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The Israeli Rabbinate Fights: Mosaic Sanhedrin, Biblical Calendar

God tells us through Ezekiel that Messiah will soon come and that when he does the Millennial temple will be built. Then Messiah will yet chose physical priests of the sons of Aaron and also chose Levites, to help in restoring the temple system.  Then physical sacrifices will be renewed as object lessons of the spiritual.

Based on this belief there are some in the priesthood of Aaron who are preparing for that day by rehearsing the duties of the priests and making priestly garments to be stored and kept ready for use.  The Rabbinate regards these people as a little crazy but not a threat, as they are looking forward and are not making any moves to build a temple today.

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel (הרבנות הראשית לישראל) is recognized by law as the supreme halakhic [Jewish law; meaning the Rabbinic interpretation and additions to scripture]  and spiritual authority for the Jewish people in Israel.

The Chief Rabbinate Council assists the two chief rabbis, who alternate in its presidency. It has legal and administrative authority to organize religious affairs for Israel’s Jews. It also responds to halakhic questions submitted by Jewish public bodies in the Diaspora. The Council sets guides, and supervises agencies within its authority.

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel consists of two Chief Rabbis: an Ashkenazi rabbi and a Sephardi rabbi, also known as the Rishon leZion. The Chief Rabbis are elected for 10 year terms. The present Sephardi Chief Rabbi is Yitzhak Yosef and the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi is David Lau, both of whom commenced their terms in 2013.

The Rabbinate has jurisdiction over many aspects of the life of Jews in Israel. Its jurisdiction includes personal status issues, such as Jewish marriages and Jewish divorce, as well as Jewish burials, Conversion to Judaism, Kashrut and kosher certification, olim, supervision of Jewish holy sites, working with various mikvaot and yeshivot [seminaries and schools], and overseeing Israeli Rabbinical courts.

The Rabbinical courts are part of Israel’s judicial system, and are managed by the Ministry of Religious Services.

The courts have exclusive jurisdiction over marriage and divorce of Jews and have parallel competence with district courts in matters of personal status, alimony, child support, custody, and inheritance. Religious court verdicts are implemented and enforced—as for the civil court system—by the police, bailiff’s office, and other agencies.

In Israel today most people are not Orthodox and resent being held to the Rabbinic rulings in their personal lives.  The issue of the day is; who can pronounce conversions to Rabbinic Judaism [which is not the religion of Moses; but the interpretation of Moses and the adding to the word of God by the Rabbins]. 

For example about 300,000 Russian immigrants are not considered Jews and must be converted to Rabbinism to marry, divorce etc etc. In Israel today there is a battle going on between the majority of the public along with Raddi’s outside Israel, and the Rabbinate; about who can confirm conversions as well as other subjects. 

A new law is on the table considerably diluting the authority of the Chref Rabbinate, and a major religious power struggle is going on within the Israeli political scene. 

The Knesset Law Committee recently voted to advance a bill that would allow a much wider circle of state rabbis to conduct conversions. The bill would allow local rabbis to form religious courts and formally conduct conversions to Judaism that would be recognized under Israeli law.

Thus, the legislation would shift the power to officially convert people to Judaism from a small group of rabbinic judges in just four state rabbinic courts to as many as 30 local three-member Rabbinic tribunals, and possibly even more down the road.

The bill passed the vote in the Law Committee and now heads to its three readings in the Knesset plenum — over vehement opposition from the Chief Rabbinate.

MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua), the bill’s primary sponsor, has vowed to push it through into law, and committee chairman MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu) has promised to push ahead despite the criticism.  The bill along with a rival Rabbinic bill will be tabled in the Knesset after the Passover break in May.

The Calendar Issue

The Biblical Calendar has its months set by the sighting of the first light of the new moon at Jerusalem. 

During the temple period the witnesses appeared before the Sanhedrin court in Jerusalem to give evidence and answer questions; and when at least two witnesses were proved to have seen the first visible light of the new moon the new month was pronounced.

Jerusalem is the place that God has chosen.

2 Chronicles 6:6 But I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there;

Isaiah 2:3 And many people shall go  and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the  house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of   the Lord from Jerusalem.

Before the 19th century; modern communications, optical aids and transportation were not available.  Therefore any use of the above in establishing the sighting of the first visible light of the new moon is prohibited.

The first visible light of the New Moon must be observed with the naked eye by at least two credible witness in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem; who would then report to the Sanhedrin in the morning to report and be examined.

A.  This means that the witnesses must do their sighting within normal travel distance from the temple area of Jerusalem according to first century ability to travel.

B.  Since the moon is up in the heavens and observable by all; if two witness make a credible observation; the new moon should be seen by many others.  While the law requires a minimum of two witnesses to establish the new Moon as sanctified; in almost all cases there should be a large cloud of supporting witnesses.

Because of national threats that could prevent the meeting of a Sanhedrin in the fourth century; the Sanhedrin presided over by president Hillel 2, TEMPORARILY adopted the Rabbinic Calendar; which was/is a fixed calendar, based on the Greek Metonic System, as adopted by the Babylonians, and then had the Biblical Appointed Times and High Days added by Hillel II about 358 ad. 

This modern unscriptural Rabbinic Calendar, was rejected by most Jews in the beginning, and the Rabbins gradually developed its content and its acceptance over the next almost one thousand years, until it was finally codified by Maimonides in 1178 ad. 

This calendar was always intended to be a temporary measure until the people came back to Jerusalem and the land.

Today, just as some priests are preparing for Messiah and the Ezekiel temple, others have been preparing for His coming and the re-establishment of God’s Biblical Calendar.  However the Rabbinate sees the calendar issue as a major and immediate threat to their authority and so called Halachic Rabbinic Calendar.

The Historical Sanhedrin and the Calendar

When the Sanhedrin existed, observers who had sighted the first light of the new moon presented themselves to the Sanhedrin to be questioned until at least two credible witnesses were found.  Then the Sanhedrin would declare the now month  “Sanctified”. 

About 358 ad, Hillel 2 proclaimed a fixed calendar based on the Babylonian Calendar with High Days and Festivals added; because the existence of the Sanhedrin was threatened, and to have unity in the dispersion until the nation came back to Jerusalem and Judea.

This modern unscriptural Rabbinic Calendar, was rejected by most Jews in the beginning, and the Rabbins gradually developed its content and its acceptance over the next almost one thousand years, until it was finally codified by Maimonides in 1178 ad. 

This calendar was always intended to be a temporary measure until the people came back to Jerusalem and the land.

Historically the Sanhedrin was the legal system in Israel from early times. It was the Jewish legal system in Temple times and until about 1,500 years ago; and is expected to be restored in future;  a Great Sanhedrin consists of 71 judges which is like a high court, a small Sanhedrins in each city consisted of 23 judges and batei din (law courts) of 3 judges.

The members of batei din (with the exception of monetary cases) and any Sanhedrin must be smuchim (ordained).  Ideally, there should be a direct line of smichah (ordination) from Moses. 

The Great Sanhedrin is not to be confused with priests and Levites; and is  based on the 70 elders chosen to judge the nation with Moses in Numbers 11 and Exodus 24.

.(This smichah should not be confused with the examinations taken today in order to become a rabbi and are also called smichah.)

Renewing the smichah  [the body of ordained], (according to Maimonides Hilkhot Sanhedrin 4:11,12) requires the agreement of all the Rabbis in Israel to somech (ordain) one person. That person can then somech others. According top Maimonides all this must take place in Israel.

An attempt was made to reintroduce the smichah and Sanhedrin in 1538, by Rabbi Yaakov Beirav of Safed but some Rabbis including the Ralbach (Rabbi Levy Chaviv of Jerusalem) objected. As a result, that smichah was never widely accepted, and vanished within two generations and no Sanhedrin was ever formed at that time. 

Once there are 71 [based on 70 elders plus Moses] ordained smuchim, they can form a new big Sanhedrin and they could appoint three smuchim to change the calendar back to the Biblical Calendar of sighting the first visible light of the new moon to set months, and changing back to the Biblical Calendar from the Rabbinic Calendar in all areas.

According to the simple interpretation of Maimonides (Hilkhot Kiddush Hachodesh 5:2) the calendar change should happen immediately on the formation of the Sanhedrin. 

However, the Ralbach holds that this need not happen before the Messiah.

The Chazon Ish (Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz who lived in the 20th century) reconciles the two opinions by saying that the calendar will be changed some time between the formation of the big Sanhedrin and the coming of the Messiah.

In modern times, since the restoration of the Jewish state and particularly its control of Jerusalem; there has been a marked controversy in Israel over the Rabbinic control of religious affairs over the re-establishment of a Big Sanhedrin; including the Rabbinic Calendar: And any attempts to establish a new Sanhedrin and take over religious authority from the Rabbins; including discarding the Rabbinic Calendar and restarting the Biblical Calendar; have been resisted tooth and claw by the Rabbinate. 

At the start of the 20th century, Rabbi Aharon Mendel Baharan of Cairo, Egypt and Rabbi Zvi Mokovsky of Tel-Aviv proposed the reintroduction of the smichah and reinstitution of the Sanhedrin. Hundreds of rabbis from around the World signed on to this proposal but nothing came of it.

Shortly after the establishment of the State of Israel, the Religious Affairs Minister, Rabbi Yehudah Leib Maimon, suggested reestablishing the Sanhedrin but again nothing came of it.

In 2001, at the suggestion of Rabbi Zvi Idan, President Katzav, President of Israel, called for the establishment of a Sanhedrin-type body.

In early 2004, a large number of very senior rabbis were asked if they considered a Rabbi Moshe Halberstam was worthy of smichah. All of the few who responded indicated that he was worthy. On that basis he then gave smichah to others. By 13th October 2004, there were about 90 smuchim and a big Sanhedrin of 71 was formed in Tiberius (see video).

The Sanhedrin has been meeting every month or so since its reestablishment.

In June 2005 the Sanhedrin replaced its leader (Nasi), Rabbi Zvi Idan with Rabbi Adin Steinzalts.

The Sanhedrin did, however, receive recognition from the civil legal system in the case of Tzviya Sariel. She was sent for a hearing at the Sanhedrin by the prison service on 14th March 2008.  After a few days the decision of the Sanhedrin to release her was accepted by the civil court and she was released.

On 7th May 2008 the Sanhedrin reenacted a reconstruction of receiving eyewitness testimony of the crescent Moon used for fixing the calendar and have carried out many such reconstructions since. This has helped improve the efficiency and accuracy of the process. 

The Israeli New Moon Society was established to practice new moon sightings, however it was feared by the Rabbinate that people might begin to give credence to the Biblical method, to set their months and High Days by the new moon sightings and not by the Rabbinic Calendar.

Therefore the Rabbinate did not allow the INMS to publish their sightings in a timely  manner, and the INMS was taken over by Gadi Eidelheit and the Rabbinate. 

Since that time, efforts have been made to use telescopes and sightings far outside Jerusalem, to claim that the first light sightings were the same as the Rabbinic Calendar.

On 6th January 2011 members of the Sanhedrin [NOT the INMS] went up to the Temple Mount, received eyewitness testimony about the Moon, and sanctified the month announcing “mekudash mekudash”.

This act was forbidden by the Rabbinate and has resulted in intense pressure on this Sanhedrin to delay any change back to the scriptural calendar. 

Nehemiah Gordon

Nehemiah Gordon was born into a family of Rabbinic Rabbi’s in Chicago and rejected the idea that the Talmud has divine authority becoming a Karaitehe immigrated to Israel in 1993.  

Until recently Gordon served on Universal Karaite Judaism’s “Religious Council” (which is the lower religious council in the Karaite Organization), and on the Board of Directors of the ancient Karaite synagogue in Jerusalem. He is also a co-founder of the World Karaite Movement, a Karaite revival group. He has had problems with leaders in the Karaite Movement over the past few years.

While presenting himself as Karaite, Nehemiah departs from the rules on sighting the new moon.  He does not sight the new moon solely in Jerusalem as the temple system requires, but accepts sightings across the Middle East in an apparent attempt to harmonize the visible new moon sightings with the Rabbinic Calendar. 

On Monday April 4, 2011 Nehemiah published a false report of a new moon being sighted by him from Egypt and then another report by Magdi Shamuel from Ashdod.  Persons in the Israeli New Moon Society determined these reports were not valid, as indeed they were not; not being made in the vicinity of Jerusalem and for other reasons. 

Nehemiah routinely reports sightings and declares the sanctification of months; based on sightings far from Jerusalem.  Such sightings are invalid! 

Even this year [2014] he has wrongly declared the new year a day early based on telescopic sightings far from Jerusalem.  When I asked about this, Dev replied that signal fires were used to report the sightings to the Sanhedrin.  Of course this is utterly false, as the witnesses were required to report personally to the Sanhedrin to be questioned.

It was after the witnesses had been questioned in person by the Sanhedrin that the Month was declared by that court; and only then were the signal fires lit [fires were lit from hill to hill across the land] to signal the decision of the Sanhedrin!   

Obviously scholars like Nehemiah and his wife Dev would have known this, so why try to deceive me?  Obviously they have some agenda in trying to reconcile the sightings with the Rabbinic Calendar.

Because they ignore the rule of sighting at Jerusalem alone, and because they have approved telescopic sightings as genuine; Nehemiah Gordon and his observers lack any credibility as genuine observers of the first visible light of the new moon. 

This event in 2011 led to an internal reshuffling inside the INMS which brought the Society into subjection to the Rabbinate, and moved those working to restore the Biblical Calendar into obscurity.

This letter from Rabi Daniel Jackson explains the Rabbinate’s motivation in taking control of the INMS and deciding that the INMS would not publish its observations in a timely manner.

In a message dated 4/7/2011 6:14:06 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, moonsocil@gmail.com [Israeli New Moon Society] writes:

Thanks for your question.  This month, and especially for this month, there was a decision to delay the reporting of the sightings so that there would be no mistake that the function of the New Moon Society is purely for the observation and reporting of New Moon sightings and is in no way associated with any attempts to declare an actual New Moon based on these data.

Recently, there has been a concern that activity generated by such sightings have been used by some individuals to declare a Rosh Chodesh which is outside of the Halachic [Rabbinic] Calendar.  This has generated concern as well as confusion in some circles.  We wish to reiterate that the purpose of the New Moon Society is in no way associated with any organization or movement to change the current calendar nor to institute a new system based on observation

Today the Rabbins have managed to delay the work preparing for a changeover from their “temporary”  non biblical system, in the same way that the church of God groups are also resisting a change back to the word of God from this non biblical “temporary” modern Rabbinic Calendar system. 

CONCLUSION:   This Rabbinic System filled a need during the period of dispersal, trials and lack of access to Jerusalem for the past nearly 1700 years, but Messiah is about to arrive and restore the orginal Biblical Calendar and a millennial Sabbath of rest and peace; ruling the whole earth from Jerusalem.

Despite the desire of many to cling to the past:  Slowly and surely, God’s spirit is preparing many for the coming of Messiah, and a change back to the Bible! 

Large numbers are now practicing observing the first visible light of the moon, and thousands of others are now observing the Holy Days, Appointed Times and Festivals on the days that God commands in his word!

Messiah is coming in a very few years and a people is being prepared to receive him at his coming!

SOURCES:  Israeli New Moon Society

Personal Correspondence, and decades of historical and biblical research

 

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