From the Times Online:
About 1,700 members of the Bnei Menashe tribe — the Sons of Manasseh, one of the original 12 biblical tribes of Israel — have migrated to Israel, completing what they believe is an extraordinary, 2,700-year exile that took them from the Middle East seven centuries before the Christian era, through Afghanistan, China, Burma and India, before they heard that a new state of Israel had been created 62 years ago.
One of the largest and fastest-growing wings of the very broad spectrum of bodies called “the Messianic Movement” is the Ephraimite, or Two-House, movement. The main claim of Two-House which sets it apart from other Messianic congregations is that its members–no matter what their ancestry–are actually descendents of the “Ten Lost Tribes.” While some of the major Two-House teachers like Monte Judah have backed away from saying that all followers of Yeshua are actually long-lost Israelites, it is nevertheless an article of faith among the Two-House laity that they personally are definitely of the Ten Tribes.
There are a number of things wrong with Two-House theology that will probably be the subject of an article later on. For now, let’s tackle the key point: It dishonors those who have suffered for their Jewish and/or Israelite heritage.
The Bnei Menashe have carefully maintatined a living tradition of their heritage that the rabbis of Israel have found convincing. Nevertheless, having been separated from the life of Israel for so long and having long ago converted to Christianity, it was deemed necessary that the Bnei Menashe complete the same program as any other proselyte to Judaism. This has taken so long because India’s laws forbid changing one’s religion, while Israel’s right-of-return laws do not recognize Christian Jews, let alone Christian ancient Israelites. Nevertheless, the Bnei Menashe have preservered against the odds to be accepted into Israel.
A person with a Jewish ancestor who assimilated into European Christianity a generation or two before is not a Jew, but a Gentile who happens to have a Jewish ancestor. How much more would a person whose Israelite forefather who was assimliated into a completely pagan culture 2700 years ago be considered a Gentile today?
Sadly, after two millennia of erronious teaching about the disciple’s relationship to the Torah, many Messianics still don’t understand what it really means to be grafted in to Israel. They feel they have to justify the love they have for the Torah by finding a Jewish ancestor. Many do manage to find one (or else came to the movement because they wanted to reconnect with what was lost). Others, unable to do so, find solace in a Two-House congregation.
It’s sad because Two-House denys the very promises of Scripture that the Gentiles–not long-lost Israelites, but actual Gentiles–would be welcomed into the House of God:
Then in that day
The nations will resort to the root of Jesse,
Who will stand as a signal for the peoples;
And His resting place will be glorious.
And He will lift up a standard for the nations And assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth. (Isa. 11:10, 12)
Notice that there are three groups here: The Gentiles, Israel, and Judah.
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say,
“The LORD will surely separate me from His people.” . . .“Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
To minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD,
To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath
And holds fast My covenant;
Even those I will bring to My holy mountain And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar;
For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” (Isa. 56:3, 6-7)
In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David,
And wall up its breaches;
I will also raise up its ruins
And rebuild it as in the days of old;
That they may possess the remnant of Adam And all the nations who are called by My name,”
Declares the LORD who does this. (Amos 9:11-12)
So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD.’ Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’ (Zec. 8:22-23)
Taking hold of the garment of a Jew does not mean clutching at his feet. It means taking hold of and putting on the kippah (yarmulke for the Azkenazi among us) and the talit that are the emblematic garments of a Jew. The Eternal One always prophesied that when Jerusalem was restored, many Christians of Gentile descent would want to taste His blessings–and He has given His blessing to do so.
The article ends with a note of anticipation:
Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, who has worked closely with the tribe since the early 1980s. He said he believed in the biblical prophecy of a coming apocalypse – one shared by “End of Days” evangelical Christians – in which “all the world is against Israel” in a battle to be decided in Jerusalem.
“I believe we are very close to the time when the Messiah will arrive and we must prepare by making sure that all the Jews are in the Land of Israel. There are more than six million among the lost tribes and they must be brought to Israel as a matter of urgency.”
Amen, Maranatha, and Shalom!