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Historical legends tell us about the ten mighty tribes of Israel exiled by the ancient Assyrian Empire. Our scriptures identify their exilic settlements by name, but no one knows where they’ve gone. How did millions of Jews simply vanish?

The Ten Lost Tribes

The Ten Lost Tribes


The Ten Lost Tribes

Historical legends tell us about the ten mighty tribes of Israel exiled by the ancient Assyrian Empire. Our scriptures identify their exilic settlements by name, but no one knows where they’ve gone. How did millions of Jews simply vanish?
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Anonymous April 30, 2014

I think that you forget that HaShem promised Avraham that his decendants would be as the stars in the sky, and as the sands in the sea. That is too many to number. So, yes, there are potentially millions upon millions of the lost tribes.
Shalom Reply

Patti New Mexico March 13, 2014

I do not agree with a LOT of what you said>did all Jews around the world arrive because they were shipwrecked? I DO believe that does not make any sense> and I DO believe that they are the ten lost tribes. I also believe that we may not know the whole truth until Mashiyach returns> a lot of things remain mysteries, but anyone who makes teshuva to HaShem & Torah is accepted to me a being Jewish...I just spoke with a lady who was trying to find her identity because all records of her family were lost in the holocaust; she is from Mexico. Reply

Ll. Nisa Switzerland January 7, 2014

Thanks for the response! Dear Rabbi Kaplan,
Thanks for the clarification, I did not understand it when thinking the other way around... I have always wondered why Jews from nowadays Irak/Iran are called Sephardic by some people, when actually we (meaning Spanish and Portuguese Jews) seem to be separated by more than just geographic distance.
I am sorry if you understood I implied you were merely speculating. I am aware that several academies were founded in the pre-Rambam period (in Cordoba for instance) and other places of the Al-Andalus Caliphate, many by central figures from Babylon well-known by all of us. I have read something on this topic, but if you have some suggestions I would certainly appreciate.
Thanks again! Reply

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan Thornhill, Ontario January 3, 2014

Response! Thank you for your meaningful and insight: feedback. Just to clarify: when speaking of the orgins of Sephardic vs Ashkenazic Jews, I refer not to genealogy but rather to the Torah traditions like the liturgy of prayer and specific Minhagim related to the of observance of Mitzvot etc. And that is fairly well documented, rather than mere empty speculation... Much more to say... No more time or space :-) Reply

Ll. Nisa Switzerland December 29, 2013

Educational material by Rv. Kaplan is usually excellent. This audio class though had some surprising points. For instance:
1. Even though the author states that it's maybe pure speculation, the Sephardim may come from Babylonian Jewry, while the Ashkenazim may come from Israel... When the Romans destroyed the 2nd Temple in 70 CE they took thousands of slaves to Hispania (=Sefarad), being this the biggest recorded input of Jews in the Iberian Peninsula... Also the Arabs brought thousands of Jews with them when they conquered Iberia, most of which came from North Africa and not from Mesopotamia or Persia, which conform a full-part branch of Judaism. I know sometimes we tend to include them in the Sephardic group, but historically and culturally they are groups far apart.
2. The portrait of the Rambam and his statue in Cordoba, Spain, are not based on him at all! The portrait was printed in a 17th or 18th century edition of his work. We have no idea how he looked like. Reply

Don Zusya Goodman December 19, 2013

Thought Provoking Class Thank you Rav Kaplan for this class. My daughter is fascinated by this subject. Can you suggest works in English online or in book form so she can learn more about this subject.
B'Kavode Rav, Reply

Brigitte v.Ungern-Sternberg Berlin, Germany March 29, 2011

Ten Lost Tribes This topic has been fascinating no end even outside the Jewish community. Where have all this tribes gone? Same applies to the idea of 'chosenness', to become one of the elected. How about the rest of the humankind?
'I called your name and you are mine!' This implies that you are G-d's child forever once you have been baptized, the non-Jewish way of a being 'chosen'. Then of course there is the obligation to live your life according to the commandments + love other human beings in the same way you love yourself. As for me, the Lord's Prayer and the commandments are a solid rock for the veneration of the Creator of the World - there is no need to believe in the dogma of trinity!
Isn't the dispersion of 10 tribes a good reminder for Jewish people, that they should not be confined to their community too much and that there exists an opening to mankind? There is always the possibility that a gentile could be connected to one of the lost tribes - you never know! Reply

Mrs. Catherine Cronin August 23, 2010

is there any truth that maybe the souls of the lost tribes still are holy and will come back to judiasm in the last days. Reply

Rivkah Michal Kahn toronto, ON August 1, 2010

the lost tribes Rabbi Mendel Kaplan is a Rabbi who is blessed with the wonderful gift of being able to impart his vast knowledge in a way that everyone, no matter what level they are on/at, can comprehend.
i have had the honor of attending the Rabbi's lectures/shiurim in person and always leave enlightened, uplifted and inspired. Reply

Craig Hamilton Sandwich August 27, 2009

Missing I have never heard any rabbi discuss ancestries that go back to Judah that the kings of Europe had. There is one from Iceland (Priam, Thor, Odin), two from Britain (Zerah, Darius, Brutus, Beli Mawr), and (Zerah, Darius, Antenor, William "the Conqueror,") one from Ireland (Pharez, David, Tea Tephi), and one from France (Zerah, Darius, Charlemagne). Then, their descendants all married each other. Consider the Icelandic Langfedgatal's connection to the Chaldeans through ancestors like Moda (a Hebrew word) and the Icelandic Magi, part of the Chaldean/Zoroastrian religion with their ancestor Thor. 1 Maccabees 12, says, "Darius our bretheren." There are so many sources! I count over 20 sources from the Middle Ages and earlier. Then, there is the fact that Presidents usually descend from kings. The same tribe has been ruling the the world for all recorded history. This data combines easily with the idea of the scepter in Genesis. I don't know how rabbis can avoid discussing this! Reply

reed cockrell-cohen minneapolis, mn March 19, 2009

why are you european jews racists? I am a jew of italian(saphardic-mother)and ethiopian(father) descent.Because of you mostly rascists european jews I was persecuted as a child. but my mother told me not to believe the lies. A jew is a jew is a jew! I will be a rabbi in about 3 to 5 years.The Torah is written on my heart! Scriptually you are in great error. iwas born in manitoba,and I will return after my yeshiva is HASHEM rebuke you stearnly for saying ethiopian jews are not jewish. One day I will refute all you rascists jews on this issue. Just to let you know. 90% of us jews have goy in thier bloodline! We see this especially in our jewish women who marry goyim and call thier children full bloded jewish! this is rabbinical(men's oral tradition)judaism NOT tanakh judaism! read d'varim 7:3 it says daughters and sons. this destroys the false clam that our rabbinical fathers taught us,that you are jewish through the mother. BUT you are right concerning the so-called black hebrews. May G-D have mercy on you Reply

Sarah Junik Brooklyn, NY July 15, 2008

Romans Thank you Rabbi Kaplan for a most enlightening lecture.

A comment about Italy: Italy is considered Ashkenaz but native Italian Jews use a different Nussach than Ashkenazim or Sefardy and call it Nussach Italky. If one were to daven in the Synagogue in Florence for example that is the nussach used. I visited Ostia Antica which is where the Jews lived at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple and indeed there are there the ruins of what is said to be the first shul out of Israel and also ruins of a mikveh.

There are a lot of communities in Italy, Ashkenaz, Sefard, Sefardi, and chabad. There have been many waves of immigration to italy throughout history. Many jews found refuge there from the inquisition and more recently after the Holocaust a lot of Jews came and settled there. Reply

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan Thornhill, ON via June 30, 2008

Further responses Regarding Russel's comment, you clearly miss my point. I never said that Levi "lost their holiness," rather used the Talmud's statement about the Levis’ refusing to return to Israel (and the Ma'aser being taken from them and instead given to the Cohanim) to explain the FACTUAL phenomenon of the small percentage of Levis in comparison with Cohanim. This is not my idea, rather a well-worn fact that is often discussed by many.

And finally in response to Allessandro, the nusach hatfila (prayer liturgy) of the Italian community is indeed unique. We have clear documentation of a strong Jewish community in Rome during the second Temple era, which accounts for some of their customs being so unique, and not quite Ashkenazi, however I do nonetheless believe (and I may be wrong) that they are generally identified with the community called Ashkenaz. Also I think you mean Temani (or possibly Tunisian from the island of Djerba) when you say not considered Sefardic in the typical manner, not Bagd. Reply

Alessandro Caprotti Guaynabo, Puerto Rico via June 29, 2008

Romans I really enjoyed the lecture gave me many new things ,the only question is that in Italy Rabbi Kaplan said they are Askenazi I thought in Italy the jews like in Bagdad are not Sefardi or Askenazi This is the the only question/stament I make. and thank you the Rabbi for a very illumineting lecture Reply

russell June 25, 2008

what do you mean by Levi I don't know where Rabbi Kaplan gets his information from that the tribe of Levi los their holiness and it was given to the cohanim and that is why there are more cohanim than levim? The Gemara only states that maser rishon was taken away from them. Reply

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan Thornhill, ON via June 30, 2008

Response to the comments In response to Yehuda Shuprin's remarks of whom the Halacha follows. I do indeed stand corrected, I had not seen the Maharal or the Abarbanel, and later realized that the Halacha follows Rebbi Akiva m'chavirav (when he argues with his peers) however Rebbi Eliezer (ben Hurcanus) was his teacher so that rule would not apply.

However that point is not the foundation of the thesis I present and it makes no difference, as even the Maharal says that the argument is not if they come back, rather if they will assume independent identities as separate tribes etc.

The primary thrust is only that people's claiming to be the 10 tribes have nothing to stand on, and that we don't believe that there are millions of Jews hiding somewhere in plain sight...

Regarding Moshe's point, our Sages always refer to Yehuda & Binyomin (and not to Levi). Presumably there where many, many Levites who disappeared with them... after all they were evenly distributed in Eretz Yisrael. Reply

Moshe June 25, 2008

Thoroughly enjoyed I really enjoyed this lecture. I learned many new things, and it was very open minded. I was impressed by the quality and quantity of the sources, and by the clear articulation.

Small comment: The remaining tribes are actually Yehuda, Binyomin and Levi, while the number 10 of the "lost" tribes include Menache and Efraim, for a total of 13... Reply

Yehuda Shurpin Brooklyn , NY June 22, 2008

Halacha is that they are comming back...! While there are numerous things to comment about in this lecture, due to the lack of space I will just pick one which I think is from the more important ones. Rabbi Kaplan says, citing from the Talmud in Sanhedrin 110b, that the “Halacha follows R’ Akiva that the Ten Tribes will not return.” While this is indeed the view of R’ Akiva, it is not correct to say that this is the view of “Halacha.” Nor that this is the conclusion of the Talmud...

Rabbi Yehuda Lowe (The Maharal of Prague) in his Sefer Netzach Yisroel Chapter 34 (end of page 155 in some ed.) writes “that it is clear from there [the Talmud in Sanhedrin 110b] that the Halacha is like the opinion that they ARE coming back.” (He also discusses the obvious question which was brought up in the lecture, “So where are they?”).

See also the Abarbanel in his Sefer Yeshuos Meshicho Iyun 1 end of Ch. 4 where he writes 'that the Talmud takes the view of R’ Eliezer that they WILL be coming back'. Reply

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