Sanhedrin Restoration: The Surprising Connection Between Rabbinic and Nazarene Efforts

Sanhedrin Restoration:
The Surprising Connection Between Rabbinic and Nazarene Efforts
By
James Scott Trimm

In 2004 there was an effort to restore the Rabbinic Sanhedrin. There is a very thorough treatment of this effort in the Wikipedia Article on the subject: 2004 attempt to revive the Sanhedrin. Here I want to relay something of the history of the predecessor to this Sanhedrin, the Supreme Rabbinic Court of America,

The Supreme Rabbinic Court of America was founded in 1974 by Rabbi Marvin Stuart Antelman and my friend and teacher Rabbi Herbert J. Gilner and initially consisted of five members.

In 1976 the court officially excommunicated Henry Kissinger. The Court also excommunicated Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan, founder of the Reconstructionist Movement.

In 1978 the court excommunicated six rabbis when they were found guilty of being on the payroll of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.

In 1979 the court held a trial for seventeen Jews who were charged as operating actively with the “Jews for Jesus” movement. Ten were found guilty and excommunicated (Moishe Rosen, Baruch Goldstein, Barry Leventhal, Jeri Goldberg, Jeff Steinberg, A. Kurt Weiss, Manny Brotman, Mike Michel, and Joe and Debbie Finkelstein.) but the court did not excommunicate seven other Messianic Jewish leaders, whom they said were still “under investigation” (Among these were Martin Chernoff and Monty Garfield).

In 1982 the court excommunicated all members of the liberal New Jewish Agenda organization and a number of Jews who supported Palestinian and homosexual rights and who signed an advertisement placed in the June 24 edition of The New York Times criticizing Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. The court deemed this to be a collaboration with the enemies of Judaism and a treasonous act. (Among those expelled were Noam Chomsky, linguistic expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Salvadore Luria of M.I.T., who shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1969, Rabbi Everett Gendler of Andover and Rabbi Ira Axelrad of Brandeis University.)

The Sanhedrin Ktana

In 1994 the Supreme Rabbinic Court of America established a Sanhedrin Ktana (minor Sanhedrin of 23 members) in order to take on one of the biggest halachic problems in Orthodox Judaism, recalcitrant husbands who refuse to grant divorces to their wives. It was during this time that I was a Rabbinic talmid (student) of Rabbi Hebrert J. Gilner, so I was well aware of this while it was actually happening.

During this time, the Chief Justice, Rabbi Marvin Stuart Antelman published a court ruling as a book (לפדות מחכי גט / משה שלמה אנטלמן – אב”ד.) allowing a beit din to serve a get to a wife where the divorce is beneficial and the man is unwilling, on the basis that the court may perform a transaction on behalf of a man if it is to his benefit.

The Sanhedrin Ktana also issued the following protocols:

Protocol Regarding Certain Recalcitrant Husbands of Agunot

The Supreme Rabbinic Court of America, founded in 5735 (1974) by disciples of the Moetzet Gdolai HaTorah (Council of Sages); to consider and adjudicate extraordinary Jewish problems and issues, has also addressed itself since 5739 (1979) to cases involving recalcitrant husbands who refuse to grant divorces to their wives, when Jewish law has clearly dictated that they must be coerced. The Court’s Chief Justice has written a definitive legal text dealing with the Court’s halachic resolution of such matters, entitled “Lifdot Mechakai Gait” (To Release Those Awaiting a Divorce, Second Edition, Yaron Golan) Tel Aviv 5754 (1994) 416pp 8.5 x 11). In addition he has just completed, his soon to be published “The Great Agunah Debate” in English.

During the past year the Court has dealt with a new situation which arose in a case where parties had previously sought our advise, namely the attempt by a husband to arrange “kidushai ktana” ie betroth a minor as a further act of extortion against his oppressed Aguna wife. While that case is formally before a Rabbinic Court; and the husband ignored the decrees of said Court, our Court decided to invoke extraordinary halachic measures if there is a clear and present danger to the Jewish Community, as when “kiddushai ktana” appeared to be adopted by other unscrupulous recalcitrant husbands as a nefarious addition to their crimes.

Accordingly, our Bet Din has gleaned from its rank and file a “Sanhedrin Ktana” being a body of 23 justices comprising Rabbanin and Dayanim, to deal with all cases of “kidushai ktana” in general and two husbands in particular who attempted to implement it. Furthermore, we are also addressing the case of one recalcitrant husband, whose aggravated treatment of his Aguna wife has been barbaric and a burden to the Jewish community. We invoke, by edict “universal jurisdiction where igun is involved (Rashbash 46)”.

Applying the principle of “Even though the Sanhedrin was discontinued, its four capital punishments still persist (Sanhedrin 37b),” our minor Sanhedrin acting under the rubric of Horaat Shaah -emergency measures- as articulated in the Shulchan Aruch Choshen Ha Mishpat (Title 2) and its enabling statues to execute capital punishment in extenuating circumstances; hereby:

1.Serves warning that our Court is prepared to sentence to death any husband who within the next 30 days fails to release his Aguna wife voluntarily with a “gait”, who has been involved directly, or indirectly by threat, in actuality and/or innuendo in kidushai ktana. More specifically, we identify two such husbands, Israel Goldstein and Yosef Shereshevsky. The latter has been in contempt of the Gedolai Torah Bet Din since Sivan 5753 (1993).

2.Extends said death penalty to any witness from now on who will participate in the aforementioned type of betrothal of a minor daughter of an Aguna by her father. This protocol is a warning.

3.Defines the crime of wilfully neglecting to release an Aguna as one of “gnevat nefesh” ie the stealing referred to in the Decalogue (Ex.20:13), as that of a person, which is the capital crime of kidnapping (Sanhedrin 86a).

4.Declares that the death penalty for said, kidnapping is “chenek” – death by strangulation (Mishna Sanhedrin 10:1 (84b); and that the element of exploiting a captive by an act such as “kidushai ktana” we deem to be exemplary of “Vehitamer Bo Dt. 24:7) as explained by Ramban (Dt. 21:14) – which is a case of “smichat parshiot,” of the close proximity of kidnapping, to the laws of divorce (Dt. 24:1-4).

  1. Upholds the ruling of Rav Shlomo Z.Auerbach, z”l, as articulated by Rav Eliahu Romineck of Far Rockaway concerning kidushai ktana and hereby declares by the power invested in it as a Sanhedrin Ktana; that such betrothals are “null and void as the dust of the earth.” according to the enabling statutes of Hafikaat Kidushin (Ktuvot 3a; Enc. Ha Talmudit (II, p137).

6.Clarifies that any punishment it metes out, be it corporal, and/or capital, shall involve sentencing only, for there are no enabling statutes known to us in American law which empowers us to carry out in actuality such a punishment; as was done by other high Rabbinic Courts such as the Bet Din of Rabbi Shlomo Adret (1235-1310) which sentenced and executed an informer to death (Igeret HaRashba JQR (1896) p228.) under Don Pedro III in 1283 CE and in the Seville Bet Din which executed by “sayif” ie beheaded under Don Juan I; Yosef Pichos on August 21, 1379 CE. Such punishments were acknowledged by the Rambam in his day as common occurrances in the West (Hil. Chovel Umazik 8:11), and involve accepted halachic principles ( SA Choshen Ha Mishpat, Title 388) as applied to a “mosair-rodef”, informer who aggravates the community. These husbands are in that category.

  1. Maintains that once the death sentence is pronounced on a recalcitrant husband he is considered a “bar ktalai” (Makot 5a) ie halachicly dead and his wife is free to marry even a kohain; and it is unnecessary to actually carry out the sentence as we learn from the case of “shor haniskal”, the ox sentenced to death by the Bet Din (Ex 21:28;
    Yad, Hil. Maachalo Asurot 4:22; Chinuch M.52).
  2. Serves notice upon Lawrence Larry Fine of Queens, NY, who was issued a Seruv in the fall of 1991 by the Rabinical Alliance of America; that should he fail to divorce his wife within 30 days, he will be sentenced to the punishment of castration, which will automatically terminate his marriage upon sentencing.

The following 21 members of the 23 member Sanhedrin Ktana among who are it 5 governing board members who reside in Eretz Yisrael; and also among who are included members of the Igud HaRabanim, Histadrut HaRabanim, Agudat HaRabinim, and Agudat Yisrael of America; subscribed to the above Protocol. Two abstained. Adopted 20 Tammuz; Effective date 15 Av 5755.

THE SUPREME RABBINIC COURT OF AMERICA 141 Arcola Ave Silver Springs MD 20902

M. Antelman Av Bet Din – R. Bernstein – M. Blitz – M. Brown – S. Fishbein –
M. Friedman – Y. Gersh – I. Gilner – Y. Glasner – P. Goldsmith – C. Hershanov – Y. Jacobson – Z. Kaftort – N. Maas – K. Meir – D. Nachmias – I.
Iguber – Y. Silver – S. Sorsher – E. Sprecher – Y. Vizenblut

Then in 1998 the same body filed an AMICUS CURIA ON THE KNESSET BILL (5757) CONCERNING THE VALIDITY OF CONVERSIONS BY CLERICS OF THE CONSERVATIVE, REFORM, RECONSTRUCTIONIST ANTI JUDAIC RELIGIONS.

The International Nazarene Beit Din

It was about this same time, in 1996, that I and a group of Nazarene Rabbis, established the International Nazarene Beit Din, based on my experience with these events as a talmid of Rabbi Gilner.

Re-Establishing the Sanhedrin Gadol

In 2002 my friend and Rabbi Herbert J, Gilner Passed away. By this time Rabbi Marvin Stuart Antelman, who had been Cheif justice of the Supreme Rabbinc Court of America, and Av-Beit Din of the Sanhedrin Ktana, which it had established, had made aliyah to Israel. And in 2004 Rabbi Antelman participated as one of the founders of the famous Re-Establishment of the Sanhedrin (A natural step after the creation of an Sanhedrin Ktana). However, in 2006, he resigned in protest of the involvement of increased involvement of the Root and Branch organization in the Sanhedrin. In 2013 he passed away, at the age of 80.

So there is an actual background connection, between the International Nazarene Beit Din in 1996 and the creation of a Rabbinic Sanhedrin Ktana in 1994 and the attempt to restore the Rabbinic Sanhedrin Gadol in 2004.

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