Reestablished Sanhedrin
Convenes to Discuss Temple

The re-established "Sanhedrin" convened to hold its monthly meeting this week, with
the question of the Holy Temple's precise location the main topic on the agenda.
The recently re-established Sanhedrin - ideally, Judaism's top legal assembly - of
71 rabbis and scholars also moved to solidify logistical aspects of the body.
The Sanhedrin heard expert testimony on the various opinions as to the exact part of
the Temple Mount upon which the Holy Temple stood. The fact that there has never
been an archaeological expedition or dig on the Temple Mount, coupled with
continuous Muslim efforts to destroy historical evidence of the Holy Temple at the
site, have made determining the exact location difficult.
Identifying the spot on which the Temple stood is a matter of controversy among
scholars, and has serious ramifications for those wishing to visit the Temple Mount.
It is also critical for the renewal of the Passover sacrifice, and ultimately for
the building of the third and final Holy Temple. While numerous opinions have been
expressed throughout the years, and while several of them were expressed at the
Sanhedrin gathering this week, the two main opinions state that the Temple stood
either on the spot currently occupied by the gold-topped Dome of the Rock, or just
to the north of that spot. An opinion that the Temple stood south of that spot,
approximately behind the present-day Western Wall, was also presented - though most
scholars basically discount it.
The opinion that it is impossible to determine the site of the Temple without
prophecy was also presented.
Currently, observant Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount undergo strict preparations
in accordance with halakhah (Jewish law), including - but not limited to - immersion
in a mikveh (ritual bath) prior to ascending the Mount. Once on the Mount, they
adhere to a specific route, based upon the accepted positions of rabbinical
authorities. (A map of the permitted area reflecting the most central and
widely-accepted route can be viewed by clicking here).
The opinions were delivered by rabbis, professors and archaeologists, all experts in
the matter of the Temple Mount. A final presentation on the matter will be given to
the Sanhedrin by a subcommittee now in formation. The subcommittee will thoroughly
examine the various opinions, and present its findings to the Sanhedrin, which is
then to make a decision on whether the site can be determined.
The founders of the new Sanhedrin stress that they are merely fulfilling a Biblical
mitzvah (obligation). "It is a special mitzvah , based on our presence in Israel, to
establish a Sanhedrin," Rabbi Meir HaLevi, one of the 71 members of the new
Sanhedrin, has explained. "The Rambam [12th-century Torah scholar Maimonides]
describes the process exactly in the Mishnah 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."
During Temple times, the 71 members of the Sanhedrin, the center of Jewish
jurisprudence, were seated in a semi-circle within a special chamber in the
courtyard of the Temple.
AGADAH: The Gemara cites the verse in Shir ha'Shirim (3:7-8) that states, "Behold,
it is the bed of Shlomo, surrounded by sixty Giborim (mighty men) of the mighty men
of Israel. They all grasp the sword and are trained in warfare; each man with his
sword upon his thigh, [protecting] against the dread of the nights." The Chachamim
derive from this verse that a Dayan, when issuing a ruling, should be as fearful as
though a sword is placed beneath him between his legs and Gehinom is below him.
THE VILNA GA'ON (ibid.) supports Rashi's interpretation. He explains that when
Sanhedrin sat, ten (of the most important members) sat in the middle of the group,
and they were surrounded by the other sixty. These are the "sixty mighty men
*around* the bed of Shlomo. (The ten in the middle correspond to the seven "Ro'ei
Pnei ha'Melech" and three "Shomrei ha'Saf," who are closest to the king, in a king's
court -- and in the king of king's court -- see Megilah 23a. The verse in II
Melachem 25:19, which associates these authoritative members of the king's court
with sixty other men, is discussing the members of the Sanhedrin.
"It is appropriate that the Sanhedrin convened to discuss this lofty matter [of the
Temple's location] this week," Sanhedrin spokesman Rabbi Chaim Richman told
Arutz-7's Ezra HaLevi, "as the Torah portion is Terumah - the portion of the Bible
which begins to deal with the preparations for the Tabernacle. Though seemingly
esoteric, the preparations for building a Tabernacle and the Temple are at the
center of who we are as a people."
Richman also said that it was heartening to see that despite talk of withdrawal from
parts of the Land of Israel, and despite Prime Minister Sharon's declaration that
Israel has "given up its dreams," the Sanhedrin continues to move toward
strengthening the nation of Israel. "As all these things happen all around us,"
Rabbi Richman said, "the Sanhedrin is researching ways to renew the deepest roots of
our faith - to renew Temple service, reunite Jewish legal tradition and inspire the
Jewish people to aspire to greatness. Our people have one path before us, and we
will continue to march toward our destiny."
Sanhedrin member Rabbi Yisrael Ariel - former Yeshiva head, founder of the Temple
Institute, and one of the paratroopers who took part in the 1967 liberation of the
Temple Mount - said:
"People today ask, 'Who are we in this generation to even consider building the
Temple?' But in this week's Torah portion we see that the commandment to build a
Temple was given to Jews who had just sinned and committed idolatry in the Sin of
the Golden Calf. The fact is that what G-d requires in this world is for regular
people to do their best. That is what we are trying to do."



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