Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 17 September 2016 / 14 Elul 5776

Non-Jewish Jews

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman - www.rabbiullman.com
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

From: Russell

Dear Rabbi,

I have an interesting history. I was raised as a non-Jew. For all I knew, my entire family, from as far back as anyone knew, was a non-Jewish family. At some point, through a series of events which were so strange I can’t even describe them, I found out that my maternal great-grandmother was Jewish (as determined undoubtedly by Orthodox rabbis). I eventually came to learn that although she and the line of daughters descending from her (my grandmother and mother) were married to non-Jewish men, they were all considered Jewish women according to Judaism, which meant I am also Jewish.

If you knew anything about the type of family I come from, you would understand how shocked I was to learn all this. Anyway, over several years and after many strange circumstances, I actually became observant and married a Jewish woman and we are raising a Jewish family.

My question is: My own personal history makes me question how many other people around the world might also consider themselves completely non-Jews when in reality they might be completely Jewish. And what will happen to such people in the future? And can anything be done to let them know their truth so they can decide to return to the Tribe if they choose? If not, they’ll probably be lost from the Jewish People forever.

Dear Russell,

Your personal story and experiences are indeed interesting and inspiring. Thanks for sharing them with me. From time to time, such instances occur. Sometimes with famous or influential people. But most do not have the initiative and courage to do anything about it. So I truly commend you on having the fortitude to go through what must have been a long and difficult process.

To answer your question, there are probably a lot more people around the world who fit your description than people realize or consider. Through so much of Jewish history across the globe, because of the trials and tribulations of exile, for so many different reasons, individual Jews were separated from the main body of the Jewish People and intermingled among the non-Jews.

Of course, over so long a time, many have become completely non-Jewish as far as Jewish Law is concerned. Still, I imagine a significant number of people in the world are in fact halachically Jewish without knowing anything about it at all. And I agree with you that if nothing is done about redeeming them, through purely natural means, it is very likely that they too will eventually be lost from the Jewish People.

That being said, our sources do prophesize that such “non-Jewish” Jews will be revealed by G-d through supernatural means, and thereby be redeemed and restored to the main body of the Jewish People.

Consider the following prophecy of Isaiah (66:12-21) regarding the future redemption, which is regularly recited in the haftarah when Rosh Chodesh occurs on Shabbat:

“For so says the L-rd, ‘Behold, I will extend peace to you like a river, and like a flooding stream the wealth of the nations…Like a man whose mother consoles him, so will I console you, and in Jerusalem, you shall be consoled. And you shall see, and your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall bloom like grass, and the hand of the L-rd shall be known to His servants…And I have come to gather all the nations and the tongues, and they shall come and they shall see My glory…And I will send from them refugees to the nations…And they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a tribute to the L-rd, with horses and with chariots, and with covered wagons and with mules and with joyous songs upon My holy mount, Jerusalem…And from them too will I take Kohens and Levites,’ says the L-rd”.

We see from here that during the Redemption, G-d will use ostensibly non-Jews as a vehicle through which to transport Jews from their countries of dispersal to the Land of Israel. Yet, it is from these very “non-Jews” that Gd will take kohanim and levi’im! This is explained by Rashi (v. 21), “‘And from them too’ — From the peoples bringing them and from those brought, I will take Kohens and Levites, for they are now assimilated among nations under coercion. But before Me the Kohens and the Levites among them are revealed, and I will select them from among them, and they shall minister before Me, said the L-rd. Now where did He say it? ‘The hidden things are for the L-rd our G-d’. (Deut. 29:28). In this manner it is explained in the Aggadah of Psalms (87:6)”.

According to the above, the events of the final Revelation and Redemption will be so great that G-d Himself will select people who appear as non-Jews to facilitate the process, but who are actually hidden Jews who are an integral part of that same redemptive process. And they will be miraculously revealed not only as Jews, but some of which as kohanim and levi’im, elevated among other Jews, leading them and inspiring them to serve G-d!

By your own admission, you yourself have experienced indescribably strange events which led to your revelation and redemption as a Jew. Situations like yours, at this time in history so close to Redemption, are very likely a modern-day fulfillment of this ancient prophecy. G-d, as Rashi explained, has His ways of supernaturally revealing these hidden matters. Is there anything we can do to let these non-Jewish Jews know their truth? You may not be literally a kohen or levi, but you very well may be one of these chosen by G-d as a vehicle to lead and inspire both revealed and hidden Jews toward Redemption. Perhaps sharing your personal story through lectures, documentary or in a book could be your practical way of reaching out to and revealing these non-Jewish Jews in preparation for the pending Redemption!

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