Kenneth Cohen

Achdut Among Rabbinic Leadership

From the time of Moshe Rabbeinu, until the year 358 CE., there was a legislative body known as the Sanhedrin. It consisted of seventy of the greatest scholars in Israel.

The Sanhedrin was viewed and accepted as the ruling body of Jewish Law. It was forbidden to challenge these rulings.

The Torah speaks of the זקן ממרא, who was a judge of a lower court, who defied the Sanhedrin. He was put to death for such defiance.

Aside from the end to the declaration of the New Moon by way of the Sanhedrin, their dissolution, represented much more. A set calendar was established with seven leap years every nineteen years, when they last met in Tiberius in 358. This may have been seen as a positive outcome, but it was mostly tragic when we lost this accepted ruling body.

It represented the dispersion of Jews to all parts of the world. This dispersion also represented the fact that there was no longer one accepted authority, followed by all Jews.

Over the centuries, the divisions among Jews became more pronounced. Various communities followed the teachings of “their” rabbis, and were not connected to other Jews in a uniform manner.

This became even more pronounced in our generation. Everyone has their rabbi, and their accepted standards of Kashrut. There are differences among Chassidic and Lithuanian Jewry, and among Ashkenazim and Sephardim. There are major differences of opinion regarding the State of Israel and the IDF.

All of this, got me thinking about the current situation we are in. We constantly hear how special it was when the war broke out. There was incredible “Achdut,” or Jewish unity. Many, like Yechiel Leiter, whose eldest son fell in battle, has emphasized that his beloved son, Moshe, will not have died in vain, as long as the Achdut continues.

If this Achdut is so important,(and it definitely is), why can’t there be Achdut among the rabbis, who continue to represent views that are very different from those of other groups?

Why can’t we demand that they all “bury the hatchet,” and learn to find common ground? Why can’t they agree that there should be only one definition and label of Kashrut? Why can’t they all agree to salute our holy soldiers of the IDF? Why can’t they find a way to accept a uniform of Halacha, as existed in the days of the Sanhedrin?

If the nation as a whole is urged to be united, because our enemies do not differentiate as to what kind of Jew they want to kill, how much more should our rabbinic leaders learn to be united?

We need them to guide us as to how to be united. What kind of example do they set, when there is so much factionalizing? We need to at least express these ideas. Perhaps someone is listening and will act on this cry for unity. Hopefully, all of the Jewish people will wake up and stand together. We are one family with one G-d guiding us. Let’s hope this can be done now, and it won’t take the Mashiach to get this done. If we do achieve this unity on all levels, including the rabbis, that might be the very thing that will hurry the coming of the Mashiach speedily in our time.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at