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Tom Meyer is a Prophecy Today contributor in Israel who brings us first hand accounts of the news, as it happens, and gets exclusive interviews with newsmakers in that area.

The Re-established Sanhedrin

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Great Sanhedrin was a group of 71 Jewish judges who functioned as a kind of supreme court of Israel which according to Jewish tradition existed from the time of Moses (Numbers 11:16) until the Roman Empire dismantled it in 358 a.d.

There have been several attempts to renew the Great Sanhedrin since then. Napoleon tried to assemble a European Sanhedrin around 1800, Rabbi Skhlover in 1830, Rabbi Cohen in 1901, Rabbi Kovsker in 1940 and Rabbi Maimon tried in 1949.

The first serious attempt to revive the Sanhedrin since the birth of Israel in 1948 was made in 2004 by a coalition of Jewish law experts in Tiberias, where the previous Sanhedrin was disbanded 1600 years ago. Unlike others who attempted to resurrect the Sanhedrin and failed, this current group of 71 scholars and rabbis has certainly not. I interviewed one of the leading members of the new Sanhedrin Yisrael Ariel recently and he had some interesting things to say.
He told me that today’s Sanhedrin like the Great Sanhedrin of old consists of a Nasi (President), an Av beis din (Chancellor), and a 69 general member body. Today’s Sanhedrin also holds their sessions in the form of a semi-circle, decisions are once again made by a majority vote and again membership is not an elected permanent position but open ended with realignment of position or removal of membership an option at any time.

This current attempt to revive the Sanhedrin does not meet in the Hall of Hewn Stones near the northern wall of the Temple Mount as in the days of old but in a normal building in Jerusalem monthly, but what this current Rabbinic body discusses is not normal.

The current Sanhedrin though still in its infancy is continuing to mature by attracting some of the world’s leading scholars in Talmudic and Mishnaic studies into their circle. Among the topics of discussion at their meetings are renewing Temple sacrificial rituals, Jewish ritual laws (halakhah), gathering and preparing prefabricated portions of a Temple that can be quickly assembled, and how Israel should function again as a theocracy. The Sanhedrin is not yet officially recognized as a ruling body or "supreme court" by the current Israeli democratic state but the current Sanhedrin does not necessarily recognize the current governments authority either. The current Sanhedrin is interested in research to prepare detailed architectural plans and materials for the rebuilding of the Temple and to pave the way for a future Sanhedrin that can once again function with the authority it once did during the Temple periods.

Interestingly enough, the Talmud states that the organization of the Sanhedrin is a pre-messianic institution. A tradition is recorded in the Talmud (Tractate Megillah 17b) that the Sanhedrin will be restored after a partial return of Jews to Israel and before Jerusalem (i.e. the Temple) is rebuilt. Another tradition in the Talmud (Eruvin 43b) predicts that Elijah will present himself before an organized Sanhedrin before the coming of the Messiah.

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