- (m., pl. "Sanhedriyaot") - 1. the Jewish "Supreme
Court;" it consisted of seventy one great Torah
Sages, who met in the "Lishkat HaGazit," the "Office of Hewn
Stone," adjacent to the Temple in Jerusalem;
2. The Masechta, or Folio of the Talmud
that discusses the activities of the Sanhedrin, and related matters.
The Rabbis who
were the members of the Sanhedrin had all received "Semichah," the
formal passing over of the Tradition from their teachers.
On the floor of
the Sanhedrin were debated the fundamental principles of the Torah, and the
result was established by majority vote.
Cases that were
the most difficult or the most critical for the Jewish People were decided
by the Sanhedrin. A majority had to be at least two votes. Any Capital case
in which all the votes were for condemnation, was automatically changed to
discussion in the Talmud of the question of how frequently capital
punishment was imposed by the Sanhedrin, although the Torah does explicitly
allow for it. Some said that a Sanhedrin that imposed the death penalty once
in seven years was considered "bloody;" another opinion is that it
was seventy years. Another said that it depended on the generation. Yet
another was that restraint in imposing the death penalty would increase the
number of murderers in Israel.
Temple was destroyed, the Sanhedrin moved from place to place in Israel. It
finally was dissolved when, in the absence of the greatest Sages of Israel,
the Institution of Semichah could no longer be applied.
During the Middle Ages, there was an attempt to revive the Sanhedrin by re-instituting Semichah. But due to opposition by some of the Torah Sages of that generation, the idea never became a reality.