This is what happened with the Ten Tribes. Klal Yisrael since the loss of the ten shevatim is a different nation, and in a way, Hashem exchanged the old nation for a new one.
The mystery of the Ten Tribes has spawned many legends and stories over the centuries – people have “discovered” them, explorers have searched for them – and to this day there are many who attempt to find them, usually looking in the Far East, and have come into contact with societies and cultures with customs that resemble ours.
Be that as it may, and even with the dispute among the Tana’im as to whether the Ten Tribes will return when Moshiach comes, the fact is Klal Yisrael as a nation has lived without them for the vast majority of our history.
And that is the question that has bothered me for years. How could it be? Why didn’t Hashem bring them back from exile like He brought us, Yehudah and Binyomin, back? Were the sins of the Ten Tribes so much more horrendous than the sins of the Kingdom of Yehudah? How could Hashem allow 83% of the Jewish people to assimilate?
I’m sure that one day, when Moshiach comes, all of this will become clear, but until then the questions continue.
It is very, very important to close with the following Maharal (Netzach Yisrael, Chapter 34). He is bothered by our questions as well and writes, “G-d forbid that we should understand that when it says that the Ten Tribes will not return that it means we have lost even one tribe from the Jewish People! Rather, as the Gemara in Megillah 14b says, the prophet Yirmiyah went to the exiled lands and brought groups from each one of the Ten Tribes back to the Jewish People. The dispute in the mishna is only regarding the [vast majority] of the Ten Tribes who did indeed become assimilated.”
Thus, we do indeed have descendants from all of the Twelve Tribes among us. All of the Torah’s references to the importance of the Twelve Tribes remain. Perhaps I’m from the tribe of Gad and you are from Asher. We don’t know. But all Twelve Tribes are here.
Still and all, the fact that we have lost our identities as the individual Twelve Tribes cannot be debated. Why is that? Why did Hashem allow that? I would love to hear your thoughts or those of the sources you have learned. I look forward to continuing the discussion.
And these are some of the happenings in this week’s haftarah.