Sanhedrin 14: I Want a Real Rabbi

August 09, 2017 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
One of the fiercest debates in medieval Jewish history was engendered by the attempt to reinstate full-blown semicha, rabbinic ordination, by Rav Yaakov Beirav in the 16th century[1]. This “real” semicha had to be passed down in an unbroken chain from Moshe Rabbeinu, and once the chain was broken, it seemed unfixable. However, the Rambam (Sanhedrin 4:12) argues that if the Sages of the generation...
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Sanhedrin 11: Humble Pie

August 08, 2017 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
It is in times of crisis that strong leadership is most needed. And up to that point in Jewish history, there was no greater crisis than that faced by the Jewish people in the year 70—the Temple destroyed, the people dispersed, and worst of all, the people divided into warring factions. It took the genius of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai to recognize that Judaism as it was then could not be “saved”. Tweaking would not do; a...
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Sanhedrin 11: Please Don't Embarrass Me

August 04, 2017 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
When things go well all are ready to take credit, even if they had little or no role to play in the success of the project at hand. At the same time few are willing to take the blame for failure even if they may have played a major role in that failure. Such is human nature – and at times such is done with true sincerity. Adam karov etzel atzmo (Sanhedrin 9b), a person is close to themselves, with a built-in bias so strong they...
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Sanhedrin 11: An Extra Long Summer

August 03, 2017 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Up until this point in Masechet Sanhedrin, we have been discussing the role of the court in resolving monetary disputes. But there is much more for which a court of three was responsible. They were to handle punitive damages, cases of rape, seduction and, interestingly enough, are tasked with fixing the calendar.  As is well known, the original Jewish calendar was determined by the testimony of two witnesses who, upon sighting the new moon...
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Sanhedrin 8: We Want Justice

July 30, 2017 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Moshe Rabbeinu was about to die. Like many before him, he wanted to bless his “children” – the nation of Israel[1]. Yet before we get to the actual blessings of the 12 tribes[2], Moshe spends the last five weeks of his life preparing the people of Israel for entry to the Land of Israel. He reviews the mistakes of the past, warns them of the challenges ahead and exhorts them to do better.  Strikingly, Moshe begins with an...
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