I keep reading conflicting information. Is there or is there not a Sanhedrin?
Shalom, The "Sanhedrin" is a term used to refer to the highest judical body in the Jewish people. Only Rabbis who were ordained by someone who had themselves received "smicha" (=ordination) in a direct chain from Moshe could be members. After that chain broke, and we no longer had Rabbis who received their qualifcations in such a way, the institution of the Sanhedrin stopped fuctioning. We certainly believe that we will again merit to have such an august body in the Jewish people. This can come about in one of two ways - the first option is that the Messiah will restart the chain, and appoint Rabbis to the new Sanhedrin. The second option is that there will be a general consensus amongst all the Rabbis as to who should stand at the head of the new Sanhedrin, and this would empower him to restart the chain, and appoint the institution. Interestingly, this second option was attempted in the 1500's by such great Rabbis as Rav Yosef Karo, the author of the Shulchan Aruch, and others. But, ultimately it was unsuccsessful. In our days, though many Jews await the rebuilding of the Sanhedrin as a practical step in the ongoing redemption of the Jewish people, we have yet to merit it. Unfortunately we are still far from total agreement as to who should be the head of the Sanhedrin - or even if we should be actively working to rebuild it in our days, or whether we should be working on other more pressing needs. Several years ago a group of Rabbis got together and formed an organization they called the "Sanhedrin". This was not an establishment of a "real" Sanhedrin - but rather a group who hoped that their actions would lead to a renewed intrest in, and movement towards, establishing the real thing. They are also active in many areas of national and global Judaism. Despite any claims to the contary, this group did not establish an accepted national Sanhedrin - and I am unsure whether they even attempted to. Our teacher, Rav Kook zt"l, believed that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which he founded, would one day lead to the establishment of a true Sanhedrin. May we merit the complete rebuilding of all facets of Am Israel. Blessings.