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Subject: Lost Tribes/Commentary: THE COMING RETURN OF THE LOST TEN
TRIBES (excerpted from "A MATTER OF RETURN", Chapter Six, "The Lost
Ten Tribes" by Rafael Eisenberg, Jerusalem Academy Publications,
Feldheim Publishers, 1980)
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Lost Tribes/Commentary: THE COMING RETURN OF THE LOST TEN TRIBES
(excerpted from "A MATTER OF RETURN", Chapter Six, "The Lost Ten Tribes" by
Rafael Eisenberg, Jerusalem Academy Publications, Feldheim Publishers,
1980, p. 127-138)
JERUSALEM, D.C. (David's Capital), Yom Sheini (Second Day - "Monday"), 5
Nisan, 5760 (Gregorian Date: April 10, 2000)
HASKAMA LETTERS FOR "A MATTER OF RETURN"
from HaRav HaGaon Rav MOSHE FEINSTEIN
"...wherein he [Rafael Eisenberg] wishes to demonstrate the occurences of
our times from the quotations of the prophets and of our Sages -- to
realize that these events are all Divine decrees to induce our return to
God and thereby to merit Redemption through the King Messiah whom we await
and expect at all time and every hour....he has done well to print this
important book; perhaps it will motivate many to forsake their evil ways,
return to God and observe the Torah and its commandments."
HaRav HaGaon Rav MORDECHAI GIFTER
"...[Rafael Eisenberg has done well to systematically cull from Scripture
and the sayings of our Sages those portions which will arouse the heart and
soul of our generation -- a generation marked by moral deterioration --
HaRav BARUCH HOROVITZ
Yeshivat Dvar Yerushaliyim
(Jerusalem Academy of Jewish Studies)
"Our age has been described by the spiritual leaders of Jewry as the 'Epoch
of the Mashiach' ('Ikvata d'Mashicha'). The world wars of our century, the
position of the Jewish People, and the Land of Israel in our days
demonstrate that we are living in the age described by the Prophets and the
Sages of Israel as 'the birthpangs of the Mashiach'. Our Sages have said
that 'if Israel will return, they will immediately be redeemed'.
"Our age is one in which Divine Providence calls upon Jewry through these
events to return to our Creator and to His Torah.
"The great and saintly scholar Rav Rafael Eisenberg had the breadth and the
depth of understanding to describe in clear terms the 'etzba Elokim', the
finger of Divine Providence in our time calling s to do "t'shuva'. This
book will give assistance to those who wish to gain an understanding of
today's events and to those who are seeking the path of return to prepare
themselves for the Ge'ula. It is of special significance to those involved
in what has become known as the 'T'shuva movement', who are very much in
need of books of this nature.
"Yeshivat D'var Yerushaliyim, the Jerusalem Academy of Jewish Studies,
which is involved in promoting this movement, is therefore honored to have
a translation of this important work of Mussar and Hashkafa included in its
series of publications".
The prophets foretold that amidst the pre-Messianic wars and tribulations,
culminating in the victory of the King Messiah, the Ten Tribes of the
Kingdom of Yisrael, exiled, forgotten, and estranged from God and His
Torah, will re-awaken. After having been dispersed and assimilated among
the nations of the earth, they will rally to Jerusalem, forming a unified
Yisrael and Judah under the reign of the King Messiah.
The "Ten Tribes" (Reuven, Shimon, Dan, Naftali, Gad, Asher, Yissachar,
Zevulun, Ephraim and Menashe) seceded from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin
in the days of King Rehaveam, the son of King Solomon (1). Yeraveam ben
N'vot reigned over the Ten Tribes, known as the Kingdom of Yisrael, while
Rehaveam remained as the ruler of the Kingdom of Judah. The two groups
differed not only politically, but ideologically as well.
The Kingdom of Judah adhered to God and His commandments, while the Kingdom
of Yisrael, also called Ephraim, after the leading tribe of the
secessionists, turned to idolatry and assimilation amongst the neighboring
countries. About 721 B.C.E., the Ten Tribes were exiled by the King of
Assyria, who "carried Yisrael away unto Ashur and placed them in Chalah and
Chavor by the River of Gozan and in the cities of the Moday" (2).
There is a Talmudic dispute (3) as to whether the Ten Tribes will return to
the Jewish people. Rabbi Akiva states that the Ten Tribes shall not return
(3a). According to Rabbi Eliezer, however, "their darkness will light up
for them in the future", which means that they will return.
Both opinions are based on different interpretations of the Biblical
prophecy: (4) "...and cast them into another land, as it is this day".
Rabbi Akiva asserts that just as this day passed, never to return, so too
the Ten Tribes are gone and will not return.
Rabbi Eliezer, on the other hand, interprets the same passage, "as it is
this day", to mean that as the day grows dark and lightens up again, so too
the Ten Tribes' utter darkness will become bright for them. (4a)
Our Sages determined the halachah (Jewish law) that the Ten Tribes which
disappeared in Assyria shall return. Their decision is quoted in the
Tosefta (5), which describes another disputation concerning the Ten Tribes'
return, based on the same passage. "As it is this day" is explained as
meaning that "if their deeds remain as they were this day, they will not
return. On the other hand, if they are not -- that is, if they have
repented for and corrected their actions -- they will return".
Our Sages, however, have ruled that in any case, the Ten Tribes shall have
a share in the "World-to-Come". Their determination is based on Isaiah's
prophecy: (6) "And it shall come to pass on that day that a great shofar
shall be blown and they shall come who were lost in the land of Ashur..."
Ashur, or Assyria, states the Tosefta, denotes the Ten Tribes.
According to Abarbanel (7) the return of the Ten Tribes at the time of the
Redemption is one of the principles of our faith. Abarbanel refers to the
prophecies to this effect of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hoseah, Ovadiah,
Micad and Zefaniah.
Yisrael will not be redeemed until the House of Judah and the House of
Israel will be united. The Midrash (8) bases this assertion on the
prophecy of Jeremiah: (9) "In these days the House of Judah shall walk
with the House of Yisrael..." Thus, a united Judah and Yisrael shall
receive the Divine Presence.
Jeremiah prophesied (10) that when Judah and Yisrael will foresake their
stubbornness, they shall all return to their land. "At that time they
shall call Jerusalem the Throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be
gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem; neither shall they
walk any more after the stubbornness of their evil hearts. In those days
the House of Judah shall walk with the House of Yisrael..." Thus, a united
Judah and Yisrael shall receive the Divine Presence.
Isaiah foresaw: (11) "And in that day it shall be that the root of Jesse
(11a), that stands for a banner of the peoples, to him shall the nations
seek, and his resting place shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass
on that day that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to
recover the remnant of His people that shall be left, from Assyria, and
from Egypt, from Patros and from Kush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and
from Hamat, and from the islands of the sea. And He will set up a banner
for the nations, and shall assemble the dispersed of Yisrael,a nd gather
together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth".
From this prophecy we learn that the Messiah, the son of David, will gather
the dispersed of Yisrael, the vanished Ten Tribes, and will ingather Judah
from the far corners of the globe.
When the Ten Tribes return, there will be no envy between the tribe of
Judah and the Ten Tribes; united, they will wage war against all their
enemies. We learn this from the continuation of Isaiah's prophecy: (12)
"The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and they that harass the
adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah and
Judah shall not vex Ephraim; but they shall fly down upon the shoulders of
the Philistines towards the west; together they shall spoil the children of
the east; they shall put forth their hands upon Edom and Moab; and the
children of Amman shall obey them".
We read in the Second Book of Kings: (13) "In the ninth year (of Hoshea)
the King of Assyria took Samaria and carried Yisrael away into Assyria and
placed them in Halah and in Havor on the river of Gozan and in the cities
of the Moday". The Maharzaw (14) explains that, "according to our Sages,
the word Gozan denotes 'throwing', and thus indicates the River Sambatyon
which uproots and throws stones and is therefore called 'Gozan'".
Prophesying about the future return of the exiles to their land, Isaiah
states: "thou mayest say to the prisoners, go forth; to them that are in
darkness, show yourselves". (15)
The Midrash Rabba explains that "prisoners" denotes the tribes residing
beyond the Sambatyon, and those who are "in darkness" denotes those
existing under "a dark cloud".
The Midrash Rabba (16) continues: "In the future, the Holy One, blessed be
He, will ingather them, since it states in Isaiah: (17) "Behold, these
shall come from far, and lo these from the north, and from the west, and
these from the land of Sinim (China). The exiled will come with them, as
well as the tribes beyond the Sambatyon and inside the Dark Mountains. All
of these will rally and come to Jerusalem".
THE TEN TRIBES IN RECENT HISTORY
During the past few centuries the Jewish community in various parts of the
world has made efforts to make contact with the lost Ten Tribes and
actualize their return.
One of these efforts, that of the Jerusalem Rabbinate of 1900, was based on
the commentary of the Yalkut Shimoni (18). This Midrash states that the
diaspora of Judah and Benjamin will go out to the Ten Tribes, exiled behind
the River Sambatyon, and will bring them back with them in order that they,
too, will enjoy the days of the Messiah's reign, and the life of the
World-to-Come. This commentary is based on the already quoted prophecy of
Jeremiah: (19) "In these days the House of Judah shall walk with the House
of Yisrael, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to
the land that I have given for an inheritance to your fathers".
Accordingly, the Rabbinate of Jerusalem dispatched a delegation, consisting
of the Cabbalist Rabbi Shimon Zvi Horowitz and the Yemenite Rabbi Zadok, to
the countries where the Ten Tribes were believed to be located. Among
other letters of recommendation, they carried the following special
message, addressed to the "B'ney Moshe" (19a) and the Ten Tribes, and
signed by the Rabbis of Jerusalem: "Please, dear brothers, hasten and
ascend to Mount Zion, the dwelling of His Holiness, for our Redemption id
dependent on your coming to Mount Zion.
A REPORT OF RABBI OVADIAH OF BARTENURA (19b)
"I inquired about the Sambatyon River, since I have heard that someone had
come from the regions of the kingdom of 'Priester Yuani' (19c). This is a
mountainous, hilly country, reported to be about ten days walk in length.
It is certain that the B'ney Yisrael dwell in it. They have five leaders,
or kings. According to some reports, they have been waging massive and
fierce wars with the 'Priester Yuani' for more than a hundred years.
Unfortunately, because of our sins, the 'Priester Yuani' overpowered them
and dealt them a terrible blow. He entered their country to destroy and
plunder. There were almost no Jews left there and those remaining were
subjected to vicious decrees aiming to destroy their religion, similar to
the Greek decrees at the time of thee Hasmoneans.
"Finally, God had mercy and new rulers came to power in India who were not
as harsh as the former one. Now, they say that their old glory is almost
restored and they are again multiplying. They still pay taxes and tributes
to the 'Priester Yuani', but they are not subjugated as before.
"Wars have been going on now for about forty years between the B'ney
Yisrael and the nations neighboring them. Both sides have taken captives,
and their enemies have captured some people, men and women, and sold them
to gentiles of a distant nation. Some of them were brought to Egypt where
local Jews ransomed them. I myself saw two of them in Egypt. They are a
little dark, but not like Negroes. I could not verify whether they observe
the laws of the Karaites or the ordinances of our Sages. In some matters
they seemed to be observing the Karaite teachings, since they declared that
no fire was to be found in their houses on the Sabbath day. In other
instances, however, they seemed to follow the Torah of the Sages.
"At that time, Jewish merchants from Aden arrived here. They told us that
amongst them the fact of the Sambatyon's existence was widely accepted and
taken for granted. They have heard from trustworthy Arab merchants that
the River Sambatyon was located at a distance of about fifty days desert
journey from their country. It throws stones and sand during the six week
days and rests only on the Sabbath. They know by tradition that these
Jews, surrounded by the River, are all descendants of the B'ney Moshe; they
are clean and pure as the ministering angels themselves, without any
transgressors among them. Beyond the River Sambatyon there are also many
of the B'ney Yisrael, countless as the sand of the sea. They have kings
and ministers. However, they are not as holy and pure as those surrounded
by the River.
"The Jews from Aden report these facts with absolute certainty and
self-evidence; they do not have the slightest doubt about their
S. Goldman, in his "Nidchei Yisrael", reports that about a hundred years
ago a messenger of the Tribes in Tibet tried to contact European Jewry.
The Jerusalem Gaon Rabbi Akiva Joseph Schlesinger reported in his book
"Divrey Mishpot" about the guest from Tibet who was one of the Ten Tribes.
THE SAMBATYON RIVER
In the Sambatyon River, it is not water which flows, but sand and stones
which are ejected by volcanic action.
The Gemara (21) states that Rabbi Akiva answered the Roman King Tineius
Rufus' question "How can you prove that today is Sabbath?" by replying:
"The River Sambatyon is ample proof!" Rashi elucidates this reply by
describing the Sambatyon as a river of stones, flowing all week long, but
resting quietly on the Sabbath. The same is confirmed by the Midrash
The travel report of Eldad Hadani (21a) also described the Sambatyon.
"...the river is full of large and small stones, thundering with stormlike,
deafening noises by day and by night; it can be heard a day's journey away.
The river flows with its noisy stones and sand all the six days of the
week; on the Sabbath it ceases and rests until the termination of the
The book Ma'ase Nissim (Wondrous Story [21b]) quotes a report from the
traveler, Gershon Halevi: "...and we traveled until the countries of the
'Mare Francus' [?] and from there two days to the River Sambatyon. At some
locations, I noticed a fire burning; other places appeared as rising smoke,
and I was told that this is the smoke of the Gay Hinnom, like the mountains
of Sicily in Italy [meaning volcanoes]. As we approached the town, which
is near the Sambatyon, we heard turbulent, thundering noises. The closer
we came to the town, the more deafening the noises became. Upon my inquiry
I was told that this was the roar of the Sambatyon".
With time, however, the fire cooled down and today the Sambatyon River
seems to have become dried up. This fact is referred to in the description
of the famous trip which Rabbi Jacob HaNassi, a descendant of the Royal
House of King David, undertook from Shushan in Persia to the "B'ney Moshe
beyond the River Sambatyon. (22) "...and they crossed the River Sambatyon
and they paved a way and dried it up". (22a)
A letter which members of the Ten Tribes sent to Jerusalem reported the
cessation of teh Sambatyon's activities, as well as of the warfare between
the tribes and their enemies: (23) "Please note that the River Sambatyon
ceased its actions completely in the year (23a), at the beginning of the
year, on the very day of Tishri. Our brothers living there are waging the
war of G-d. They have a great, pious and strong king. Every day he wages
war for the sake of G-d against the mighty Christian king, Priester Yuani
of India. The great pious king of our people has conquered many of their
places and slain thousands and tens of thousands...of the Priester Yuani,
who has gathered all the soldiers and kings under his rule, particularly
the accursed family of Gog and Magog, the families of the giant Nefilim and
other giants, together with vast numbers of clans and tribes. All these
are innumerable as the sand of the sea and are lined up against the great
pious king of the People of Yisrael. However, their multitude is of no
concern to him, for G-d, blessed be He, is aiding Yisrael and each day they
are killing many of them. Furthermore, he has already conquered one
sixtieth of the Christian Priester Yuani's territories. This is a true
record. Strengthen yourselves and others shall be strengthened in the name
of G-d, blessed be He. And it is very close to our Redemption, with G-d's
help, to clarify, purify and cleanse us. Peace!"
THE REMNANTS OF THE TEN TRIBES
According to the Tifereth Yisrael's commentary, (24) remnants of the Ten
Tribes are still existing in India, China and Abbysinia. Their only
remembrance of their Jewish origin is the fact that they are children of
the Jewish People. We quote: "Many of their remnants have been mixed
among the gentiles. We know that great numbers of them exist in India,
China, and Abbysinia. They only know that they are Jews, they practice
circumcision and a few other commandments. Their observance of Judaism is,
however, mixed with the idolatrous practices of their neighbors."
The Falashas in Abbysinia, in particular, have been mentioned by earlier
and later scholars as being descendants of the Ten Tribes. However, they
have intermingled with their gentile neighbors. Lately there has been
contact between them and the Jewish community and some of them have visited
Japanese who claimed to be descendants of the Ten Tribes have also arrived
in Israel to pray at the Western Wall. It has been recently discovered
that ancient Japanese folk songs whose sources until now were unknown,
originated from the Hebrew. Furthermore, research during the past decades
revealed that Jewish relics are deposited in one of Japan's Imperial
shrines. These symbols were said to be fragments of stones, a staff and a
jar. Fragments of the broken tablets of the Law brought down from Mount
Sinai by Moses, the staff of Aaron and a jar of the miraculous desert food
Mannah, serving as an eternal souvenir of Divine provision of Yisrael's
needs, were deposited in the Holy of Holies in the Beth ha Mikdash [Temple]!
THE REINSTALLMENT OF THE TEN TRIBES INTO THE JEWISH NATION
The Tifereth Yisrael commentary explains Rabbi Eliezer's opinion that the
Ten Tribes will rejoin the Jewish nation in spite of the fact that they
have been intermingled and have been defiled. Basing his opinion on
Ezekiel's prophecy: (25) "As I live, says the Lord God, surely with a
mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, will I
be King over you", the Tifereth Yisrael states that the Ten Tribes will be
reinstated forcibly into the Jewish nation. This reference is to those who
actually have become idolators, have completely forgotten their Jewish
origin, and have retained nothing of their Jewishness except for some
Jewish customs and family traditions.
The Yalkut Shimoni asserts (26) that even those forgotten Jews who had been
captured, sold into slavery, and forcibly converted, will come back in the
days of the Messiah. At that time he [the Messiah] will tell them from
which tribe they originally stem.
The Yalkut refers to the prophetic vision of Isaiah (27) according to which
the gentile nations will bring their Jewish inhabitants to the King Messiah
as a present. These Jews, because they will be sceptical about their
Jewish origin, will not want to appear before the Messiah, and will prefer,
instead, to go their own ways. At that point the Messiah will identify
them individually, saying: "This one is a Yisrael, this one a Cohen, and
this one a Levi!"
The Zayit Ra'anan commentary (28) confirms that even those Jews who were
forcibly defiled will return to their Jewish origins at that time.
Moreover, according to the Midrash (29), the Messiah will also identify as
Jewish many of the individuals who will bring the Jews back to him,
thinking themselves as gentiles. He will identify their origins as either
Cohanim, Levites or Yisraelites, and will even accept them accordingly for
service in the Beth haMikdash. This Midrash is based on Isaiah's prophecy:
(30) "...and even from them I shall take as Cohanim and Levites, says God".
Another confirmation of this identification of these "hidden Jews" is found
in the Biblical passage (31) "...the secret things belong unto the Lord our
Until the arrival of the Prophet Elijah and the Messiah, no member of any
of the Ten Tribes shall be accepted (for the purpose of marriage) into the
Jewish people. This is stated in the Seder Eliyahu Suta: (32)
"Proselytes are not accepted from the Cutheans until the Prophet Elijah and
the Son of David (the Messiah) will appear, since the Ten Tribes were
intermingled amongst them". This infers that the descendants of the Ten
Tribe sare definitely forbidden, since they are suspect of being mamserim
(offspring of halachically prohibited Jewish marriages) (33).
1. I Kings, Chapter 12
2. II Kings 17:6
3. Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 110
3a. Rashi comments that Rabbi Akiva's assertion that the Ten Tribes "shall
not return" is founded on the mentioned admonition "and cast them into
another land"; in other words, their exile was by Divine decree, G-d's
punishment for their having abandoned His Torah.
4. Deuteronomy 29:27
4a. Rashi explains that Rabbi Eliezer's interpretation refers to the future
return of the Ten Tribes and their participation in the World-to-Come.
Rashi notes, however, that this promise refers only to their children and
later descendants; the Tribes, themselves, were utterly wicked and will
have no share in the future good.
5. Tosefta Sanhedrin, Chapter 13
6. Chapter 27:13
7. Abarbanel, "Mashmia Yeshua", Fourth Principle of Faith
8. Midrash Tanchuma, Nitzavim 1
9. Jeremiah 3:18
10. Jeremiah 3:17-18
11. Isaiah 11:10-12
11a. David, and the Messiah, are descendants of Jesse
12. Isaiah 11:13-14
13. II Kings 17:6
14. Rabbi Wolf Einhorn of Horodna in his commentary to the Midrash Rabba,
15. Isaiah 49:9
16. Midrash Rabba, Sh'lach 16
17. Isaiah 49:12
18. Yalkut Shimoni, Song of Songs, Chapter 1:16
19. Jeremiah 3:18
19a. Levi'im, descendants of Moses, who were miraculously transferred
behind the River Sambatyon after the fall of the first Beth haMikdash
[First Temple], after they refused to "sing the Song of Zion" before their
Chaldean captors. Vide Commentary Jonathan ben Uziel, Exodus 34:10.
19b. Great sixteenth century Rabbi of Italy and Jerusalem, author of
popular commentary on the Mishna.
19c. Also known as "Prester John", legendary medieval monarch of Asia,
supposedly Christian; some researchers believe him identical with Genghis
20. London Mss.
21. Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 45
21a. Tenth century C.E. traveler, descendant of the tribe of Dan. His
reports are considered to be reliable by many Torah scholars.
21b. Ma'ase Nissim was published in Amsterdam in 1817, Halevi's report,
which is contained in it, was written in 1630 C.E.
22. The Twelve Tribes of Israel, Jerusalem, 1956, pp. 77
22a. We know that volcanoes that cool and become extinct are not generally
recognized as such after the passage of some centuries. Geologists,
however, could determine their location even after the passage of such time
23. Kobetz al Yad, pub. Mekitzey Nirdamim, Berlin 1888
23a. In the text there is an undecipherable acronym indicating the year.
24. Tifereth Yisrael commentary on Sanhedrin Chapter 10, Mishna 3
25. Ezekiel 20:33
26. Yalkut Shimoni on Psalm 87
27. Yalkut Shimoni on Isaiah 66:20
28. Zayit Ra'anan on Psalm 87
29. Midrash Tehillim, Chapter 87
30. Isaiah 66:21
31. Deuteronomy 29:28
32. Seder Eliyahu Suta, Chapter 1
33. Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yevamot 16
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