Kenneth Cohen

The Sanhedrin

After yet another incident of the people giving Moshe Rabbeinu a hard time with their complaints, he had enough. The longing to return to Egypt, because of their delicious watermelon, was the last straw.

Moshe pleads with Hashem by saying that he is unable to carry the burden of leading the Jewish people all by himself. He goes on to say that it is too heavy a burden to carry. It would be better for him to die, rather than to have to witness his own deterioration.

At this point, Hashem gives the command to gather seventy elders among the Jewish people. They would serve as judges, and would assist Moshe with his leadership duties.

This represented the formation of the Sanhedrin who ruled from that time in the desert from that time, until 358 of the Common Era. They disbanded in Tiberius when a set calendar was formulated, rather than waiting for testimony each month of the new moon.

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch wrote that for 1,200 years, there was one accepted ruling body that led the Jewish people. This went until the Second Temple, when factionalizing began, and the Sanhedrin lost its full authority.

A big reason why there has been so much disharmony among our people is that we have too many Halachic authorities. If we had one ruling body again, it would help us achieve the Jewish unity that is so desperately needed.

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