Chapter 12
WHO is the House Israel?


A Rabbi of Rabbis

We walked to a small park in an ultra orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem in the fall of 2002. Then sitting down on a couple of park benches we began to talk. The Rabbi that we were talking to was introduced to us as a Rabbi of Rabbis. The meeting had been arranged for us to discuss the movement within Christianity in which Christians are being drawn to a more Jewish way of life. I began by posing the question, “If there are Christians being drawn to their Hebrew roots ...” The Rabbi stopped me. “Let’s not say “if”, he said, “We know its happening”. For a moment I was struck speechless. I began again. “Could this phenomenon that is going on … be the northern kingdom (House of Israel) returning?”, I asked. The Rabbi cocked his head to the side, “Maybe yes, maybe no, We will have to wait and see.”

No Magic Wand

So Who exactly is the House of Israel?  Rabbi Chaim Richman from the Temple Institute in Jerusalem says "There is no magic wand" for detecting who or where the House of Israel is.  The Lost Tribes have vanished from history.  They are, after all, LOST! Although many people have traced genealogies, looked at languages and cultural practices, and studied archeology, the question of who and where the Lost Ten Tribes are, is still one of the greatest mysteries of history.

I propose that we don't need to know WHO or WHERE they are ... only that they ARE. They will become self evident.

One tradition in Judaism is that the lost souls of Israel will be redeemed as a "spark of holiness".

Holy Sparks

The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches:

The Talmud offers the following explanation for the phenomenon of galut: "The people of Israel were exiled amongst the nations only so that converts might be added to them."

On the most basic level, this is a reference to the many non-Jews who, in the course of the centuries of our dispersion, have come in contact with the Jewish people and have been inspired to convert to Judaism.

But Chassidic teaching explains that the Talmud is also referring to souls of a different sort that are transformed and elevated in the course of our exiles ... It is to this end that we have been dispersed across the face of earth: so that we may come in contact with the sparks of holiness that await redemption in every corner of the globe.

So how does the northern kingdom find it's way back? We know that the Lost Tribes have assimilated into the nations that they were exiled to. They have become, for all practical purposes, Gentiles.  When they return, however, what halacha do they follow?  Will it be a standard conversion process where each individual is absorbed into what ever tradition of Judaism they are sponsored into.  Some Sephardic, some Ashkenazi, some Chassidic, etc.

The prophets don't indicate that will be the case.  In Ezekiel after the vision of the valley of "dry bones" it says:

Ezekiel 37:16

... Now Son of Man, take for yourself one piece of wood and write upon it, For Judah and for the Children of Israel, his comrades; and take one piece of wood and write upon it, For Joseph, the wood of Ephraim and all the House of Israel, his comrades. Then bring them close to yourself, one to the other, like one piece of wood, and they will become united in your hand.

It appears that for the two nations to become one, there needs to be a recognized northern kingdom.  As that northern kingdom moves from being Gentile to once again part of God's chosen people, they will travel on a path where they may be expected to adhere to a certain halacha. The first and most obvious stage of observance is that of the Noachide.  This was how Israel first began their observances from Sinai.

Rabbi Elijah Benamozegh, in his book "Israel and Humanity" [p.245], writes:

When Mosaism is born, Noachism forms the first step of the ladder which the Israelite must climb before attaining the Mosaic Law.  Thus, when Israel went out of Egypt, it was first introduced to the Noachide Law, and only after this preliminary initiation did it receive the law of Moses.  "Moses went out and repeated to the people all the commands [divrei] of the Lord and all the rules [mishpatim]." (Exodus 24:3) Of this verse, the sages say:

The commands of the Lord are the ordinances relating to the proper behavior which the people had to observe while waiting at the foot of Sinai; the rules are the seven precepts of the sons of Noah.  [Rashi]

When the northern kingdom becomes evident, their observances will begin to change and develop.

No one can say exactly how the House of Israel will return from exile, (and, for all practical purposes, non-existence). However, all of the prophets agree that at the end of the age they WILL return.

Malachi 3:7 & 4:1-6

7 Even from the days of your fathers you have gone away from my ordinances, and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you said, Wherein shall we return?

The House of Israel will at first, however, not believe that they NEED to return.

13 Your words have been stout against me, says the LORD. Yet you say, What have we spoken [so much] against you?
14 You have said, It [is] in vain to serve God; and what profit [is it] that we have kept his ordinances, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?

They feel that the law (especially the Oral Law) has been “done away” with.

15 And now we call the proud happy, yes, they that work wickedness are set up; yes, [they that] tempt God are even delivered.
16 Then they that feared the LORD spoke often one to another; and the LORD hearkened, and heard [it], and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
17 And they shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels, and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him.
18 Then shall you return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serves God and him that serves him not.

It is God’s plan that the House of Israel is to RETURN (repent) and remember.

4:1 For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
2 But to you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and you shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
3 And you shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the souls of your feet in the day that I shall do [this], says the LORD of hosts.
4 Remember you the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel, [with] the statutes and judgments.
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD;
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Elijah, a prophet to the northern kingdom (the House of Israel), is well known for his confrontation with the prophets of Baal. Remember, these prophets were NOT from the nations around Israel. These were Israelites that had abandoned the worship of the one true God and had mixed the worship of God with paganism.

1 Kings 18:21

21 Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." But the people said nothing.

Just as it was at the time of Elijah, those most responsible for Israel going astray are its leaders.

Jeremiah 50:6

6 My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds [pastors?] have caused them to go astray. They have turned them loose in the mountains. As they have wandered from mountain to hill, they have forgotten where their home is.

The northern kingdom has forgotten its roots, and it has not realized its purpose. It has left God’s Torah (instructions) and has instead followed after other customs of other gods; all the while imagining that they are honoring God.

Ezekiel 36:25

25 ...I will cleanse you from all your contamination and your idols. 
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you ...
27 I will make it so that you will follow My decrees and guard My ordinances and fulfill them.
28 You will dwell in the land that I gave your forefathers; you will be a people to Me, and I will be a God to you.

Although the northern kingdom believes that THEY are the one's with the answers, God tells them that they should not just be humble, but embarrassed and ashamed.

31 Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good, and you will be disgusted with yourselves in your own sight because of your iniquities and because of your abominations.
32 Not for your sake do I act - the word of the Lord HASHEM/ELOHIM - let this be known to you!  Be embarrassed and ashamed of your ways, O House of Israel.

If there were an Elijah message for today, it would be no different then it has ever been; Repent (RETURN to God). Do not continue to mix the worship of foreign gods with the worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  CHOOSE who to serve, because the reunification of Israel is near.

But, HOW does the Bible tell us that they will return? 

Jeremiah 3:14

14 and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:

They will NOT return because we discover their location or family genealogies. So why do they return?

Let's skim Ezekiel 36 to see how this will happen:

17 ... The House of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: ...
19 And I scattered them among the nations, and they were
dispersed throughout the nations: ...
21 But I had concern for My holy name, which the House of Israel had profaned among the heathen, wherever they went.
22 ... Thus says the Lord GOD; I do not do this for your sakes, O House of Israel, but for My holy name's sake ...
24 For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you from out of all countries, and will bring you into your land.

How is this accomplished?

27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.
28 And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Again, in Jeremiah 31:33 it says:

This [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says HaShem, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

If you are part of Israel this is the "sign" that God is calling you back; if you have a compulsion to observe his statutes and judgments.

Lets look again at Exodus 31:13

... You shall keep my Sabbaths: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that you may know that I am HaShem that makes you holy (separates you).

Notice It is NOT a sign for others to see, but for ISRAEL to know that they are part of His holy people (the Hebrew word for holy is "kadosh" which means to set apart).

A spark within a person is somehow ignited, separating them from other people, as they are drawn to the study and observe of God's laws.

It may seem a bit confusing, because there is no way to determine who will be drawn to do "Jewish" things and who will not, who will be compelled to keep the Sabbath and who will see no value in it, who will have a real love for the Biblical Holy Days and who will look at them as something strange.

However, the act of the House of Israel returning to God, is the event the whole world waits for. Even in the Christian Bible we see Paul writes about this expected and anticipated event.

Romans 8: 19

For the creation waits in earnest expectation for the manifestation of the sons of God.

This phenomenon is also foretold in a Jewish Orthodox Torah Blessing.

Orthodox Torah Blessing

Blessed are You, Hashem, our God,
King of the universe,
Who has sanctified us with His commandments
and has commanded us to engross ourselves
in the words of Torah.
Please, Hashem, our God,
sweeten the words of Your Torah in our mouth
and in the mouth of Your people
the family of Israel.
May we and our offspring
and the offspring of Your people,
the House of Israel - all of us
know Your Name and study Your Torah
for its own sake.
Blessed are You, Hashem,
Who teaches Torah to His people Israel.

On Shabbat Teshuva (the Sabbath of Return) between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur the following line is added to the Amidah:

And in the book of life, blessing and peace, good prosperity, salvation and comfort, and good decrees, may be remembered and inscribed before You, we and all Your people, the House of Yisrael, for a good life and peace.

In the blessing said EACH Sabbath before opening the doors of the ark (the place that the Torah Scroll is stored), are theses words:

And remember our brethren, the entire House of Yisrael in the lands of their dispersion, and walk them speedily upright to Tsiyyon Your city and Yerushalayim, the dwelling place of Your Name.  As it is written in the Torah of Moses, Your servant: If you are dispersed at the outermost ends of heaven, from there, Adonai, your God, will gather you in and from there He will take you. Adonai your God, will bring you to the land that your fathers possessed and you will possess it. He will do good to you and make you more numerous than your forefathers.

God is faithful at fulfilling His promises. At the end of the age the northern kingdom, (Israel), will return from exile, just as the Bible foretells.  It is also something that the southern kingdom (Judah) has faithfully been expecting for thousands of years.  Yet, Israel’s (the northern kingdom’s) eyes however have been blinded until this end time.

Fullness of Gentiles

Again, in the Christian Bible Paul writes in the book of "Romans" about "Jews" and "Gentiles" for the first several chapters.  And then he begins to talk about Israel (the northern kingdom).

Romans 11:25

For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

What is Paul referring to when he says “the fullness of the Gentiles?” He is referring to an end-time prophecy that Jacob proclaimed on Ephraim, the younger son of Joseph in Genesis 48. Because Ephraim was the chief tribe of the northern kingdom, the House of Israel is often referred to as “Ephraim” in prophesy.

Genesis 48:19b

His younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.

In this verse the words translated as “multitude of nations” are מלא הגוים (melo ha-goyim). The most commonly translated English word for “melo” is fullness. So, the words “multitude of nations” are more properly translated as “fullness of gentiles.”

Paul is telling his Gentile readers that Israel is blinded and shall remain so until the time of this end-time prophecy made by Jacob. THEN their eyes will be opened and THEY SHALL RETURN! They shall be grafted back into the commonwealth of Israel to live a Torah lifestyle; and shall be reunited with their brothers from Judah.

This event will even over-shadow the exodus from Egypt.

Jeremiah 23:7

7 Therefore, behold the days come, says the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD
lives, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
8 But, The LORD lives, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries where I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.

As we have seen, when the Bible says, "children of Israel" it is referring to all of Israel.  However, when it refers to the "house of Israel" or the "house of Judah" it is referring to either the northern or southern kingdom. This prophecy in Jeremiah is about Israel, the northern kingdom, returning to God.

It is about the time we are NOW in. It is a time when Israel, who was lost, is now foundDon't misunderstand. Not all Christians are part of the Lost Tribes, nor are the Tribes all found in Christianity.  The northern kingdom has been dispersed throughout the ENTIRE world and will return from every country and from every faith.

Finally, it is important to remember that a person is not more "spiritual" because he is required to observe more mitzvot (laws). Everyone is born to fulfill certain mitzvot.  It does not make a lot of sense for a righteous Gentile to take on the entire "yoke" of the law.  He is not required to do so. 

If, however, he is part of the northern kingdom (the Lost Tribes) he will feel he has no choice but to do them.

So What Should We Do Now

If you are Jewish, help to make a way for the northern kingdom's return.

The House of Judah is the remnant that has been saved throughout history in order to guide the House of Israel back to the worship of the one true God at the end of the age. It is

the House of Judah’s OBLIGATION to guide the ten tribes (the House of Israel) back to God.

Zechariah 8:23

23 This is what the LORD says, In those days, ten men, speaking all the languages of the nations, will take hold of the hem on the garment of a Jew and say, We will go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, in his booklet The Seven Principles of Divine Service for Righteous Gentiles, writes:

Our generation is the first since the dispersion of the Jewish people in which the Jew is able (and therefore obligated) to reach out to the non-Jew.

If you are a Gentile (Noahide) who has no desire to obey the laws any further than the seven noahide laws, you are fine. God will honor your reverence to Him and your loving kindness to others. Be a supporter of Israel and Judah and God will honor that support.

That was the original intent for those Gentiles who were joined to followers of "the Way" (later to become known as Christians).

Rabbi Jacob Emden (1697-1776) wrote about Christianity 300 years ago, and says:

You members of the Christian faith, how good and pleasant it might be if you will observe that which was commanded to you by your first teachers; how wonderful is your share if you will assist the Jews in the observance of their Torah. You will truly receive reward as if you had fulfilled it yourselves - for the one who helps others to observe is greater than the one who observes but does not help others to do so - even though you only observe the Seven Commandments.

If, however, you are Israel, and you are part of this phenomenon discovering the faith of our Hebrew fathers, God is calling you back to himself. Like the prodigal son:

It is time to leave your pagan holidays and observances.

It is time to turn away from polytheism.

It is time to embrace God’s Torah.

It is time to go to our brothers from Judah and say, “We have heard that God is with you.”

It is time to come home.