The Status of the Descendants of the Ten Tribes That Were Exiled by Assyria as Described in II Kings (Melachim) Chapters 17 and 18
In an audio by Rabbi Dani Rapp at https://www.yutorah.org/sidebar/lecture.cfm/766158/rabbi-dani-rapp/the-shevatim-where-are-they-now-/ a decent explanation is offered concerning the status of the ten lost tribes of Israel.
He raises the question in his lecture, how can we understand the prophecies of Yechezkel/Ezekiel according to the view of Rabbi Akiva that the tribes are not coming back.
He also disqualifies some of the candidates that claimed to be the biological descendants of the tribes based on DNA analysis.
The Talmudic Background on the Status of the Lost Tribes
The Talmud in tractate Yevamot 16b and 17a discusses the status of the Ten Tribes.
For the sake of ease, I will use the translation and commentary, I found at https://www.sefaria.org.il/Yevamot.16b.10?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en
Everything quoted from there I colored dark blue:
Rav Yehuda said that Rav Asi said: With regard to a gentile who betrothed a Jewish woman nowadays, we are concerned that the betrothal might be valid, despite the fact that a betrothal of a gentile is meaningless, lest he be from the ten tribes of Israel who intermingled with the gentiles. The Gemara raises an objection: But there is an important principle in halakha that any item separated, i.e., not fixed in its place, is presumed to have been separated from the majority. In this case, it can be assumed that any individual singled out from the gentiles belongs to the majority of gentiles and has no Jewish roots at all.
The Gemara responds: Rav Yehuda means that there is a concern only with regard to those who came from the permanent dwelling places of the ten tribes…
In the end 2 reasons are provided to explain, why we would not give “Israelite status” to someone who lives in the permanent dwelling places of the ten tribes if he or she performed a marriage ceremony with a Jew. The following is the 2nd explanation provided by the Gemara/Talmud.
There are those who say that Rav Yehuda actually related the following: When I said this halakha before Shmuel, he said to me: They did not move from there, (the place where they deliberated on this matter), until they rendered all of them, including those who intermingled with the ten tribes in different locations, full-fledged gentiles. Consequently, there is no concern that their betrothals might be of any effect, as it is stated: “They have dealt treacherously against the Lord, for they have begotten strange children” (Hosea 5:7).
Ruling of Rama (Rabbi Moshe Isserles) on the subject
Rama (Rabbi Moshe Isserles) in his responsa #62 holds that Jewish Law is in accordance with the 2nd view mentioned in the name of Shmuel. Namely, based on the verse of (Hosea/Hoshea 5:7) the ten tribes have lost their Israelite status.
Rama ends off by quoting a dispute between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Eliezer (See Sanhedrin 110b). Rabbi Akiva holds that the ten tribes will not return in the future. Rabbi Eliezer contends that just as the day darkens and then becomes light again, so the ten tribes, even their state of darkness in the future will brighten for them and for all of Israel, Amen.
One friend brings another. The permanent location of this post is at https://vilnagaon.org/10tribes/
Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail z”l identified 4 main groups which he believed to be descendants of the ten lost tribes. His opinion was to try to make it easier for these groups to convert back to Judaism. I am not convinced he is correct but because I was friendly with Rabbi Avichail I felt I needed to state his opinion.
New Addition 2
The students of the Vilna Gaon who started the old Ashkenazi Yishuv in the land of Israel were divided into 2 main factions. The Yerushalayim/Jerusalem faction and the Tzfat/Safed faction. They had a disagreement what were the best methods to move the redemption of Israel forward. The author of Kol Hator was deeply connected to the Jerusalem faction and vilnagaon.org tries to take a Kol Hator approach to the issues of the day.
In contrast to the Yerushalayim/Jerusalem faction, the Tzfat/Safed faction sent an emissary to seek out the ten lost tribes of Israel with the purpose of trying to get them involved in aiding the redemption of Israel in various ways. But the Tzfat/Safed faction was looking for Israelites who were loyal to Hashem and his Torah. They weren’t out to convert some Taliban fanatic of Islam in Afghanistan or Pakistan to Judaism.
From the Vilna Gaon’s deep opposition to the “Erev Rav”, the converts who weren’t strongly devoted to Hashem, who Moshe/Moses allowed them to tag along with Israel, when Israel left Egypt, it seems difficult to prove that the Vilna Gaon was out to start a mass conversion movement.
What I did find however, in Kol Hator chapter 2, section 75 is that one of the 156 traits of those men that take on the role of Messiah son of Yosef is to rebuke for repentance. Not just to Israel but also to the nations of the world, in the spiritual role of Yona/Jonah the prophet who was the Messiah son of Yosef of his generation as is explained in Midrashim and Zohar. And so too, “and he shall offer rebuke to many nations” (Yishayahu/Isaiah chapter 2); and similarly, “But for those who reprove it will be pleasant, and a good blessing shall come upon them” (Mishlei/Proverbs 24); and similarly “And he shall rebuke with equity the humble of the earth” (Yishayahu/Isaiah chapter 11).
The nations of the world do not have to convert to Judaism in order to repent. They have to observe the 7 Noachide Laws for the proper ideological reasons as part of their repentance.
New Addition – 14th of M. Av 5779 (Aug. 15, 2019 according to the calendar of others)
I Must Admit that the Biblical of Hoshea chapter 2 Seems to Imply That At Some Future Time A Mass Conversion of the 10 Tribes to Judaism Will Take Place
In some time in the future it appears that some solution will be found that will avoid the “Erev Rav” problem usually connected to mass conversion.
This is the translation of the first 2 verses of Hoshea Chapter 2 (with one spelling exception) found in the Jerusalem Bible (published by Koren).
Yet the number of the children of Yisra’el shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered; and it shall come to pass, that instead of that which was said to them, You are not my people, it shall be said to them, You are the sons of the living G-d. Then shall the children of Yehuda and the children of Yisra’el be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land : for great shall be the day of Yizre’el.
Metsudat David commentary explains at the time of the redemption, Israel shall be like the sand of the sea that it is not possible to measure them and to count them. And our Rabbis of blessed memory taught, that after Hoshea fathered these (children mentioned in Chapter 1) G-d said to Hoshea to send his wife away, etc. and he understood from the hint that it was not good in the eyes of Hashem, what he had suggested, namely to exchange Israel for another nation and therefore he turned back and requested mercy upon them. In place of what was said about them, “you are not my nation”, it will be said about them “the sons of the living G-d, my very cherished children”. And they will be gathered in the days of the Messiah and one head, namely, the Messianic King will be their head and from the lands of the exile they will go up to their land; for great and glorious will be the day of the ingathering of Israel, which G-d had scattered them like seeds on the face of the field.
But in my humble opinion, under the conditions we face today, we have not yet found the solution to the Erev Rav problems brought by mass conversions!
Other articles at vilnagaon.org that shed light on the mass conversion issue
- Rambam: We Should Not Accept Converts – When We Have Good Reason To Believe There is an Ulterior Motive
- Comment on Rabbi Nachman’s Gathering the Ten Tribes- Ki Taitzai 5777
- According to Current DNA Analysis It Is Unlikely That The Beta Israel (Falasha) Community from Ethiopia is From the Tribe of Dan
- Andrea Grinberg Decided to Convert to Judaism When She Discovered Her Mother’s Conversion Was Fake
- FROM JAPAN TO JERUSALEM: THE STORY OF MOSHE HATTORI
New Addition 3rd of Elul 5779 (Sept. 3, 2019):
I will not deny the possibility that someone authoritative in the Rabbinic Establishment might rely on D.N.A. testing, even before the advent of the Messiah to sort out legitimate 10 tribe converts from Erev Rav. It depends on which end of days scenario is true. According to other end of days scenarios, D.N.A. testing will not be used. I brought this up to explain the viewpoints, not to provide endorsements.
New Addition: 10 Elul 5781 (Aug. 18, 2021)
Below I present an audio by Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail of blessed memory on the Ten Lost Tribes. I present this to provide more background on the issue. It is not meant as a total endorsement.
You could see the lecture on video at https://en.meirtv.com/special-lesson-the-lost-tribes-rav-eliyahu-avichail-627022–2240l
One comment on the lecture. After extensive research I am convinced the Ethiopian community, even the so-called “Beta Israel” do not descend from the tribes of Israel.
Our experience with that community should serve as a warning to us to be cautious.
The permanent address of this post is located at https://vilnagaon.org/10tribes/
New Addition: 14 Adar II 5782 (March 17, 2022
I am convinced that many Jews are not aware of the proper definition from a Torah perspective of what determines if a person is considered a righteous Gentile. See Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 10:9 as an example of a detail that is often ignored or distorted. Those that do not have the right hashkafa (ideological outlook) should certainly be discouraged from participating in any “outreach” programs for Gentiles.
Careful thought has to be given how to fulfill Kol Hator chapter 2, section 75 discussed earlier without having negative side effects.