The Quorum of the Ten Tribes by Fishel Mael translated by Yair Davidiy (5 June, 2013, Sivan 27, 5773)
Introduction from Yair Davidiy
The Book of Rabbi Fishel and a List of Headings.
1. The Tribe of Benjamin was included in the Tribe of Judah to the degree that both of them are described by Scripture as "one tribe".
[A MIDRASH SPEAKS OF THE RETURN OF THE TEN TRIBES!]
1b. The Way the Tribes are Counted as Twelve.
2. Fishel Mael Claims that Simeon was not to be counted amongst the Lost Ten Tribes.
(a) Why Was Simeon Used as an Example of Hypothetical Fraternal Adversary in War instead of Ephraim
The Tribes of Israel were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulon, Gad, Asher, Dan, Naphtali, Joseph, Benjamin.
Joseph gave rise to two Tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh.
When the Israelites conquered the Land the Tribe of Manasseh was divided into two sections, one east of the Jordan and the other to the west of it.
The Tribes of Israel split into two different sections. The Kingdom of Israel was in the north and the Kingdom of Judah in the south. It is accepted that the Kingdom of Israel consisted of Ten Tribes. These were to be exiled by the Assyrians, lose consciousness of their ancestry and become known as the Lost Ten Tribes. Rabbi Fishel Mael in a sophisticated detailed argument brings sources to the effect that the two halves of Manasseh were different in character from each other and were each counted as separate Tribes in their own right. This opinion is also that often adopted by present-day non-traditional Academic commentators on the Bible.
In effect Rabbi Fishel says that the Ten Tribes were Reuben, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulon, Gad, Asher, Dan, Naphtali, Manasseh in the west; and half-Manasseh as a separate Tribe in the east.
The Kingdom of Judah, he says, comprised the Tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin. Since the Tribe of Levi was scattered amongst the other Tribes it is not included in the quorum.
We disagree. We understand that the northern Ten Tribes included most of Simeon in the south and that Simeon was exiled with them. Manasseh was counted as one Tribe, not two. The Kingdom of Judah included Judah, Benjamin, most of Levi and later minority representative elements from the others. This to our minds is what the Bible says. Anyway, our own arguments are to be found in our writings. We may discuss them at greater length at another time, elsewhere. For the moment let us deal with the account of Rabbi Fishel. Even though we disagree with him on this matter the sources and viewpoints he quotes from are extremely interesting and of great value.
The Book of Rabbi Fishel and a List of Headings Rabbi Fishel Avraham Mael of Baltimore wrote a book in Hebrew, "Sefer Shivtei Israel" , 5757 (1997).
The official title in English (as shown on the back page) is:
The Twelve Tribes of Israel.
An Anthology and Novellae Based on Biblical, Talmudic, and Midrashic Sources.
This work is about 550 pages long in Hebrew text meaning in English terms the equivalent of ca. 700 pages.
Each page is full of important information that deserves to be well considered.
Rabbi Fishel Mael gave Yair Davidiy permission to translate and comment on portions of his work.
One of the articles in the book by Rabbi Fishel concerns the question of how many Tribes were there really in the Ten Tribes? How do we reach the number ten? Below is a rough translation of this article.
The Quorum of the Ten Tribes and the Tribes of the Kingdom of Judah by Fishel Mael
[Translated from "Shiftei Yisroel" pp. 462-473].
Translator Yair Davidiy.
Note: Two types of parenthesis are used i.e. (xx) and [xx]. The regular rounded type (xx) is used in the usual way for remarks that do not fit into the flow of text but are included nonetheless. The square type [xx] is used for editorial remarks by the translator inserted into the translated text.
The Tribe of Benjamin was included in the Tribe of Judah to the degree that both of them are described by Scripture as "one tribe".
The Tribe of Simeon was also included in the Tribe of Judah.
The two halves of Manasseh had different basic personalities.
Ishai son of Shevet from Manasseh was one of the head Clan Heads in the Tribe of Simeon.
The Tribe of Simeon diminished whereas the Tribe of Manasseh [in corresponding proportion] increased.
The Tribe of Simeon was subsidiary to, and nullified by, Joseph.
This especially applies to Manasseh son of Joseph.
The Quorum of Ten Tribes given to Jeroboam son of Nebat.
A Comparison of the Three Distinct Divisions amongst the Tribe of Israel.
The Half-Tribe of Manasseh amongst which the Tribe of Simon was nullified were, in part, from the Tribe of Judah.
Ephraim and Mannasseh will be to me like Reuben and Simeon.
Reuben, Simeon, and Gad in the Wilderness held the southern Standard in accordance to their characteristics.
When the Land was inherited these Tribes were reunited in another way.
When the Land was inherited why was the title "Prince" not recalled in relation to the Tribes Judah, Benjamin, and Simeon?
a. In the First Book of Kings it is written:
1-Kings 11:7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. 8 And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods...
...11 Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, 'Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. 12 Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.'
Further on, it says:
1-Kings 11:29 Now it happened at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite met him on the way; and he had clohed himself with a new garment, and the two were alone in the field. 30 Then Ahijah took hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. 31 And he said to Jeroboam, 'Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: ˜Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and will give Ten Tribes to you 32 (but he shall have one tribe for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel),... 35 But I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand and give it to you Ten Tribes. 36 And to his son I will give One Tribe, that My servant David may always have a lamp before Me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen for Myself, to put My name there.
Certain perplexities arise from these verses:
Jeroboam will have Ten Tribes. One Tribe, without doubt that of Judah, shall remain for the Kingdom of the House of David [10 plus 1=11]. Amongst the Children of Israel however there are Twelve Tribes. Why was the Twelfth Tribe not mentioned? So too, further on it says,
1-Kings 12: 20 Now it came to pass when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had come back, they sent for him and called him to the congregation, and made him king over all Israel. There was none who followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.
Behold, the verse recalls only eleven Tribes. Where was the Twelfth Tribe?
In the Commentary of the Radak (1-Kings 11:13) it says: [that the one tribe was not Judah but] rather Benjamin, since Benjamin had his portion with Judah in Jerusalem [which was divided] between the two of them and they were considered one Tribe.
The Ralbag Commentary (12:20) is along the same lines.
Proof of this is found from:
1-Kings 12:21 And when Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah with the Tribe of Benjamin, one hundred and eighty thousand chosen men who were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, that he might restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon.
It therefore becomes clear that the Twelfth Tribe is Benjamin which was within the Kingdom of the House of David.
So too, we find in 'Midrash HaGadol' (Genesis 43:16):
# Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi explained the case of Benjamin [with Joseph and Judah in Egypt] as symbolizing the Exiles.
Genesis 43: 14 And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin.
[Jacob was speaking of the Ruler (i.e. the man) of Egypt, meaning Joseph but he was not aware then who he was. Jacob was saying, May God Almighty give you mercy from the Ruler that he may release your brother Simeon, whom Joseph had incarcerated, and not detain Benjamin who had to go with them to Egypt since the Ruler was insisting on it. The Midrash is not contradicting the literal meaning but rather taking the verses and re-interpreting them as having also an allegorical application.
[give you mercy before the man hints at] the Almighty who is called 'the man' in ' Exodus 15:3' The LORD is a man of war.. [and merciful in] Psalm 106: 46 He also made them to be shown mercy by all those who carried them away captive.
'that he may release your brother' [ in Hebrew it says, 'your brother other' translated as "your other 'brother'" but not necessarily so. The Midrash here reinterprets and rearranges the verse as saying that he may release your brother, [and the] other, and Benjamin. It isolates the word 'your brother' from 'other' as if the intention is to two separate entities. ' It says that 'your brother' means the Ten Tribes] meaning [the return of] the Ten Tribes; 'the other, and Benjamin' refers to the Tribe of Judah and the Tribe of Benjamin....#
[Note: From the quote above, Midrash HaGadol (Genesis 43:16), we have yet another source from the Sages declaring the future return of the Ten Tribes of Israel.]
From the flow of verses in the Book of Kings we learn that the relationship between the Tribe of Benjamin and the Tribe of Judah was very firm. The linkage was so strong that both are referred to in Scripture as 'One Tribe'.
Even at the time of Exile of the Ten Tribes we find the same phenomenon:
2-Kings 17:18 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone.
Here too, the Radak opines: The Tribe of Benjamin [is included with Judah so that together they are one Tribe] the Tribe of Benjamin was subsidiary to Judah and included amongst it.
According to the above we may say that the Ten Tribes given to Jeroboam are: Reuben, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim, and Manasseh. No question arises concerning the Tribe of Levi according to the Principle enunciated by the Malbim (Genesis 49:4): Wherever Ephraim and Manasseh are considered as two [and not together as the one Tribe of Joseph] then Levi is not listed in its own right as a Tribe. We find this concerning the Standards of the Tribes, in the list of Princes, in the Tribal Inheritances, and the like. 'The source for the Malbim is from Midrash Tanchuma (VaYechi 15): Said Rabbi Yochana, And are there really only 12 Tribes? It already says (Genesis 48:5) Ephraim and Manasseh... as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.
This gives us 14 Tribes i.e. 12 with Joseph and Levi plus Ephraim and Manasseh. Joseph is here counted as another separate Tribe. Joseph seems to have later had other sons (Genesis 48:6) apart from Ephraim and Manasseh. These other sons were eventually assimilated in Ephraim and Manasseh but here they are counted as a separate Tribe. However when Levi is counted with the Tribes the several Tribes of Joseph are not counted indivually [but are counted as the one Tribe of Joseph]. When Levi is not counted amongst the Tribes then Ephraim and Manasseh are each counted as separate Tribes.
2. Fishel Mael Claims that Simeon was not to be counted amongst the Lost Ten Tribes.
Reminder Editorial Note: Two types of parenthesis are used i.e. (xx) and [xx]. The regular rounded type (xx) is used in the usual way for remarks that do not fit into the flow of text but are included nonetheless. The square type [xx] is used for editorial remarks by the translator inserted into the translated text.
Fishel Mael continues with his argument that Simeon was not to be counted amongst the Lost Ten Tribes. [We disagree with this but are not arguing the case for the present!]:
(a) Why Was Simeon Used as an Example of Hypothetical Fraternal Adversary in War instead of Ephraim?
We need to examine this matter carefully. The Talmud, Mishna, Sota 70;a discusses the Biblical Passage about the Priest Consecrated for War who would address the Israelites before a battle.
1 When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. 2 So it shall be, when you are on the verge of battle, that the priest shall approach and speak to the people. 3 And he shall say to them, Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; 4 for the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.
It (Talmud, Mishna, Sota 70;a) says,
"when you are on the verge of battle, that the priest shall approach" (Deuteronomy 20:20): This is the Priest Consecrated for War.
"and speak to the people", in the Holy Tongue.
"And he shall say to them, 'Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies'." And not against your brothers [You are about to fight your enemies who have no fraternal bonds with you and will not have pity on you]. Not Judah against Simeon and not Simeon against Benjamin who [if you were to fight and] if you would happen to be taken captive by them would have mercy on you.
The Maharsha (Rabbi Shmuel Eidels 1555 - 1631, Poland) commented on this, taking the incident of the leaders of Ephraim as his term of reference.
2-Chronicles 28 tells us of a war between Judah on one side against Aram and the Ten Tribes headed by Ephraim on the other. Judah was defeated and many captives were taken by Ephraim to Samaria. Oded the Prophet berated the men of Ephraim for mistreating their brothers from Judah. Consequently the leading men of Ephraim rose up, and gave the captives of Judah fresh clothes, sandals, food and drink, and anointments, and donkeys to carry their burdens and set them free to return to Judah.
6 For Pekah the son of Remaliah killed one hundred and twenty thousand in Judah in one day, all valiant men, because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers. ...8 And the children of Israel carried away captive of their brethren two hundred thousand women, sons, and daughters; and they also took away much spoil from them, and brought the spoil to Samaria. 9 But a prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded; and he went out before the army that came to Samaria, and said to them: 'Look, because the LORD God of your fathers was angry with Judah, He has delivered them into your hand; but you have killed them in a rage that reaches up to heaven. 10 And now you propose to force the children of Judah and Jerusalem to be your male and female slaves; but are you not also guilty before the LORD your God? 11 Now hear me, therefore, and return the captives, whom you have taken captive from your brethren, for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you.' 12 Then some of the heads of the children of Ephraim, Azariah the son of Johanan, Berechiah the son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah the son of Shallum, and Amasa the son of Hadlai, stood up against those who came from the war, 13 and said to them, 'You shall not bring the captives here, for we already have offended the LORD. You intend to add to our sins and to our guilt; for our guilt is great, and there is fierce wrath against Israel.' 14 So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the leaders and all the assembly. 15 Then the men who were designated by name rose up and took the captives, and from the spoil they clothed all who were naked among them, dressed them and gave them sandals, gave them food and drink, and anointed them; and they let all the feeble ones ride on donkeys. So they brought them to their brethren at Jericho, the city of palm trees. Then they returned to Samaria.
The Maharsha said:
# We have to study why when the Talmud took the example of brother fighting against brother and taking pity it used the [hypothetical] case of "Not Judah against Simeon and not Simeon against Benjamin "?
It would seem to have been better [to use the historical parallel where fraternal pity was shown] to have taken the [actual] case of "Not Judah against Ephraim" where we have an example from Scripture of "Then some of the heads of the children of Ephraim....stood up" (2-Chronicles 28:12) [and Ephraim showed pity to Judah]. This was referring to the case of Judah and Ephraim [where Ephraim had pity on Judah after defeating Judah in battle.] It would seem that this Mishna [in the Talmud] was taught in the time of the Tannaim [early Sages of the Mishna, ca. 10-220 CE]. This was [following] the Period of the Second Temple in which only the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin had returned from the Babylonian Exile. They had been exiled by Nebuchadnessar and returned in the Period of the Second Temple. The Ten Tribes however had been exiled by the King of Assyria. They did not return in the Period of the Second Temple. That is why in this case the example of Simeon [fighting against Judah] is given [and not that of Ephraim].'
It is explained in the Book of Joshua that the inheritance of Simeon was within the inheritance of Judah. ["The second lot came out for Simeon, for the Tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families. And their inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah" (Joshua 19:19)]. It may therefore be assumed that Simeon was exiled with Judah and returned with him. #
We see it made clear from the words of the Maharsha that the Tribe of Simeon, at least most of the Tribe, was included in the Tribe of Judah and was not exiled with the Ten Tribes.
NEVERTHELESS, our understanding of Mainstream Rabbinical Opinion and the overall Biblical Message is that:
Manasseh was counted as one Tribe, not two. The Kingdom of Judah included Judah, Benjamin, most of Levi and later minority representative elements from the others. A good portion of Simeon may have also remained with Judah but most of it was exiled with the Ten Tribes and Simoen is counted as part of them.
This to our minds is what the Bible says.
See our other articles concerning the Tribe of Simeon.