The Israeli rabbinical council involved with re-establishing the Sanhedrin, is calling upon all groups involved in Temple Mount research to prepare detailed architectural plans for the reconstruction of the Jewish Holy Temple.
The Sanhedrin was a 71-man assembly of rabbis that convened adjacent to the Holy Temple before its destruction in 70 AD and outside Jerusalem until about 400 AD.
The move followed the election earlier this week of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz as temporary president of a group aspiring to become Judaism’s highest-ranking legal-religious tribunal.
However, although Steinsaltz’s involvement with the endeavor adds important rabbinic legitimacy, other major halachic authorities, including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the leading haredi Ashkenazi spiritual leader, and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the premier Sephardi halachic opinion, have refused repeated requests to offer their support.
Nevertheless, the group will establish a forum of architects and engineers to begin plans for rebuilding the Temple – a move fraught with religious and political volatility.
The group, which calls itself the Sanhedrin, is calling on the Jewish people to contribute toward the acquisition of materials for the purpose of rebuilding the Temple – including the gathering and preparation of prefabricated, disassembled portions to be stored and ready for rapid assembly, “in the manner of King David.”
Rabbi Hillel Weiss, spokesman for the burgeoning Sanhedrin, said in an official statement that because of “concerns that external pressure would be brought to bear upon individuals not to take part in the establishment of a Sanhedrin, the names of most participants have been withheld up to this point.”
“The increasingly anti-Jewish decisions handed down by the Supreme Court prove the need for an alternative legal system based on Jewish sources,” said Weiss. “More and more people, including Torah scholars, are beginning to understand this.”
In addition to the election of Steinsaltz, the rabbis present also chose a seven-man committee, headed by him, to campaign for the acceptance of the idea of a Sanhedrin.
Those chosen include Rabbi Nachman Kahane, brother of murdered Jewish Defense League and Kach leader Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahane is the rabbi of the Young Israel of Jerusalem’s Old City and heads an organized study of Temple rituals and ceremonies, as well as cataloging all known kohanim (priests) in Israel.
Others on the committee are Rabbi Dov Levanoni, an 83-year-old Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi and expert on the Holy Temple; Yisrael Ariel, founder of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem; and Rabbi Yoel Shwartz, founder and rabbi of the “Nahal Haredi” Israeli Defense Forces unit specifically designed to enable the haredi public to join the IDF, and teacher at Yeshivat Dvar Yerushalayim who has authored about 200 books on a wide variety of subjects in Jewish law and theology.
Steinsaltz is best known for his translation and commentary on the Talmud, but he has also served as resident scholar at Princeton and Yale Universities. He heads a network of Israeli educational institutions called Mekor Chaim and outreach programs in the U.S., the former Soviet Union, Great Britain and Australia. He is also a past recipient of the Israel Prize.
The Sanhedrin was reestablished last October in Tiberias, the place of its last meeting 1,600 years ago. Since then, it has met in Jerusalem on a monthly basis.