The Significance of a Past Occurrence
Who were the Khazars?
According to a Khazar document, "the Schechter Text," from the 1000s CE, and other Jewish records the Khazars were a mixture of Hebraic and non-Hebraic elements. In simplified terms, descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes after the Assyrian Exile reached the neighborhood of Armenia. They intermixed with others, mainly descendants of Gomer son of Japhet. Most of this admixture left eventually settling in Western Europe. A remnant remained. They were joined by Jewish refugees who also to some degree assimilated and intermixed with them. Around ca. 500- 600 CE a religious revival began. Many expressed an interest in Judaism. There were external pressures from Muslim and Christian neighboring states to choose either one of the two rival religions. Political changes and a Religious Disputation led to the Monarch declaring himself in favor of Judaism. Many of the aristocracy and some of the common people concurred. There was an intermediate stage lasting for about a century during which many adhered to a simplified form of Judaism, something akin to the present Bnei Noach movement. They were already known to be largely descended from Israelites whether through Judah or the Lost Ten Tribes. The problem was they had not practiced Judaism for a long time at least not in the full sense. Some Gentiles were also to be found among them. Due to their problematic status Rabbinical authorities may have declared them all to be halachically Gentiles as can be done (Talmud, Yebamot 17). After that they converted and became full-fledged Rabbinical Jews.
See: Khazars Overview
Subsequently the Khazars gained control over neighboring regions. They ruled over southern Russia and the Ukraine. Their suzerainty extended far to the east and at times to the west and north. Eventually they were defeated by the early Russians in the 960s CE. Some kind of political and social presence remained for about 200 years after which they disappeared.
Remnants of the Khazars were to be found in various Jewish communities. It appears however that wherever the Khazars did remain they were a minority element. There is no evidence to the contrary. Even if there should be found proofs that they ever comprised a substantial proportion of the Jewish populace in any one place there remains the fact that they too were of Jewish and Israelite origin.
From a philosophical points of view we may ask what was the whole point?
The Khazars comprised descendants of the Ten Tribes together with Jews from Judah and sundry Gentiles. The Ten Tribes had their own task while the Jews of Judah had theirs. The Ten Tribes had been exiled and lost their identity in order to do something than only they could do. The Khazars had separated from the main body of the Ten Tribes, became Jewish, evolved into a great and progressive power and then disappeared again perhaps merging into various Jewish communities.
Was this their task?
Were they in some way paving the way for all the others?
By considering what the Ten Tribes as a whole were supposed to be doing we may gain a better perspective. Based on Biblical Prophecies, the writings of Maimonides and Rabbi Avraham HaKohen Kook and other sources the following scenario emerges:
The Israelites had at first the Double assignments of (1) to learn and keep the Torah; and (2) to elevate mankind to a higher level and to rule over the nations.
The Hebrews showed themselves as not capable of fulfilling both these goals at one and the same time. They were not ready and neither was the world prepared for it. The Israelite Tribes had to divide into two different parts. Each section took a different aspect to themselves. The portion of Judah (the Jews) kept the Torah while Joseph (the Ten Tribes) took the aspect of elevating and ruling over the nations. This meant that the descendants of Joseph themselves had to lose their identity and spiritual uniqueness. They were to descend to the level of the Heathen Gentiles. They would at first be subject to Edom (Amos ch.1) and adopt the cultural 'guise' of Esau just as Jacob had done to receive the Blessing (Genesis ch. 27). From there the Ten Tribes were to evolve upwards elevating the rest of the world in their train with them. Judah on the other hand kept the Torah but lost its own political geographical placement. All this did not take place at once but was achieved by the gradual and separate evolution of each side towards becoming what it needed to become. The Ten Tribes became prominent among certain Western nations. The Tribes of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) came to dominate the English-speaking peoples. They gave expression to their Tribal proclivities through them and in them fulfilled their particular purpose, at least in part. They are still doing this to some degree. In the End Times Judah and Joseph will re-unite and the two different aspects will be shared by Judah and Joseph together. Judah has now taken the initial steps by beginning to re-settle part of the Promised Land.
Did the Khazars Foreshadow the Future Return of the Ten Tribes in General?
The Khazars were a branch of the Ten Tribes who amalgamated with a portion of Judah together with some non-Israelites and then returned to Judaism. In a sense they have pre-adumbrated what may, or may not be destined for the Ten Tribes as a whole.
The Midrash tells us:
"Behold thou art fair, my love, yea pleasant, also our bed is green" (Song of Solomon 1:16).
# Israel says: "Behold thou art fair, My Love" [i.e. God] -When you will take retribution from the worshippers of idols. "Yea pleasant," - when you pay the reward of those who fear you. "Also our bed": -These are the Ten Tribes.
[In Hebrew the word for bed is "eres" while the word for ten is "eser" and uses the same letters, and "our bed" ("erseynu") sounds like "our ten" ("esereynu").] These are those who were exiled beyond the Sambation River. The exiles of Judah and Benyamin [i.e. the present-day Jews] are destined to go unto them and bring them back in order to merit with them the Messianic Era and life in the World-To-Come. This is as it says, "In those days the house of Judah shall go unto the house of Israel and they shall come together out of the land of the north unto the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers" (Jeremiah 3:18).
-Midrash Yalkut Shimeoni, Song of Solomon 905.
The Sambation River has a name meaning in Jewish-Greek dialect, "Shabat." The Don River and in some cases the neighboring Dneister River were both known as the 'River of Shabat.' The Don especially was identified with the Sambation. The name "Sambation," and related connotations, has been found as a personal name given to individuals in Greek settlements by the Don River. This was also the region that the Khazars were to be found in.
Jeremiah 3:18 should be read according to the above as:
THE HOUSE OF JUDAH SHALL GO UNTO [rather than 'walk with'] THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL. Jews from Judah and Benjamin (i.e. legal Jews) shall go unto the Lost Ten Tribes who are beyond the Sambation River to bring them back.
This is what happened to some degree concerning the Khazars.
See: Hebrew Warriors. The Khazars