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What If ... (to make a comment, use the form below)

So let’s play a game of “what if”.  What if the northern kingdom of Israel, the nation taken captive by the Assyrians around 722 BCE, is still waiting to be redeemed.  What if they did not return (in any massive way) through gradual assimilation, and the return will be as the prophets seem to write about in the Tanach: at the end of the age the house of Israel will return from being lost among the Gentiles. They will be drawn back from the four corners of the earth to the true worship of God and to the land of Israel.

As the prophet Ezekiel writes, the house of Israel is like a valley of dry bones.  It seems to appear out of nowhere.  If the house of Israel (the Lost Ten Tribes) is to come back to the land of Israel and be reunited with the house of Judah, exactly how will it come about?  How do you know who a member of the lost tribes is?  There are no identifying marks.  There is no defined history (after all they were “lost”).

The whole idea of a completely “lost” nation, appearing out of nowhere at the end of the age, sounds so unlikely it is easy to dismiss it all as a silly legend.  But “What if” … What if it really is to happen that way.  What would it look like?  What if God began to bring the northern kingdom back from exile, and there was no one to guide them or to assist them along the way. 

We know that IF God has purposed a thing to happen it will happen with or without any assistance from us.  Yet, it would seem that being prepared for a “what if” is not a bad idea.  Even if there is no returning northern kingdom, to ask the question “what if the northern kingdom returned” is not altogether a worthless exercise.  There are many people on a pathway that leads them to a different vantage point of understanding.

 Several years ago I met a gentleman in an ultra orthodox area of Jerusalem. He was introduced to me as a rabbi of rabbis.  I began my conversation by saying “If there are a growing number of people around the world (especially in Christianity) who are moving toward Judaism …”  The rabbi stopped me and said “Let’s not say “if”, we know it is happening”.   I paused (a little surprised) and then continued, “Could this be the returning northern kingdom?  And if it is, what pathway is there for them to follow”?

People from all around the globe are coming to Israel looking for answers. They are asking for guidance and direction.  If the orthodox community does not take the roll of guide, there will be others who will.  There are any number of willing “leaders” with fringe (and sometimes even dangerous) ideas who are more than happy to gather a following.

So what is the harm in asking “What if”?  What if the northern kingdom is now really in a process of return?  IF someone is asking for guidance … no, … if many someones are asking for guidance, what is the harm in providing that guidance?  Do we need to PROVE that a person is from the northern kingdom, before we say, “IF you ARE from the northern kingdom, and are returning to God, here is the path.

Many of us come with no agenda. We make no demands.  We simply ask humbly for guidance saying “let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.” 

We have no proof as to a “lost heritage,” we have only a burning desire to “return” … to return to a place that feels more like home than any place we have ever been.  We have nothing else to offer to take away your suspicions and doubts.

Sometimes, however, we must act on faith, believing that there is a right course of action regardless of our understanding of all the facts.  In the book of Esther, Mordechai tells Esther “ if you altogether hold your peace at this time, then will relief arise from another place”.  But who knows whether you have come to this place “for such a time as this”.

To address the idea of the northern kingdom’s return may be a controversial topic.  There may not be consensus.  There certainly is no proof that we can offer.  It may well be that the best thing we could possibly ask ourselves is … “what if”.


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