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      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.
      First Publish: 2/9/2005, 5:28 PM / Last Update: 2/8/2005, 8:19 PM

      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.

      “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.”