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Can (or has) the Sanhedrin be (been) halachically established today?

If those whose answer imply that the Sanhedrin does not yet exist, then what are we to think of the so-called Sanhedrin that claim to now exist in Jerusalem?

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    There can be three answers. Tose who state that the Sanhedrin cannot be re-established until after the mashiach comes, those who state that semicha can be re-established leading to a Sanjedrin (but it has not been done yet), those who claim that it has been re-established. – sabbahillel Aug 22 '17 at 14:57
  • @sabbahillel I do not mind at all if there are two or three or more. I am simply interested in the possible answers to my question. If you are suggesting that I re-word it, I would be happy to do so. – ninamag Aug 22 '17 at 14:59
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/8626/… – Chaim Aug 22 '17 at 15:09
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There are those (like the Radbaz) who say that either Eliyahu HaNavi or the Mashiach himself will be able to re-establish the chain of semicha. Until then, it cannot be done.

Rambam says that if every Rabbi agrees on a person who is worthy of receiving s'micha, then that person can revive the chain. Once that is done, and he can identify 70 others who are worthy of s'micha, the Sanhedrin can be revived. However, so far, the practical difficulties have proven to be too great to overcome whenever such an attempt was made.

The current attempt (2004) has failed because the gedolim of this generation have not accepted the attempt.

One could say that if there were someone who was accepted by everyone as worthy of semicha, the mashiach would have come already (two Jews, three opinions).

Rambam Sanhedrin veha`Onashin haMesurin lahem - Chapter 4 Halacha 11

If there was only one judge in Eretz Yisrael who possessed semichah, he should call two other judges to sit with him and they should convey semichah on 70 judges at one time or one after the other. Afterwards, he and these 70 should join together to make up the Supreme Sanhedrin and grant semichah to others to make up other courts.

It appears to me that if all the all the wise men in Eretz Yisrael agree to appoint judges and convey semichah upon them, the semichah is binding and these judges may adjudicate cases involving financial penalties and convey semichah upon others.

If so, why did the Sages suffer anguish over the institution of semichah, so that the judgment of cases involving financial penalties would not be nullified among the Jewish people? Because the Jewish people were dispersed, and it is impossible that all could agree. If, by contrast, there was a person who had received semichah from a person who had received semichah, he does not require the consent of all others. Instead, he may adjudicate cases involving financial penalties for everyone, for he received semichah from a court.

The question whether semichah can be renewed requires resolution.

Rabbi Kaganoff goes into detail about this dispute and explains what happened in the latest controversy.

Semicha and Sanhedrin Controversies of the 16th to 21st Centuries, Part I and Semicha and Sanhedrin Controversies of the 16th to 21st Centuries, Part II

His comment about the attempt in 2005 was

Obviously, this system carries absolutely no halachic validity according to any opinion.

  • so can we have a Sanhedrin now, or not until the messianic era (assuming we are not in that era yet), or not until the olam haba, or not until when? – ninamag Aug 22 '17 at 15:43
  • @ninamag On a theoretical basis, one could say it could happen. On a practical basis, it would seem that the brothers Slim and Fat (Chance) would express the actual results. (:-) – sabbahillel Aug 22 '17 at 16:54
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Let's get back to the theory:

Isaiah Ch. 1 promises that in the future, God will bring back "our judges like in the olden days"; so we believe that at some point, we will have "real" ordination -- a prerequisite for a real Sanhedrin -- once again.

So how do we get that back if it is lost?

A.) Maimonides' position -- "all the scholars of the Land of Israel agree on someone." B.) Some variant on Maimonides' interpretation -- does it mean "all", does it mean "most" ... questions of wording. (When this was tried in Safed in the 1500s without consulting Jerusalem, the scholars there raised these questions.) C.) Elijah the Prophet is on the list of people who have "real" ordination, so when he emerges to herald Moshiach's coming, he can confer it then on others. D.) We don't know ... or we're waiting for God to figure this one out for us ... or it's something else.

Basically, the new Sanhedrin relies on A. (where Rabbi Halberstam was its nexus). If someone disagrees, they can easily claim B., just as the rabbis of Jerusalem did in the 1500s. (Though this time, they tried hard to consult all over Israel, unlike back then when they didn't bother asking Jerusalem.) C. is also certainly defensible, and some may just fall back on D. For any of these approaches, one could say about the contemporary Sanhedrin: "they might be of full halachic strength, I'm not sure"; or "they're well-meaning scholarly individuals but I disagree with their halachic logic on this point"; or something less polite than that.

The point is that this really centers around a halachic question with multiple suggested answers.

  • Yesha'yahu 1:26 וְאָשִׁיבָה שֹׁפְטַיִךְ כְּבָרִאשֹׁנָה, וְיֹעֲצַיִךְ כְּבַתְּחִלָּה; אַחֲרֵי-כֵן, יִקָּרֵא לָךְ עִיר הַצֶּדֶק--קִרְיָה, נֶאֱמָנָה. – ninamag Aug 22 '17 at 15:23
  • Your answer tells me that the Sanhedrin is only possible in the Olam Haba. I have no source for my answer, just a gut feeling. – ninamag Aug 22 '17 at 15:26
  • @ninamag absolutely not. Maimonides' opinion is that we can have one now; some naysayers would say not until nearly-Messianic times. But regardless -- the Messianic era is not the same as Olam HaBa. – Shalom Aug 22 '17 at 15:35
  • your answer is helpful, and it opens up a new question to me personally, What is the difference between the Messianic era and the Olam HaBa? (I will search here if this has been answered.) – ninamag Aug 22 '17 at 15:37
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    Sourcing this answer would improve it greatly. – mevaqesh Aug 22 '17 at 16:04
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In answer to one of your questions,

Has the Sanhedrin been halachically established today?

The answer is that there have been some modern revival attempts, although all times they were far from being a universally accepted thing among all Jews and were oftentimes short lived.

Two famous revival attempts of the Sanhedrin were during Napoleon's European Conquest and more recently in 2004 by a group of rabbis in Tiberius, including Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz.

Please see this Wikipedia page for further information.

This of course, remains a partial answer since you mention the halachic grounds as to whether or not the Sanhedrin can be revived in this day and age (without the Mashiach, Beit HaMikdash, etc.)

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