June 24, 2005

Law and Order

Click on the link below for the full article by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Kaganoff in this week's Yated about the new Sanhedrin-like organization currently making waves in Israel. A good quote to get you going:

When I spoke to the “dayan,” he asked me if I was interested in becoming one of their musmachim. He told me that he would send me the information necessary for an appointment with their committee that approves musmachim. Consequently, I received a letter inviting me to the next meeting of their “Sanhedrin,” and a note that they had asked one of their members about me and upon that basis they were preparing a semicha to present me at the next meeting of the “Sanhedrin”!! I noted above that the Radvaz ruled that the person receiving semicha must be a talmid chacham with the scholarship to rule on any subject in Torah. Since I do not qualify for semicha on that basis, I am curious what criteria they are applying to determine a minimum standard for semicha. ...
Read the whole thing.

Semicha and Sanhedrin Controversies
of the 16th and 21st Centuries
by Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

The Anglo-Jewish press has been carrying occasional coverage of a group in Eretz Yisroel that calls itself “The Sanhedrin.” In October of last year, a group of 71 rabbis convened in Teverya claiming that they had the semicha necessary to create a Sanhedrin as specified by the Rambam. The group chose Teverya because the original Sanhedrin last met there. The semicha that they received was based on a semicha granted to one well-known talmid chacham who had received semicha from “many prominent rabbis.” In the opinion of those organizing this Sanhedrin, this talmid chacham was then considered to have received semicha as handed down from Moshe Rabbeinu, and thus was able to give semicha to the others. The goal of the group is to have a group of rabbis who convene monthly to discuss and issue rulings on pressing issues relevant to Klal Yisroel. The issues that the group plans to discuss and rule upon are: how to unify Jewish practice across the spectrum, to determine and reestabl! ish halachic techeiles, to define the measure of an amah, to find ways to deal with agunos, to determine precisely the point of human death so as to deal with issues of euthanasia and to find a way to offer the Korban Pesach once again.
However, this group’s claims have generated some serious halachic issues with what poskim have written about how semicha and the Sanhedrin will be reestablished. Furthermore, there are some very strong reservations about the rabbis who are involved in this group.
This article will be devoted to an explanation of the various halachic underpinnings of the Sanhedrin, including:
What are the roles and responsibilities of the Sanhedrin?
What exactly is semicha and why is it such a central factor in the creation of the Sanhedrin?
What attempts have been made throughout history to reconvene a Sanhedrin and reestablish semicha?
Does this new organization fulfill its title?


WHAT IS THE SANHEDRIN?
The Sanhedrin, also called the Beis Din Hagadol, was the final authority on all matters of halacha. Their interpretation of Torah sheba’al peh was authoritative.
Any halachic issue that is questionable and disputed by the lower batei din was referred to the Beis Din HaGadol for a binding decision.
The Sanhedrin also fulfilled several vital political and administrative roles. It appointed the Jewish King as well as the judges who served on the courts of the shevatim and the cities. Each shevet and each city was required to have a beis din of 23 that the Sanhedrin appointed. Thus, the Sanhedrin was not only the supreme halachic authority but it was also quite literally the “power behind the throne,” “the power behind the courts,” - and at the same time, the court of final appeal. It had the final say in all matters both temporal and spiritual.
Many other halachos require the participation or agreement of the Sanhedrin, including a decision to wage war, expanding the halachic boundaries of the Beis HaMikdash or of Yerushalayim (Rambam, Hilchos Sanhedrin 5:1). (We are permitted to eat many holy items, including certain korbanos and maaser sheni, only in halachic Yerushalayim, which has nothing to do with its current municipal boundaries. Expanding the city requires a special procedure that includes participation of the Sanhedrin.)
In addition, several types of adjudication require the participation of the Sanhedrin, including prosecuting a false prophet, a city that went astray (ir hanidachas), a sotah, and an elder who ruled against the Torah sheba’al peh (zakein mamrei) and the law of eglah arufah (Rambam, Hilchos Sanhedrin 5:1).
The Sanhedrin was also in charge of supervising the Jewish calendar through the appointment of a specially-designated committee. (In the absence of a Sanhedrin or Beis Din HaGadol, Hillel the Second established a permanent calendar over 1500 years ago so that the calendar can continue to exist even though the Sanhedrin no longer exists.)


WHERE AND WHEN DOES THE SANHEDRIN MEET?
The Sanhedrin was open daily in its main headquarters inside the Beis HaMikdash called the lishkas hagazis. When they are involved in litigation, the entire Sanhedrin is present. When not in session, there must still always be 23 members of the Sanhedrin in the lishkah.


WHO QUALIFIES TO BE IN THE SANHEDRIN?
There are many technical requirements that all members must meet, but as a basic requirement they must be superior talmidei chachomim and yirei shamayim (G-d fearing individuals). In addition, all members of the Sanhedrin and of all the lower courts must also receive the special semicha that Moshe bestowed upon Yehoshua authorizing him to paskin on all areas of Jewish law.


DOESN’T EVERY RABBI HAVE SEMICHA?
There are several levels of semicha. The most basic semicha, called yoreh yoreh, authorizes the recipient to rule on matters of kashrus and similar areas. A more advanced level of semicha called yodin yodin authorizes its recipient to rule as a dayan on financial matters. A higher level, no longer obtainable today, is called yatir bechoros and authorizes its recipient to rule on whether a first-born animal is blemished and no longer appropriate to offer as a korban (see Gemara Sanhedrin 5a).
There was also a qualitatively different type of semicha that could be obtained from the time of Moshe Rabbeinu until the time of the Gemara. This semicha authorized the recipient to rule on capital and corporal cases (chayavei misas beis din and malkus) and to judge kenasos, penalties that the Torah invoked. Only a beis din consisting exclusively of dayanim ordained with this semicha could judge whether a person receives lashes or the death penalty for his actions.
In earlier days each city and shevet had its own beis din of 23 judges, all of whom were possessors of the highest level of semicha. In addition, all 71 members of the Sanhedrin must have this form of semicha.


HOW MANY DAYANIM GIVE OUT SEMICHA?
A single judge who is himself a musmach may grant semicha to as many qualified people as he chooses, although the grantor must be accompanied by two other people, who need not be musmachim themselves. The Gemara records that Dovid HaMelech (himself an expert judge and tremendous talmid chacham) once granted 30,000 semichos in one day!! Semicha that was granted to someone who is not an expert in all areas of halacha is not valid (Meiri, Sanhedrin 14a).
This semicha also must be issued within Eretz Yisroel. Thus, even if a talmid chacham is highly qualified, he may not receive semicha unless the grantor of the semicha and the recipient are both in Eretz Yisroel (Gemara Sanhedrin 14a). For this reason, most of the Amoraim, the great talmidei chachomim in the times of the Gemara, never received this semicha, because they lived in Bavel and not in Eretz Yisroel.


THE STORY OF RAV YEHUDA BEN BAVA
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 13b) tells us the following fascinating story: The Roman Empire once decreed that issuing and receiving semicha was a serious crime punishable by death. Furthermore they ruled that the town in which the semicha was issued would be destroyed, and the areas near it would be razed.
Rabbi Yehudah ben Bava realized that he was one of the last musmachim (recipients of this special semicha) alive after the execution of Rabbi Akiva and that if he failed to grant semicha to some young scholars the semicha would terminate forever. He therefore endangered himself and granted semicha to five surviving disciples of Rabbi Akiva: Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Shimon, Rabbi Yehudah (ben Ila’i), Rabbi Yosi and Rabbi Elazar ben Shamua – basically to an entire generation of Torah leadership. In order not to endanger anyone else, Rabbi Yehuda ben Bava brought them to a place that was midway between two major cities and was between two mountains. Thus, for the Romans to fulfill their decree they would need to level two mountains.
Rabbi Yehudah ben Bava succeeded in this mission although he paid for it with his life. Because of his supreme sacrifice the semicha continued among the Jewish people for several more generations.
With the increased persecution of the Jews by the Romans, the Jewish population of Eretz Yisroel decreased considerably, and with time, ordination through this semicha ended. Thus, no one received the semicha that qualifies someone to judge capital, corporal, or kenasos cases, and this aspect of our halachic life came to an end.


CAN SEMICHA BE REINSTITUTED?
The Rambam writes: “It appears to me that if all the Chachomim in Eretz Yisroel agree to appoint dayanim and grant them semicha, they have the law of musmachim and they can judge penalty cases and are authorized to grant semicha to others… if someone received semicha from someone who already has semicha, then he does not require authorization from all of them – he may judge penalty cases for everyone since he received semicha from beis din. However, this matter requires a final decision” (Rambam, Hilchos Sanhedrin 4:11).
Thus, the Rambam appears to have created a method whereby the semicha can be re-created. However, several issues need to be clarified before the project suggested by the Rambam can be implemented:
1. Did the Rambam paskin this as a final decision or was it merely conjecture? When he wrote in his closing words, “However, this matter requires a final decision,” did he mean that he was uncertain about his suggestion or was he referring to a different comment?
2. Assuming that the Rambam meant to rule definitely that semicha can be reinstituted, did he mean literally that this process requires all of the Chachomim in Eretz Yisroel to agree, or does a majority suffice? Must the rabbonim involved all meet in one place, or is it sufficient if they are aware of the process and approve?
3. Is the Rambam’s opinion on this subject universally held? And if not, do we rule like him?


THE 16th CENTURY CONTROVERSY- REINTRODUCING SEMICHA
After the Spanish expulsion, many Jews remained in Spain, practicing their Judaism in secret, while publicly appearing to be Christians. Thousands of these Marrano Jews eventually escaped to areas where they could return to the religion of their fathers, yet they were haunted by the sins they had transgressed in their previous lives. Many were concerned that they would never escape the specter of their more serious aveiros, many of which carried the punishment of kareis. Although they had become true baalei tshuvah, they lived in fear of their ultimate day of judgment when they would have to give a reckoning for their actions and face the serious consequences.


THE SOLUTION
The Mahari Beirav, Rav of Tzefas in the early sixteenth century, came up with an original solution to the problem. He proposed the creation of batei din that would carry out the punishment of malkos, lashes, which releases someone from the punishment of kareis (Mishnah Makos 23a).
There was one serious problem with this proposal. In order to create batei din that can exact these punishments, one must have dayanim who have received a special semicha that can be traced to Moshe Rabbeinu. Since this semicha had terminated over a thousand years before, the Mahari Beirav needed a different approach.


TZEFAS, 5298 (1538)
Based on the writings of the Rambam (Peirush Hamishnayos, Sanhedrin 1:3; Hilchos Sanhedrin 4:11), in 5298 (1538), 25 gedolim of Tzefas, at the time the largest Torah community in Eretz Yisroel, granted semicha to the Mahari Beirav. He then ordained four people with the new semicha including Rav Yosef Karo, who had already written his monumental works Kesef Mishneh and Beis Yosef, and later authored the Shulchan Aruch, and Rav Moshe di-Trani, the author of several major halacha works including Beis Elokim, Kiryas Sefer, and Shailos U’teshuvos Mabit. The Mahari Beirav also sent a semicha to the Rav of Yerushalayim, Rav Levi ibn Chaviv, known as the Maharalbach, who he assumed would be delighted to receive such a wonderful gift!
The Maharalbach was not happy with the gift and returned it. He took strong issue with their issuing semicha for the following reasons:
1. The Rambam’s closing words, “This matter requires a final decision” shows that he was not fully decided on this halacha, and therefore it cannot be relied upon.
2. The Ramban (Sefer Ham-itzvos, Aseh 153) disagrees with the Rambam, contending that semicha can not be reinstituted until Moshiach arrives. Thus, since the Rambam was uncertain about this halacha, and the Ramban was certain that there is no such thing, the halacha follows the Ramban.
3. Even if we assume that the Rambam meant this ruling to be definitive, the Tzefas rabbonim had not fulfilled the procedure correctly since all the gedolim of Eretz Yisroel must be together in one synod. (This opinion is actually mentioned earlier by the Meiri, Sanhedrin 14a.)
Furthermore, the Maharalbach insists that all the scholars must be involved in the active debate and that all must agree. Furthermore, he contended that even if someone holds that a majority of gedolim is sufficient, the minority must be aware of the debate and participate in it. He further contended that creating such a synod now would not help either, since once the Tzefas rabbonim had ordained the Mahari Beirav, they now have a bias in their ruling (noge’ah b’din) which invalidates their opinion on the subject.
The Maharalbach proved his opinion that the Rambam’s suggestion was not accepted as normative halacha from the fact that there had been numerous opportunities for gedolei Yisroel to create semicha and yet they refrained. The Maharalbach concludes that semicha will not exist again until the arrival of Moshiach.


WHAT ABOUT THE MARRANOS?
As for the baalei teshuvah that would be left without release from their kareis, the Maharalbach pointed out that if they performed sincere teshuvah they would be forgiven for their sins, no matter how severe they were. Although it is possible that they may suffer some in this world for these aveiros despite their tshuvah, they would receive no punishment for their aveiros in the next world (Gemara Makos 13b).
On the other hand, the Mah-aralbach pointed out that he did not understand how semicha could accomplish what the Mahari Beirav wanted anyway, since a beis din cannot punish someone for violating the Torah unless several requirements are met, including:
The sinner must receive a warning immediately prior to his violating the commandment telling him that he is sinning, explaining to him that what he is planning to do is wrong, and what punishment he will receive if he sins. The sinner must then acknowledge that he heard and understood the warning and then perform the sin anyway. Furthermore, a beis din does not punish a sinner unless two adult male Jews witnessed the entire procedure and then testified in front of beis din. (Of course, consequently almost no one will ever be punished by beis din for violating a Torah’s mitzvah.) Clearly, none of these Marranos had received warning prior to performing the aveiros and therefore they are not culpable of malkos in a beis din. Thus, how would these baalei teshuvah receive the malkos they desire even if dayanim musmachim exist?


RESPONSE FROM TZEFAS
The Mahari Beirav responded to the Maharalbach’s arguments. As far as the punishment of malkos is concerned, the Mahari Beirav held that if someone voluntarily asks for malkos for his sin in the presence of an authorized beis din, the punishment is carried out, even though there were no warnings and no witnesses. Thus, the creation of a beis din of musmachim facilitates the atonement of these people.
As far as semicha is concerned, the Mahari Beirav did not accept the Maharalbach’s criticism that his semicha program was invalid. The Mahari Beirav explained that the Rambam’s ruling is definitive, not theoretical or suggestive, and he questions whether the Ramban disputes this opinion. Even if the Ramban does question it, he contends that the halacha follows the Rambam. Furthermore, he contends that a simple majority of gedolim living in Eretz Yisroel is sufficient to create semicha, since the halacha in all other cases of jurisprudence is that we follow the majority. Thus, since all the gedolim of Tzefas, who were a majority of the gedolim in Eretz Yisroel at the time, had appointed him as dayan, the semicha could be renewed on this basis. In addition, the Mahari Beirav contends that correspondence with the other gedolei Yisroel is a sufficient method to determine whether a majority favor renewing semicha and that it is not necessary for all the gedolim to attend a meeti! ng together for this purpose.
A lengthy correspondence ensued between the Maharalbach and the rabbanim of Tzefas, which is referred to as the Kuntros Hase-micha, and is appended to the end of the Shailos U’teshuvos Mah-aralbach.
Incidentally, the dispute between the Maharalbach and the Mahari Beirav whether the gedolim can reinstitute semicha dates back to the Rishonim. The Meiri (Sanhedrin 14a) rules that semicha can be reintroduced by having all the gedolei Yisroel of Eretz Yisroel gather together and appoint someone to be a dayan. However, the Meiri also rules that the gedolim must meet together in one group for this ruling, which precludes the Mahari Beirav’s method. The Rashba (Bava Kamma 36b) also cites the Rambam’s opinion, although he rules the opposite, that renewal of semicha must await the arrival of Moshiach, following the opinion of the Ramban as explained by the Maharalbach. In addition, the Ritva and the Nemukei Yosef (both at end of Yevamos) both state that semicha must await the arrival of Moshiach.
Evidence to support the Mahari Beirav’s opinion, if not his method, can be drawn from the Gemara (Eruvin 43b) that states that Eliyahu will declare his arrival as the harbinger of Moshiach by coming to the Beis Din HaGadol. This Gemara implies that the Beis Din HaGadol will precede the arrival of Eliyahu, and not the other way around (see Maharitz Chiyos ad loc.). However, the Ritva and the Nemukei Yosef appear to hold that there will be no Sanhedrin until Moshiach comes.


THE RADVAZ GETS INVOLVED
Both sides appealed to the Radvaz, the acknowledged gadol hador, who lived in Egypt at the time, for a ruling. (The Radvaz later moved to Eretz Yisroel, but at the time of this dispute he was outside of Eretz Yisroel and therefore had not been involved in the initial debate and discussion.)
The Radvaz rules like the Maharalbach that the semicha was invalid, believing that the Rambam himself was not certain that this is a definitive ruling, and furthermore, universal acceptance of the semicha would be necessary even according to the Rambam’s approach. In addition, the Radvaz felt that the person receiving semicha must be a talmid chochom with the scholarship to rule on any subject in Torah. He did not believe that his generation had talmidei chachomim in this league.


HOW THEN WILL THE SANHEDRIN BE REESTABLISHED?
The Radvaz does discuss an issue – if we cannot create a new semicha, how then will we have semicha in the future. As mentioned above, semicha is necessary to create a Sanhedrin, and the Sanhedrin is necessary to appoint the Jewish King and judges, and for many other community activities. The Radvaz presents three methods whereby semicha can be re-established:
1. Eliyahu HaNavi, who is musmach (see Rambam, introduction to Mishnah Torah), will issue semicha to others when he arrives as the harbinger of Moshiach’s arrival.
2. Descendents of Shevet Reuven may reappear who have semicha. Simply because we are unaware of anyone with semicha, does not mean that members of other shevatim who have been separated from us since before the time of the Churban, do not have semicha. (This approach creates a question. If semicha can only be given in Eretz Yisroel, how could members of these shevatim receive semicha when we know that they were exiled from Eretz Yisroel? See below for an answer to this question.)
3. Moshiach himself will grant semicha and thus create a Beis Din Hagadol. The Radvaz does not explain where Moshiach himself gets his authorization to grant semicha.
As noted above, the Radvaz contends that no one in our generation qualifies in learning and Yiras Shamayim to qualify. Specifically, he states that only someone who is qualified to paskin on everything in the Torah qualifies for this special semicha.


RESULTS OF THE TZEFAS SEMICHA
The Mahari Beirav passed away three years after the semicha project began. Although Rav Yosef Karo had received this semicha and actually ordained Rav Moshe Alshich (author of the Alshich commentary to Tanach), by all indications he never utilized the semicha in any other way. Nowhere does he refer to a renewal of semicha, and furthermore, numerous places in Shulchan Aruch would be written differently if its author assumed that a beis din of semuchim existed today. In all these places, he assumes that no beis din today exists that is authorized to paskin on the laws of penalties and punishments.
This is even more intriguing in light of the fact that in his commentary, the Beis Yosef (Choshen Mishpat 295) he records as definitive halacha the Rambam’s opinion that semicha can be renewed. Although Rav Moshe Alshich ordained Rav Chayim Vital (Birkei Yosef, Choshen Mishpat 1:7), who was renowned as the primary disciple of the Arizal, the semicha trail appears to end at this point. There is no indication of anyone continuing the semicha project after this time. From all indications we can assume that the psak of the Maharalbach and Radvaz was accepted that we should not introduce semicha on our own.


SEARCHING FOR SEMICHA IN THE 1830’S
In the 1830’s, Rav Yisroel of Shklov, one of the leading disciples of the Vilna Gaon who had settled in Yerushalayim, made another attempt to restart semicha. Rav Yisroel was interested in organizing a Sanhedrin, but he accepted the ruling of the Maharalbach and the Radvaz that we cannot create semicha by ourselves. Instead, he decided to utilize the suggestion of the Radvaz of receiving semicha from the tribes of Reuven and Gad. Rav Yisroel charted out where he thought the Bnei Reuven were probably located, and sent a certain Rav Baruch as his emissary to find them (see Sefer Halikutim to the Shabsei Frankel edition of Rambam, Hilchos Sanhedrin 4:11). Unfortunately, Rav Baruch did not succeed in locating the shevet of Reuven and the plan came to naught.
It should be noted that Rav Yisroel raised the question how could the Bnei Reuven have kept the semicha alive, since they were outside Eretz Yisroel and the semicha can be granted only in Eretz Yisroel. He answered that since the Bnei Reuven had been distant from the rest of Klal Yisroel before this psak (that semicha can only be in Eretz Yisroel) had been accepted, there is no reason to assume that they accepted this psak, and they were probably still issuing semicha!! It is unusual that Rav Yisroel assumed that although we paskin that semicha can be given and received only in Eretz Yisroel, he still held that a semicha granted outside Eretz Yisroel is valid.
Rav Yisroel’s vain search to locate a musmach was an attempt to reintroduce the Sanhedrin, a far more ambitious plan than the Mahari Beirav had considered. Apparently, Rav Yisroel understood from the Gemara (Eruvin 43b) that the Sanhedrin must exist before Eliyahu can appear, a position that almost all poskim reject, as we pointed out above.


NAPOLEON’S SANHEDRIN
In 5567 (1807), Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, decreed the opening of what he called “The Sanhedrin,” consisting of 71 Jewish leaders, mostly Rabbonim, but including many communal leaders, many not religious.
This group had nothing to do with being a Sanhedrin other than that Napoleon had given them this name. Napoleon presented this group with a list of 12 inquiries to answer, all of which questioned whether the Jews were loyal to the French Empire and its laws, and about the interactions between Jews and non-Jewish Frenchmen. Of course, the “Sanhedrin” had to be very careful how they answered Napoleon’s questions to make sure that they were not guilty of treason. This Sanhedrin met many times in the course of about a year and then disbanded. It was never called into session again.


THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
Those who call their organization the “Sanhedrin” base themselves on the Mahari Beirav’s opinion that we can recreate semicha today based on the acceptance of most of the gedolei Yisroel. On this basis, they claim to have created semicha of one of the well-known poskim in Eretz Yisroel who subsequently ordained a few others who have ordained yet others until they now claim several hundred “musmachim.”
I spoke to one of the “dayanim” of the “Sanhedrin” about the procedure used to appoint their musmachim. He told me that the organization mailed letters to every shul and settlement in Israel requesting appointment of a certain well-respected Rav as musmach. They then counted the votes of those who responded and approved of their appointment. Since most of those who responded approved of the appointment, they have ruled that this Rav is now a musmach whose semicha qualifies people to serve on the Sanhedrin! According to this “dayan,” “those who chose not to respond do not count. We have a majority of those who responded!”
Obviously, this system carries absolutely no halachic validity according to any opinion.
When I spoke to the “dayan,” he asked me if I was interested in becoming one of their musmachim. He told me that he would send me the information necessary for an appointment with their committee that approves musmachim. Consequently, I received a letter inviting me to the next meeting of their “Sanhedrin,” and a note that they had asked one of their members about me and upon that basis they were preparing a semicha to present me at the next meeting of the “Sanhedrin”!! I noted above that the Radvaz ruled that the person receiving semicha must be a talmid chacham with the scholarship to rule on any subject in Torah. Since I do not qualify for semicha on that basis, I am curious what criteria they are applying to determine a minimum standard for semicha. Unfortunately, I think I know the answer.
The group behind this “Sanhedrin” often implies that several different gedolim are behind their activities. This is highly misleading since these gedolim refuse to be identified with this group’s activities. Any Jewish organization built upon falsehood is doomed to failure, even if it is well intentioned, since the Torah is Toras Emes.
When I spoke to the “dayan,” I told him that I had some questions about the halachic basis for their procedures. He answered that they prefer to reply to questions in writing and he requested that I send my letters via e-mail. He promised that they would answer all my inquiries quickly. In a subsequent conversation, he told me that he had received my initial inquiry. I sent him two respectful letters, one asking several halachic questions about their procedures, the second asking for verification that some of the gedolim they have quoted have indeed endorse their position. Although I sent each of these requests to them twice, I never heard back from them on these questions.
Moreover, there are some serious issues that this “Sanhedrin” is delegating to itself. If I might quote from a list of their activities:
“Among the many topics the Sanhedrin intends to address are the bridging of the divisions between various communities of Jewish exiles who have returned to Israel; the establishment of authentic techelet, the biblical blue thread Jews are commanded to wear amongst the fringes attached to four-cornered garments; the definition of the measurement of the ‘ammah’ (the biblical cubit); the determination of the exact point of human death, so as to deal with the Jewish ethics of euthanasia; and the issue of agunot - women whose husbands refuse to grant them a divorce.”
I would like to point out that these issues have all been dealt with or are being dealt with by Klal Yisroel’s gedolei haposkim. (In a previous article, I explained why most gedolei haposkim rejected the suggested sources of the techeiles dye.)
Recently, the group has gotten involved in several really serious issues. Apparently, they are exploring the location of the mizbeach, the possibilities of offering a Korban Pesach, and of appointing a king from the descendents of Dovid Hamelech. One of their meetings was apparently conducted on the Har Habayis itself! (Please note that most poskim prohibit ascending the Har Habayis.) The discussion about bringing korbanos is a well-trodden halachic discourse and, here also, all gedolei poskim have ruled that we cannot offer korbanos now.
It should also be noted that the Gedolim have placed the writings of one prominent member of this “Sanhedrin” in cherem.
Based on what I have seen about this “Sanhedrin,” I pose the following questions to the reader:
Are the members of this “Sanhedrin” qualified to make decisions that affect Klal Yisroel? Are they qualified to make any halachic decisions at all? Is this not an attempt to replace the halachic decisions of gedolei Yisroel and the gedolei haposkim? Are these the people who should be determining Klal Yisroel’s agenda? Doesn’t this organization cheapen the kedusha that the word Sanhedrin implies? Isn’t this organization an insult to anyone with Torah sensitivities?
The gedolei Yisroel could organize a Sanhedrin today if they considered it halachically acceptable. Clearly they are of the opinion that the halachic foundation for such a move does not exist or, alternatively, that Klal Yisroel will not benefit from its creation.
We should all daven with more kavanah when reciting the bracha Hoshiva shofteinu k’varishonah, “Return our judges like the ones we had originally,” as a result of T’ka b’shofar gadol licheiruseinu, “Blow the Great Shofar that will free us.”

Posted by Avraham at June 24, 2005 09:46 AM
Comments

"It should also be noted that the Gedolim have placed the writings of one prominent member of this “Sanhedrin” in cherem."

*coughSteinzaltzcough*

Still, this is a pretty dispassionate and blanced piece for Yated.

Posted by: S. at June 24, 2005 10:03 AM

Can someone please enlighten me as to what Steinsaltz did to merit his writings being banned?

Posted by: Jordan at June 24, 2005 10:32 AM

He dared to suggest that figures in Tanach were- gasp- human beings.

At least one fact wrong: No "meetings" were held on the Har HaBayis. Members of the Sanhedrin (no Yated-style scare quotes for me, even if I don't approve) went up in small groups (that's all that was allowed).

Posted by: Nachum Lamm at June 24, 2005 10:38 AM

That was the pretext. But he also dared to make a highly accessible Talmud before Artscroll could begin its translation.

Posted by: at June 24, 2005 11:06 AM

Forgot that!

The article is full of snide asides. He'll mention something the Sanhedrin does, and then toss of a "the gedolim say no." He does this at least thrice. In at least one case it is a huge nonsequitor.

Posted by: Nachum Lamm at June 24, 2005 11:30 AM

Moshe Antelman is also on that Sanhedrin, and he is a proponent of methods for being mattir agunos that are considered extremely problematic by almost all poskim.

Posted by: Rack at June 24, 2005 12:16 PM

Conceiving a minority halakhic view does not make a rav a treife.

Posted by: at June 24, 2005 12:24 PM

Maybe being matir agunot is the modern equivalent of being metaher a sheretz.

That aside, I have a feeling that the day Moshiach comes to ingather the exiles, rebuild the Temple and re-establish the Davidic dynasty, everyone will tell him to sit down and shut up and wait until Moshiach comes.

Posted by: Ben at June 24, 2005 03:07 PM

I am surprised that only the Yated, as opposed to any reasonable spokesman for MO either in Israel or Chutz LaAretz had to write the first somewhat objective critique of the BD under discussion. How can a BD that includes a supporter of R Rackman's proposals that make a mockery out of Halacha be taken seriously ?

Posted by: Steve Brizel at June 25, 2005 11:39 PM

Very very Good

Posted by: Herb Brodsky at June 26, 2005 09:52 AM

"Did" "the" "gedolei" "haposkim" "approve" "the" "use" "of" "scare" "quotes" "throughout" "this" "article"? "If" "not", "where" "does" "the" "author" "have" "authority" "to" "use" "them" "from"?

The author asks "Are the members of this “Sanhedrin” ... qualified to make any halachic decisions at all?"

Presumably, the answer is no. Obviously, Rav Elyashiv is the only person qualified to pasken on anything nowadays. The source for this is to be found explicitly in Rambam Hilcho Chareidi Revisionsim, 1:1. Needless to say, all of the "gedolei haposkim" pasken like this Rambam.

Posted by: J.I. at June 26, 2005 11:11 AM

Speaking as someone who knows RYK, he is a very balanced posek, and certainly not a chareidi fanatic or someone who blindly toes the party line. Thus, I think he has more credibility on this issue then some of you are giving him.

Posted by: Joe Shmo at June 27, 2005 01:10 PM

play nicely - the guy who wrote the article has a little brother who reads this blog.

Posted by: dani at June 27, 2005 01:27 PM

Thanks.
(Though RYK can b"h fend for himself)

Posted by: YK at June 27, 2005 03:16 PM

"Among those others are dayanim, roshei yeshiva, rabbonim of cities and settlements as well as kooks, amei ha'aretz and reshaim."

Sounds like the composition of a historical Sanhedrin.

Posted by: at June 30, 2005 10:09 AM

If only the "sanhedrin" would be as valid as the "techeiles" he is criticizing, then I would be totaly for it!

There is no question in my mind that TECHEILES was discovered. There is definitly a chiyuv for everyone to wear it, or not wear a beged with 4 corners without it.

For more information please visit: www.tekhelet.org

Posted by: at June 30, 2005 10:10 AM

LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE "YATED"

Dear Editor
In this past week's column about the "Sanhedrin", Rabbi Kaganoff mentions that in a previous article he explained "why most Gedolei Haposkim rejected the suggested sources of the Techeiles dye." I was unfortunately not privileged to read that article, but I was dismayed by this single sentence (for which Rabbi Kaganoff brings no quotes or sources). I have personally spoken to numerous Heimish, Rabbonim, Poskim, and Gedolei Hador of which nearly all have told me that there is a hiddur in wearing the "murex trunculus Techeiles".

Among the Poskim I have spoken to was Rav Yisroel Belsky who told me that the Murex Trunculus is very likely the source of Techeiles and it is definitely worthwhile to be î÷ééí this îöåä (albeit in private, if I am embarrassed). Rav Belsky then proceeded to tell me that "It is a shame on our generation that someone that wishes to be Mehudar B'Mitzvos is unable to do so because of embarrassment of being associated with certain factions of Klal Yisroel" (ìùåðå äæäá îîù)

This is all besides for the fact that I happen to know over twenty acknowledged "Yeshivishe" Rabbanim and Roshei Yeshiva who wear Techeiles in private.

M.D.S.
Monsey NY
845-4**-****

Posted by: at July 6, 2005 02:45 PM

Where does Rabbi Kaganoff serve as a Rav?

Posted by: at August 7, 2005 02:05 PM
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