As we approach Tisha B’av, the anniversary of the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem I wanted to share this story with you.
My friend A.Y. Katsof pictured above left is an Ashkenazi Jew who currently lives with his family in biblical Samaria. The press would consider him a “settler.”
In 1999 when he discovered that some of the Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel) who had tried to reach Israel were left behind in Sudan, he made it his personal mission to rescue Suzy and her family and bring them to Israel.
That’s Suzy waving an Israeli flag along with A.Y. at Ben Gurion Airport three years ago. Read the whole miraculous and heartwarming story here.
In 1977 Ethiopian Beta Israel were determined by the chief rabbinate of Israel to be a Jewish community and were given the “Right of Return.” The assumption was they were among the 10 ‘Lost’ Tribes (Dan) who were exiled from the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Ephraim) during the period of the divided Kingdom to the biblical land of Cush.
CONNECTION TO TISHA B’AV
(You can watch the full video seminar here)
The Sages teach us that the Temple was destroyed and the People of Israel were exiled from the Land because we hated each other needlessly.
People were cheating each other by having different weights and measures for buying and selling in the marketplace. There were no honest judges to protect the average citizen, let alone the orphans and widows!
The Northern Kingdom was called Israel or Ephraim based on its leadership and the Southern Kingdom was called Judah (Judea) based on its leadership.
The reason for the split?
Solomon’s son Rehoboam imposed impossibly heavy tax burdens on the people and they revolted and formed the Northern Kingdom of Israel with its capital at Samaria. (Learn more here)
There was tremendous animosity and distrust between the Kingdoms and this led to the conquest and exile of the Northern Tribes by the Assyrians.
Later the Babylonians would conquer the Southern Kingdom of Judah, destroy the first Temple and exile the people to Babylon and ultimately the four corners of the earth when the Romans destroyed the second Temple.
ISAIAH AND THE FUTURE THIRD TEMPLE
The primary prerequisite to rebuilding the Temple is forging a new unity and love among the Nation of Israel. No more two kingdoms!
Isaiah describes this unity in his prophecy (Isaiah 11:12)
וְנָשָׂא נֵס לַגּוֹיִם וְאָסַף נִדְחֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּנְפֻצוֹת יְהוּדָה יְקַבֵּץ מֵאַרְבַּע כַּנְפוֹת הָאָרֶץ׃
And God will raise up an ensign to the Nations,
and he will collect the (remaining) oppressed ones of [the Kingdom of] Israel,
And He will gather together the scattered ones of [the Kingdom of] Judah from the four corners of the world.
If you are fluent in the original Hebrew of Isaiah, a number of subtleties become apparent.
God will raise up a “Nes.” This word means miracle, signal flag, banner, flag, sign and ensign. A signal flag is used to get a friendly pilot’s attention and get him to change direction for his safety. That is exactly why miracles happen.. to get our attention to get us to change direction. The Ensign is a symbol used to unite a population who share a common purpose and destiny.
According to Isaiah, the in-gathering of the exiles from both Kingdoms will take place when a unique flag is created to get the attention of the world, which serves as a signal that it is time for the exiled factions of Israel to come home and unite under this National Ensign.
The first time that the National Flag of Israel was raised to the Nations was in 1904 at the St. Louis World’s Fair.
In 1904 the Jewish population in Israel was less than 60,000. Today there are more than 6 million!
Asaf (Collect) Oppressed Israel vs Yikabetz (Gather together) Dispersed Yehuda
Another subtlety in Isaiah’s prophecy is the different verbs used for “gathering.” The word “asaf” is used for the exiles from the Kingdom of Israel (10 Tribes). It means to gather similar objects that are already nearby each other. The Assyrians brought the northern tribes into the Assyrian Empire which stretched from Cush (Ethiopia) in the southwest, up through Egypt, northern Israel, Syria and Iraq – where they stayed.
Since they were already worshiping Golden Calves, the Tribes of Israel readily assimilated into Pagan Assyrian society and were lost. The only ones who did not assimilate were those who were oppressed (eg. Ethiopians).
On the other hand, the Roman exile of Judea caused the Judeans (Jews) to be scattered to the four corners of the earth from where they needed to be gathered together (yikabetz) back to the Land of Israel.
NO MORE HATRED, NO MORE JEALOUSLY
Isaiah continues in verse 11:13
וְסָרָה קִנְאַת אֶפְרַיִם וְצֹרְרֵי יְהוּדָה יִכָּרֵתוּ אֶפְרַיִם לֹא־יְקַנֵּא אֶת־יְהוּדָה וִיהוּדָה לֹא־יָצֹר אֶת־אֶפְרָיִם׃
Then Ephraim’s envy shall cease
And Judah’s harassment shall end;
Ephraim shall not envy Judah,
And Judah shall not harass Ephraim.
The Sage Don Isaac Abrabanel explains this cryptic verse.(1437-1508, Abrabanel was also financial advisor to Queen Isabella before the expulsion of the Jews from Spain on Tisha B’av 1492!)
Says Abrabanel, “With this, the jealously of Ephraim related to the tribal flags will end. Ephraim’s flag and encampment stood at the rear of the Tabernacle in the desert, and the flag of Yehuda,.. at the front,
and Yehuda will no longer harass Ephraim’s honor because of his position in the rear so that no one will think that when the nation is gathered together (the children of [the Kingdom of] Israel and the children of [the Kingdom of] Yehuda, that they will revert to their folly and fight with each other so that each one will try to raise themselves up and say “I will be King!”
And the envy of the other tribes against the special status of the descendants of Yehuda (David’s dynasty) will disappear….. so that the two Kingdoms will unite as One Nation in the Land. (and they will fight together under one flag!)
With all the political infighting in Israel today between “right” and “left,” and between religious and secular, ashkenaz and sephardic…
It was the descendants of Judah, like A.Y. Katsof who endangered themselves to help their brothers and sisters like Suzy, the descendants of Ephraim come home!
And all new immigrants returning from the four corners of the world arrive waving the little blue and white flag… and become equal citizens in their united biblical Land. One Nation, One Army with One united capital – Jerusalem.
What a “Nes!” – What a Miracle!
May we see the rest of Isaiah’s prophecies fulfilleed speedily in our days.