
more knowledgeable rabbi joins, taking his place.

Rabbi Richman, also a member of the Sanhedrin, hopes the body will
bring about a revolution in Jewish jurisprudence. Declining to discuss
exactly what issues are on the Sanhedrin’s agenda, Richman said that
one of the main long-term goals of the Sanhedrin is to reunify Jewish observance
in Israel.(That is reintituting Temple Worship and Sacrifice) The Sanhedrin
includes members of Ashkenazi, Sefardi, Hasidic, National-Religious and
Hareidi communities.

“We Jews went into exiles all over the world,” Rabbi HaLevi said “Every
community established its own court. We are talking about more than 50
different legal systems developing separately from one another. Part of
our return to Israel is the reunification of our Jewish practices.”

A tradition is recorded in the Talmud (Tractate Megillah 17b, Rashi)
that the Sanhedrin will be restored after a partial ingathering of the
Jewish exiles, but before Jerusalem is completely rebuilt and restored.
Another Talmudic tradition (Eruvin 43b; Maharatz Chajas ad loc; Rashash to
Sanhedrin 13b) states that Elijah the Prophet will present himself before
a duly-ordained Sanhedrin when he announces the coming of the Messiah.

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