Wednesday, June 08, 2005

JPost: Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz new head of 'Sanhedrin'

From: The Jerusalem Post:

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz new head of 'Sanhedrin'
By Mati Wagner

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz was elected the temporary president of a rabbinical body Monday that aspires to renew the Sanhedrin, Judaism's highest-ranking legal-religious tribunal.

The group of rabbis involved with reestablishing the Sanhedrin, a 71-man assembly of rabbis that convened adjacent to the Holy Temple before its destruction in 70 CE and outside Jerusalem until about 400 CE, also decided to take steps toward the rebuilding of the Holy Temple.

Historically, the Sanhedrin was the final arbiter on all halachic matters. Reestablishing the tribunal is aimed at ending religious in-fighting and facilitating unity.


However, although Steinsaltz's involvement with the endeavor adds important rabbinic and intellectual legitimacy, chances are slim that the reestablishing of the Sanhedrin will muster wide support.

All major halachic authorities, including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the leading haredi Ashkenazi spiritual leader, and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the premier Sephardi halachic opinion, have refused repeated requests to offer their support.

There is also a broad consensus, even among national religious rabbis such as Rabbi Avraham Shapira and Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, that no steps should be made toward the building of a Third Temple.

In fact, those involved with reestablishing the Sanhedrin have feared ostracism by the religious community. Rabbi Hillel Weiss, spokesman for the burgeoning Sanhedrin, said in an official statement that because of "concerns that external pressure would be brought to bear upon individuals not to take part in the establishment of a Sanhedrin, the names of most participants have been withheld up to this point."

But Weiss is not phased by opposition. "The increasingly anti-Jewish decisions handed down by the Supreme Court prove the need for an alternative legal system based on Jewish sources," said Weiss. "More and more people, including Torah scholars, are beginning to understand this."

In addition to the election of Steinsaltz, the rabbis present also chose a seven-man committee, headed by him, to campaign for the acceptance of the idea of a Sanhedrin.

Those chosen include Rabbi Nachman Kahane, brother of murdered JDL and Kach leader rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahane is the rabbi of the Young Israel of Jerusalem's Old City and heads an organized study of Temple rituals and ceremonies, as well as cataloging all known kohanim (priests) in Israel.

Others on the committee are Rabbi Dov Levanoni, an 83-year-old Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi and expert on the Holy Temple; Yisrael Ariel, founder of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem; and Rabbi Yoel Shwartz, founder and rabbi of the "Nahal Haredi" IDF unit specifically designed to enable the haredi public to join the IDF, and teacher at Yeshivat Dvar Yerushalayim who has authored about 200 books on a wide variety of subjects in Jewish law and theology.

Nevertheless, the most famous and respected member of the endeavor is undoubtedly Steinsaltz. He is best known for his translation and commentary on the Talmud, but he has also served as resident scholar at Princeton and Yale Universities. He heads a network of Israeli educational institutions called Mekor Chaim and outreach programs in the US, the former Soviet Union, Great Britain and Australia. He is also a past recipient of the Israel Prize.

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