By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
Take Seventy Elders Nazirite
“Return our judges as before, and our advisors as of yore…” The seventy elders mentioned in this parsha are one of the key sources of the Supreme Sanhedrin, which sat at one of the chambers in the Beit Hamikdash and was also comprised of seventy elders. This Sanhedrin of the Beit Hamikdash was and will be the most authoritative in halachic ruling, as ruled by the Rambam (Mamrim 1, 1): “The Supreme Sanhedrin in Jerusalem are the essence of the Oral Law. They are the pillars of instruction from whom statutes and judgments issue forth for the entire Jewish people.”
Later, in regard to a case of a ”rebellious elder” who rules to act in opposition to the Supreme Sanhedrin, Rambam clarifies that the main authority of this Sanhedrin is specifically tied to its being in the Beit Hamikdash (ibid, 3, 7): “If he (the ”rebellious elder”) found the Supreme Sanhedrin outside their place (chamber of Hewn Stone in the Temple) and rebelled against their ruling, he is not liable. This is derived from ibid.:8 which states: “And you shall arise and ascend to that place,” implied is that the place (“that Hashem has chosen”) is the cause for capital punishment (upon the ”rebellious elder”).” The fact that the Oral Tradition of our Torah is so attached to our holiest location, the Beit Hamikdash, highlights how the Torah and its observance is inevitably tied to the holiness of space, i.e to the Holy Presence that rests in the Beit Hamikdash, “the place that Hashem has chosen”, as spelled out explicitly in the book of Dvarim (17,10).
This matter may be explained by the Torah’s command, “you shall have one Torah” (mentioned numerous times in the Torah), implying that the Torah is ideally meant to be one, and not full of conflicting opinions in regard to practice. Our present state of many conflicting halachic opinions is not the ideal of the Torah, as Rambam rules in regard to the ”rebellious elder” (ibid. 3, 4): “Even if the court desires to forgo their honor and allow him (the ”rebellious elder”) to live (and not hang him as he is liable), they are not allowed, so that differences of opinion will not arise within Israel.” Rambam also writes (ibid 1, 4): “After the Supreme Sanhedrin was nullified, differences of opinion multiplied among the Jewish people…” The fact that the Holy Presence emanates from the One God explains why specifically the connection to this Presence in the Beit Hamikdash by the Sanhedrin is what gives this Sanhedrin sole authority to rule “one Torah” and nullify controversy. This does not necessarily mean that, in the future, the Sanhedrin will nullify various differing practices and customs, but rather that these differing practices may receive the legitimacy from the one, central, and united halachic authority, making these practices “different facets” of the “one Torah.”
Even though we do not have the Beit Hamikdash standing today, nor the Supreme Sanhedrin in operation there, we can come closer to the uniting Light of the Holy Presence we just described. The Talmud in Hulin 92a compares the entirety of the Land of Israel to the “House of HaShem”, i.e the Beit Hamikdash. As we have shown many times, the Holy Presence in the Holy Land is a continuation, albeit in a more limited sense, of the Holy Presence in the Beit Hamikdash. Indeed, we should note that the Shulhan Aruch, which is probably the most accepted halachic work today, was compiled in the Land of Israel by Rabbi Yosef Karo, who himself took part in the renewal of “true” rabbinic ordination (“semicha”) in attempts towards the renewal of the Sanhedrin 500 years ago. Also, Hebron, in particular, being the City of Unity (“hibur”), is key in shining the “light of unity” emanated from the Holy Presence in our Holy Land. In this way, by connecting to the Land of Israel generally, and to Hebron specifically, we can build the bridges in uniting the different strands of Judaism to become one in the Light of our Holy Temple.
One of Hebron’s Torah luminaries who beautifully elucidated one of the most important records of the Oral Tradition close to the Second Temple era, the Mishna, was Rabbi Shlomo Edni. He was born in Sana’a, Yemen and immigrated to the Land of Israel with his family in 5331 (1571). By the age of fifteen, young Shlomo’s father and siblings all died in plague and sickness. Nevertheless, in the Land of Israel Shlomo was privileged to study with the renowned Rabbi Betzalel Ashkenazi, the author of the “Shita Mekubetzet,” and with Rabbi Chaim Vital, the noted disciple of the Arizal. When he got married, he moved to Hebron, where he wrote his monumental commentary on the Mishna, “Mlechet Shlomo,” which he finished in 5384 (1624). Although today it is considered a classic, at the time Rabbi Edni chose not to publish his book because he did not want to give competition to Rabbi Yom Tov Heller who had just published a similar commentary called Tosfos Yom Tov. A few years after writing this work, tragedy struck him again, when all seven of his sons died in plague and disease. The Hida writes about him: “One of the elder rabbis of Hebron, a disciple of Rabbi Betzalel Ashkenazi… we have heard many things about his righteousness and his diligence in spite of his poverty.” Rabbi Shlomo Edni passed away in 5389 (1629) and is buried in the Ancient Cemetery of Hebron, where his tomb can be visited today.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #267
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Sources: Sefer Hebron p. 136. Hebron Fund site
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