The Missing Ten Tribes (Vayechi)

The Missing Ten Tribes (Vayechi)

Promises are the uniquely human way of ordering the future. -Hannah Arendt

The term “Jew” is derived from Judean, meaning descendants of Judah. But Judah was only one of the sons of Jacob, only one of the tribes of Israel. Our history tells us that before the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem, more than 2,700 years ago, our brothers, the ten northern tribes of Israel, were conquered and exiled by the king of Assyria. They have been lost to our history ever since.

There is a wide ranging discussion as to the fate of these lost ten tribes. However, every year there is more evidence of how far descendants of the tribes of Israel reached. They may have reached as far as India, China and even the Americas. Even more significantly, members of these recently discovered tribes have been accepted as Jewish by leading Rabbis and have come back to the land of Israel. This includes the Ethiopian Jews who trace their ancestry to the tribe of Dan and the Indian Jews who still refer to themselves as the children of the tribe of Menashe.

Rabbeinu Bechaye on Genesis 49:1 (Vayechi) foretold the return of the missing tribes centuries ago and explained that our patriarch Jacob prophetically hinted at these events in his last words to his children. Jacob uses two different terms for “you will be gathered” in his dying words. Rabbeinu Bechaye explains that Jacob was referring to two gatherings, each related to two redemptions. The first redemption was that the Children of Israel, all twelve tribes, would be redeemed from the slavery of Egypt and all of them would be brought to the land of Israel. The second redemption which will parallel in many respects the redemption from Egypt, refers to the end of days, the Messianic era that would encompass two broad “gatherings.”

The first gathering to Israel would be the return of the descendants of Judah (which includes the tribe of Benjamin as well as Levites and Kohens) – which we are witnesses to in the modern era. The second gathering will be that of the ten tribes during the final redemption, bringing together all the tribes of Israel after millennia of separation, something that we see unfolding before our very eyes.

May our brothers from all corners of the earth find their way home and may we welcome them back graciously.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the organization Shavei Israel, which has been so vital in helping find and bring back our lost tribes.

Unjustified means

Unjustified means

Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things. -Russell Baker

backstabberJacob, the Patriarch of the nascent nation of Israel lies on his deathbed. He convenes his twelve sons, the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. He addresses them as a unit and individually. His language is flowery, poetic, prophetic.

He chastises his first three sons, Reuven, Shimon and Levi. The remaining sons receive positive pronouncements and predictions.

Rabbi Hirsch on Genesis 49:7 analyzes Jacob’s reprimand of Shimon and Levi. Jacob is upset with these two sons for their deception and brutality when they massacred the residents of Shechem. It went against the norms of justice and morality. Rabbi Hirsch attacks the popular belief that all is fair in statecraft. He claims that the concept that the end justifies the means runs counter to the principles of Judaism. What is reprehensible if done by one individual to another for their own personal consideration is equally reprehensible if done in the name of the state. Morality applies in politics and diplomacy. It is not only the purview of private affairs.

Rabbi Hirsch takes this interpretation a step further:

“The last will and testament upon which the Jewish people was founded pronounces a curse upon all acts of deception and brutality, even if they are committed for the most legitimate interests of the nation, and it sets down for all time the doctrine that even in public life and in the promotion of the common good not only the ends but also the means used to attain these ends must be clean.”

“However, it is only the anger and outrage of Shimon and Levi that are cursed. The curse is directed neither against Shimon and Levi personally, nor against their aims as such.”

Government reactions of anger, outrage and deception, while understandable or even politically justified, are often ineffective or counterproductive as matters of public policy. Once we’ve identified the correct aims, we need to reach them through correct and straightforward means.

May we have a leadership that will take the correct path, see that justice is done to those that promote and insight terror, and is not swayed by the political winds of expediency.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

In memory of Erez Orbach of Alon Shvut. God will avenge his blood.

The Lie of our Selves

 Think not I am what I appear.  -Lord Byron

jacob-dying

Life is filled with secrets and mysteries. Fantasies and illusions. Facades and deceptions. One of the greatest deceptions may be our corporal selves. Though our bodies appear solid, take up space, have mass, are capable of movement, of feeling, of action, there is something intrinsically deceptive about them.

We are so used to thinking of ourselves as the composite of the molecules enclosed by our skin that it may difficult to think of our physical embodiment as a lie – and a short-lived one at that.

When talking about the Patriarch Jacob and his death, the Sfat Emet in 5633 (1872) explains that our superficial, corporal, material selves is not our true self. Our true self is the inner, intangible, spiritual entity. Because our bodies are limited and do not last, then they do not reflect the truth. They are lies, and lies are eventually revealed to be ephemeral, of limited effect and duration. The surface merely hides the truth within. Often, the greater the superficiality, the deeper the truth that is hidden inside.

The Sfat Emet states that there is one surefire way to access that truth, to connect to the real part of ourselves – and that is by seeking the will of God. God is the ultimate truth, and by latching on to Him we reinforce the true part of ourselves.

May we see past all the lies and understand what is real.

Shabbat  Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To FC Barcelona for winning the Club World Cup Final. Suarez made Uruguayans very proud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Generational Patience

First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/vayehi-generational-patience/

Baal Haturim Genesis: Vayehi

Generational Patience

There are times when God asks nothing of his children except silence, patience and tears. -C. S. Robinson

A great evil was done to Joseph. His very brothers, his very flesh and blood, plan to kill him, but then change their mind and have him sold as a slave. Years later, when they meet again and at the very moment when Joseph can have his vengeance, he instead forgives them.

Years after that, after their father Jacob passes away, his brothers are still unconvinced by Joseph’s mercy. Joseph reiterates that he harbors no ill will, that he does not seek a redress for the wrongs that his brothers afflicted upon him.

However, in the last verses of the book of Genesis, the last words Joseph speaks in his life, he makes his brothers’ children swear that they will return his body to the land of Israel. The Baal Haturim on Genesis 50:25 asks why Joseph didn’t make this demand of his own children, who presumably have a greater responsibility to see to the wishes of their patriarch.

The Baal Haturim answers that in this instance we are finally seeing, in a very subtle way, Joseph’s demand for the long-delayed justice for the sin of the brothers. The brothers were responsible for exiling Joseph from the land of Canaan, and specifically from Shechem. It is their responsibility to return him to Canaan. Joseph’s remains are finally carried by Moses himself and then by Joshua, who buries him by the city from which he was taken – Shechem.

May we be spared from causing or suffering injustices, and may we have the strength and patience to bear them when they occur.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To God, who we forget about, don’t take seriously enough, or take for granted. He works out everything in the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

El primer antisemita

ficción bíblica: Génesis Vayehi

Traducido del inglés y editado por Caro Cynovich carocynovich@gmail.com

­josephEmbalmed

El primer antisemita

—Padre —preguntó el chico—, ¿por qué ese ataúd está hecho de metal? Pensé que por lo general eran de cerámica o de madera.

—Eso es muy perceptivo de tu parte, hijo —respondió el padre, mientras seguían al cortejo fúnebre—. Este es un ataúd especial para José, el antiguo Virrey.

—¿Por qué es tan diferente entonces?

—Vas a ver muy pronto. Su entierro será diferente.

—Y hay tanta gente aquí… Nunca he visto tanta gente para un funeral antes.

—Sí, es realmente grande. Creo que el entierro de Jacobo, el padre del Virrey, llegó a ser tan grande como este. Y desde entonces su familia ha crecido aún más.

—¿Qué familia, Padre?

—Pues los hijos de Israel. Ellos se han multiplicado a un ritmo asombroso.

—Lo dices como si fuera algo malo.

—Creo que no es bueno que los extranjeros deban llegar a ser tan poderosos. Ya era bastante preocupante cuando el Virrey tenía tanta influencia y control sobre Egipto.

La procesión continuó hacia los cementerios reales.

—¿Y quiénes son esos hombres viejos que llevan el ataúd?

—Esos son los hermanos del Virrey y sus dos hijos.

—La guardia de honor Real parece más armada de lo habitual, y hay muchos soldados.

—Nuevamente estás siendo muy perceptivo, hijo mío. Eso es muy bueno. Siempre es importante tomar nota de todos los detalles.

Los hermanos querían entrar en la puerta de entrada a los cementerios Reales, pero la guardia de honor, en cambio, los guió hacia el río.

La procesión se detuvo por un momento. Cuando los hermanos se dieron cuenta de que los guardias tenían la ventaja, siguieron hacia el río.

—Ya ves, hijo mío. A veces, sólo una demostración de fuerza es suficiente para evitar el uso de la fuerza, y se puede prescindir de violencia derrochada.

—Sí, padre. Por un momento, sin embargo, me pareció que sería una pelea.

—Era un riesgo. Pero los hebreos son inteligentes. Ellos no pelearían por algo así.

La procesión se acercó a la orilla del Nilo, con la guardia de honor dirigiendo de cerca a los hermanos para que llevaran el ataúd hacia la orilla.

—¿Dónde van a enterrarlo, Padre?

—En el Nilo.

—¿En el Nilo? Eso es tan extraño. Nunca he oído hablar de tal cosa. ¿Por qué en el río?

—Para hacer que su cuerpo sea menos accesible.

—¿Menos accesible? ¿Menos accesible a quién? ¿Para qué?

—Digamos que no sería conveniente si su familia pudiera tener fácil acceso a sus restos.

—¿Pero por qué ? Pensé que el viejo Virrey hizo grandes cosas por Egipto. Me enteré de que él solo salvó el imperio de la hambruna. Este no parece ser un entierro honorable.

—Hmmm. Deben dejar de enseñar historias inventadas. José pudo haber hecho cosas buenas para Egipto en el pasado, pero aún así él era un hebreo. Además, él hizo esas cosas también por su propio interés. Él había sido un humilde esclavo encarcelado antes de que el Faraón anterior lo hubiera elevado de rango, y así terminó invitando a toda su familia a trasladarse a Egipto – y les dio las mejores tierras.

La procesión llegó el agua y los hermanos, bajo la atenta mirada y las lanzas de la guardia de honor, bajaron solemnemente el ataúd al río.

Hordas de hebreos se apresuraron a la orilla, para mirar al ataúd que se hundía rápidamente. Todos señalaban y se miraban los unos a los otros. Prestaron atención a los árboles que los rodeaban y a los caminos y a los paisajes del otro lado del Nilo, como si estuvieran intentando memorizar la ubicación exacta.

—No entiendo, Padre —el muchacho continuó—. Los hebreos siempre han sido leales y ejemplares ciudadanos egipcios. Sé que muchos de los nietos de José permanecen en servicio real y son generalmente los mejores administradores y los soldados más temibles.

—Sin embargo, hijo mío —explicó el padre mientras inspeccionaba todos los hebreos en la orilla—. Ellos son extranjeros. No son nuestros amigos y tú harías bien en recordar eso. Ellos siempre se han mantenido al margen de nosotros, los egipcios, y de nuestra cultura. Ellos desprecian a nuestros dioses, nuestra adoración y prácticas. Y los hebreos que sí abrazan nuestras prácticas… ellos son los peores. Intentan duramente internarse en nuestros círculos, pero no son más que traidores de dos caras. ¡Les temo!

—Sí, padre. Entiendo y oigo lo que dices. Entonces tenemos que encontrar una manera de protegernos de estos hebreos. ¡Son tan numerosos!

—Vamos a tener que encontrar una manera. Ahora que el Virrey ha muerto será más fácil. Pero hará falta tiempo y paciencia. Los otros hermanos no son menos inteligentes de lo que José era, aunque quizá no sean tan sofisticados en las formas de gobierno.

—Como tú digas, Padre.

—Hijo, eres lo suficientemente mayor como para llamarme por mi nombre formal. Debes acostumbrarse a esto.

—Sí, Faraón.

—No hay que olvidar que estos hebreos son una amenaza. Tal vez la mayor amenaza a la que se enfrentará el imperio. Yo me pondré en movimiento, pero puede que termines siendo tú quienes deba enfrentarse directamente a ellos.

—Sí, Faraón. No te voy a defraudar.

Torá eruditos de segunda clase

Torá eruditos de segunda clase

“El trabajo honesto de ayer ha perdido su estatus social, su estima social.” -Peter Drucker

Maimónides, en su obra magna, el Mishné Torá, tiene palabras duras para los Torá eruditos que evitan el trabajo. En sus Leyes de Estudio de la Torá, en el capítulo 3, la Ley 3, afirma:

“Todo el que llega a la conclusión de que debe involucrarse en el estudio de Torá sin trabajar y deriva su sustento de la caridad, profana el nombre de Dios, deshonra a la Torá, apaga la luz de la fe, trae mal sobre sí mismo, y pierde la vida del mundo del porvenir.”

El Netziv adopta un enfoque más suave. Él no llama a este tipo de individuos condenados, vergonzosos, asesinos de la fe, gente malignos cuyas almas están destinadas al eterno olvido. Él simplemente los llama de segunda categoría.

Mientras Reuben, Shimon y Levi son recriminados en las bendiciones finales de Jacobo a sus hijos, y Judá y José reciben despedidas largas y hermosas, es el segundo hijo de José, Efraín, quien es el ganador de sorpresa en las oraciones finales de Jacobo. Jacobo coloca Efraín delante de Menashe, su hermano mayor. Netziv en Génesis 49:13 dice que Efraín se coloca en primer lugar por su nivel de estudio y espiritualidad, debido a su dedicación al estudio de la Torá. El Netziv diferencia entre el nivel de Efraín que se logró en su propio valor, y la de su tío Yissachar.
Hubo una famosa alianza entre dos de los hijos de Jacobo, Zabulón y Yissachar. Zabulón era el comerciante y sus descendientes apoyaron los descendientes estudiosos de Yissachar. Zabulón se menciona siempre antes de Yissachar, como los logros de la Torá de Yissachar son sólo gracias al apoyo financiero de Zabulón. Sin embargo, Efraín ocupa el primer lugar, por su cuenta, que merece un mayor respeto y honor que el Yissachar dependiente.
Que podamos valernos por nosotros mismos pies, cuando podamos, y de ese modo llegar a mayores alturas.

Shabat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

dedicación

Para mi hijo, Netanel, en su Bar-Mitzvah. Que llegue a ser un erudito de la Torá de la primera clase.

Second-Rate Torah Scholars

First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/vayehi-second-rate-torah-scholars/

Netziv Genesis: Vayehi

Second-Rate Torah Scholars

“The honest work of yesterday has lost its social status, its social esteem.” -Peter Drucker

Maimonides, in his magnum opus, the Mishne Torah, has harsh words for Torah scholars that avoid work. In his Laws of Torah Study, Chapter 3, Law 3, he states:

“Anyone who comes to the conclusion that he should involve himself in Torah study without doing work and derive his livelihood from charity, desecrates God’s name, dishonors the Torah, extinguishes the light of faith, brings evil upon himself, and forfeits the life of the world to come.”

The Netziv takes a softer approach. He doesn’t call such individuals damned, shameful, faith-killing, evil-mongering people whose souls are destined for eternal oblivion. He just calls them second-rate.

While Reuben, Shimon and Levi are castigated in Jacob’s final blessings to his sons, and Judah and Joseph receive long and beautiful partings, it is the second son of Joseph, Ephraim, who is the surprise winner in Jacob’s final orations. Jacob places Ephraim in front of Menashe, his older brother. The Netziv on Genesis 49:13 says that Ephraim is placed first because of his studious and spiritual level, due to his dedication to Torah study. The Netziv differentiates between Ephraim’s level which was achieved on his own steam, and that of his uncle Yissachar.

There was a famous partnership between two of Jacob’s sons, Zebulun and Yissachar. Zebulun was the merchant and his descendants supported the studious descendants of Yissachar. Zebulun is always mentioned before Yissachar, as Yissachar’s Torah accomplishments are only thanks to the financial backing of Zebulun. However, Ephraim stands first, on his own, deserving greater respect and honor than the dependent Yissachar.

May we stand on our own feet, whenever we can, and thereby reach greater heights.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To my son, Netanel, on his Bar-Mitzvah. May he become a first-rate Torah scholar.