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In 2004, a group of rabbis in Israel attempted to begin the process of re-establishing the Sanhedrin using the Rambam's method of universal consensus to re-establish the line of semikha. Rabbi Moshe Halberstam was selected as the first musmakh and he proceeded to confer semikha on others until enough rabbis had been granted semikha to establish a Sanhedrin, which R' Adin Steinsaltz, as Nasi, referred to as the "Nascent Sanhedrin".

As far as I can tell, this new Nascent Sanhedrin is still active; albeit quietly. Rambam, whose opinion was relied upon to re-establish semikha, also holds that whenever a Sanhedrin exists, new months must be established through testimony (Hilkhos Kiddush HaChodesh 5:2). Does this new Sanhedrin sanctify the new month through witnesses? Is there any record of this happening?

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What I have been told, by people who have seen this many times, is that every Rosh Chodesh, Rav Ariel of Machon Hamikdash, who is on the "Sanhedrin", goes up to Har Habayis with a couple of others and says some sort of Kiddush Hachosesh. They do this on Rosh Chodesh according to the fixed calendar, which is often before the new moon can be seen.

(This is what comes out from the Ramban's long calculations in Hilchos Kidush Hachosesh, which I was working out last year. I also was observing the moon then. Many times the moon was just viable at the very end of Rosh Chodesh. Right now as it happens the moon should be visible the night before Rosh Chodesh.)

I feel that I must point out that Rav Halberstam zt"l was not "selected by universal consensus to re-establish the line of semicha." It was agreed by Rav Elyashiv zt"l and Rav Ovadiah zt"l that he was fitting for semicha. But no rabbi worthy of note was actually appointing anyone to any sort of semicha.

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  • This article claims he received semikha and granted it to others. – Daniel Jan 27 at 10:18
  • It's debatable whether the silence of many to most of the Torah world on this matter constitutes "universal consensus" but that's how it was taken for the purpose of this project. – Daniel Jan 27 at 10:19
  • I don't understand how this method you mentioned works, neither practically nor halakhically. Practically speaking, how can they go up to Har Habayis and do a kiddush hachodesh? Every tourist and visitor to the Temple Mount has an escort from the Waqf who will prevent anybody from doing any Jewish ritual activity. If they were doing this regularly, they would be immediately banned. And halakhically speaking, Rambam clearly says when there's a Sanhedrin, the month is sanctified "עַל פִּי הָרְאִיָּה" and when there's no Sanhedrin "עַל פִּי הַחֶשְׁבּוֹן". This method seems to not satisfy that. – Daniel Jan 27 at 17:52
  • As to the practicality, the reality on Har Habayis is better than people think. There is now a regular minyan there for shacharis and mincha. The police let them stand in one place for ten minutes for shemona esre. They just aren't allowed to be loud about it. – Mordechai Jan 27 at 21:32
  • As far as the halachic aspect, also I don't understand how this is supposed to work. But then again I don't understand how a sanhedrin is supposed to be elected by a vote of five for and ninety-five abstentions. – Mordechai Jan 27 at 21:35

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