Rabbi Mordechai Becher, originally from Australia, is a Senior Lecturer for the Gateways Organization. He was a Senior Lecturer at Ohr Somayach, Neve Yerushalayim and Darchei Binah in Jerusalem for 15 years, was a chaplain in the Israel Defence Forces and taught in a number of Rabbinic training programs. Rabbi Becher is the co-author of After the Return, and has answered thousands of questions on the Ask-the-Rabbi website. His latest book, Gateway to Judaism, was recently published by Shaar Press. Rabbi Becher received his ordination from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. He has lectured for the UJA, Jewish Federations, the Zionist Organization of America, Hillel and is on the speakers bureau of the Israeli Consulate in New York. He has taught in Canada, the United States, England, Israel, South Africa, Australia and Russia. He resides with his wife and 6 children in Passaic, NJ.
I know that the Jewish people can be categorized as Kohen, Levi or Yisrael. Given that I am a Yisrael, I have always wondered which of the 12 tribes I come from. Is there a way to find out?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
After King Solomon's reign in the 10th century BCE, the Jewish nation split into two groups, with Judah and Benjamin forming Judah, the southern kingdom, with the remaining 10 tribes forming Israel, the northern kingdom. The tribe of Levi was geographically dispersed within the two kingdoms.
Two centuries later, the Assyrians invaded Israel and exiled the tribes. As far as history was concerned, the Ten Tribes disappeared. They evidently settled somewhere in the east, probably in the areas of Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran. Presumably, they then assimilated completely.
Today, all Jews come from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (which we called "Israelites"), or from the tribe of Levi (which are the Kohanim and Levites).
Using the CMH as a DNA signature of the ancient Hebrews, researchers are pursuing a hunt for Jewish genes around the world. These genetic archaeologists are using DNA research to discover historical links to the Jewish people. Many individuals have approached the researchers to be tested. Having the CMH is not proof of one's being Jewish, or from any one tribal line.
There are many groups around the world who – although not Jewish by law – claim some historic connection to the Jewish people. In the Pathan tribe in Afghanistan and Pakistan, for example, Pathan women light candles on Friday evenings to bless the Sabbath. Also, Pathans use the Shield of David and wear a four-cornered prayer garment, wear sidelocks, have circumcision on the eighth day, and many have Jewish-sounding names.
As for searching for them, some believe that Ethiopian Jews are from the Tribe of Dan, and that certain Judaic tribes in India may be descended from Menashe.
Jewish customs have been found in the Shinlung tribe (India and Burma), the Kashmiri nation in Northern India, the Chiang-Min on the border of China and Tibet, the Lemba tribe in southern Africa, and the Bnei Moshe in Peru.
Today in Jewish History
In 355 BCE, Esther, after having won a kingdom-wide beauty pageant, was taken to King Achashverosh (Esther 2:16). Esther's presence in the king's palace enabled her to advocate on behalf of the Jews, and gain a reversal of Haman's decree to annihilate the Jewish people. This series of miraculous events is recorded in the biblical Scroll of Esther, and commemorated each year on the holiday of Purim.
Today's Daily Lift
Discouragement comes from one thing, and one thing only: thinking discouraging thoughts. Changing the content of one's thoughts changes the entire picture!
Discouragement often comes from one's limited self-image.
When you view yourself in a positive light and see what you've done as valuable and important, even though things didn't work out the way you were hoping, you still feel positive about the effort you put into doing something worthwhile. You know that effort is up to you; results are up to the Almighty. You realize that your own value and worth are constant, and then think about your new wisest course of action for now.
If you ever feel discouraged, you can say to yourself, "Right now I am feeling discouraged because of the thoughts that I am thinking. What are some wiser thoughts that I can think right now?"
Today in Growing Each Day
Pinchas arose and wrought judgment, and so the plague was checked (Psalms 106:30).
The word tefillah, or "prayer," has its origin in the word pallel, which means "to seek justice." Prayer should therefore be an activity whereby one seeks justice. The first recorded prayer in Jewish history is that of the Patriarch Abraham. He sought justice for the people of Sodom and pleaded with God to spare them (Genesis 18:23-33). Thus, when we pray, whether for ourselves or for others, it should be with the understanding that we are seeking justice.
How, then, can we ask of God to grant our various requests? Are we deserving of this? Do we deserve them? Are they within the realm of justice?
Two answers come to mind. If, as part of our prayers, we admit the wrongs we have done, sincerely regret them, and commit ourselves not to repeat them, then we may indeed be deserving. We therefore do not make our requests on the basis of what we are, but on the basis of what we will be. Second, if we extend ourselves by forgiving people who have offended us and acting with kindness toward them, then God's acting accordingly toward us can in itself be considered justice.
Thus, teshuvah (the process of regret and return) and gemilas chasadim (acts of kindness) are the foundations of prayer.
Today I shall...
try to do teshuvah, and to act toward others in a way that I wish God to act toward me.
With stories and insights,
Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...