Alex Zephyr Explains the Return of the Ten Tribes
(6 January, 2020, 9 Tevet 5780)
-In Response to the Article.
Are the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel Ever Coming Back? by Chabad.org
The way I see it, most people do not understand the difference between the Biblical terms of 'Judah' and 'Israel.' Any time they hear word Israel, they speak of Jews. Jews freed themselves from Egypt in Moses time. Abraham is the first Jew. Jews received Torah on Mount Sinai. Jews conquered Land of Israel under Joshua. And so on. Do not they realize that there were no Jews at that time? Abraham is the father of many nations, including Christians and Muslims, but nobody calls him first Christian or first Muslim. The first time the word 'Jew' appeared in the Hebrew Bible was much later (Esther 2:5). The Bible tells us that the people Moses led out from Egypt called themselves Hebrews: Abram the Hebrew (Genesis 14:3), Joseph the Hebrew (Genesis 39:14), God of the Hebrews (Exodus 5:3), or Israelites (Exodus 31:13; 33:5 and countless more). The very same people were recipients of the Torah on Mount Sinai, so the Torah was given to all tribes of Israel, the Hebrew nation. It also were Israelites who capture the Land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua and divided it among the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Joshua 11:23).
Some scholars conveniently substitute Israelites by the Jews, because the existence of the Ten Israelite Tribes is, for them, a myth and fairy-tale. According to general opinion of the rabbis, the Jewish people are the Biblical Israel of the Twelve Tribes. The future prophecies of reunion and redemption apply to the Jews only, and there is no such thing as the 'Lost' Ten Tribes of Israel in exile. It could not be farther from the Biblical truth! The Ten Tribes of Israel are also the chosen people of God, the same way Jews are. The Almighty made a Covenant with all Israelites, not only with the Jews, whose name was not even in existence at this time (Exodus 19:5-8). Hashem loves and protects Israel: 'I am the father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn' (Jeremiah 31:9).
The names of Ephraim and Manasseh are collective terms used in the Bible to identify the entire body of the Ten Tribes of Israel.
Despite the fact that these nations are of the same Semitic stock, being of the twelve sons of the Patriarch Jacob, after the separation and exiles 2750 years ago, they became different nations, living in different countries of the world, with different histories, cultures, languages, traditions, and religions. The Jews are part of Israel, just two and a half tribes among twelve. By no means is it correct to substitute them for the Ten Tribes of Israel. Today, the two terms are not synonymous. The Israelites of the Ten Tribes are not the Jews. It is safe to say that all Jews technically can be called 'Israelites', like New Yorkers are Americans, whereas not all Israelites can be called Jews, like not all Americans are New Yorkers. Throughout the Scripture, the Almighty speaks separately of the house of Judah and the house of Israel. To illustrate the point, 'Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, I will perform that good things which I have promised unto the House of Israel and to the House of Judah' (Jeremiah 33:14).
The Ten Tribes have never returned to the Promised Land and reunited with Judah. The great R. Nahmanides (1194-1270 AC) said that the overwhelming majority of the Ten Tribes never returned to the Promised Land though they are destined to do so in the future. 'There was no redemption for the Ten Tribes who remain in exile. They should be ashamed not to recognize this fact!' (Sefer HaGeulah). There are more than 40 prophecies in Tanah outlining their future destiny as a reunion with their brother Judah and redemption in the times of Messiah.
One more point. The number of the Jews in the world is approximately 15-16 million. The total estimated number of the Ten Israelite Tribes today runs somewhere between 550 and 600 million. They are numerous people, as prophesied in the Hebrew Bible: 'Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as stars of the heaven, as the sand of the seashore, which cannot be measured nor numbered' (Hosea 1:10; Genesis 22:17; 48:19). Surely, such words could not apply to Judah, whose population (due to constant killings and holocausts) cannot approach the description of 'the stars of the sky and the sand of the seashore' which properly fits the Ten Tribes of Israel. How is it compatible with the figure of 16 million Jews in the world? Would it not likely to be a drop in the bucket compared to the immense population of the Ten Tribes of Israel?
The best description concerning the destiny of Israel and Judah in the last days can be found in the famous 'Two Sticks' prophecy of Ezekiel: 'And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms anymore' (Ezekiel 37:16-24). The return of the tribes is fundamental and is an essential dimension of Judaism. Those who reject these numerous prophecies reject the sacred Word of the Almighty.