Firing Up the Nations – After 2,735 Years, Welcome Home Menashe

December 27, 2013

3 min read

Tuly Weisz

As the sun sets tonight, my family will gather around the Shabbat table. Like many other Jewish parents, I will take my children one by one and offer them the traditional blessings. I will place my hands on my daughter’s head and say to her “May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.” I will then turn to my son and offer the following blessing, “May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe.”

This moment will have special meaning for me tonight on account of the first wave of ‘Operation Menashe’ immigrants who arrived yesterday and will be celebrating their very first Shabbat in the Land of Israel.

Back in October, the Israeli government approved the immigration of 899 members of an Indian community who are descendants of the lost tribe of Manasseh, exiled from Israel by the Assyrians in 722 BCE. This past Wednesday, December 25th, the Jerusalem based group Israel Returns arranged for the first 40 members of Bnei Menashe (“The Sons of Menasseh”) to leave New Delhi and they arrived yesterday at Ben Gurion airport (see pictures of their journey here).

Many observers have inquired, that if we bless our daughters to be like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, why not bless our sons that they turn out like Abraham, Isaac or Jacob?  Out of all the biblical heroes we want our sons to emulate, what is special about Ephraim and Menashe?

In truth, the two sons of Joseph played a very significant role in the formation of the Jewish people. As recounted at the end of the Book of Genesis, they were the first of Abraham’s family to be born in Egypt. Nevertheless, they remained loyal to the traditions of their ancestors even though they were physically disconnected from the Land of Israel. As such, Menashe has always represented the eternity of the Jewish people and the hope for Israel’s return in the future. Thanks to the vision of Michael Freund and the efforts of Israel Returns, our generation has been privileged to a newer and deeper understanding of the loving blessing given by Jewish fathers to their sons each Shabbat.


While Menashe lived for some twenty years in Egypt and is recognized for his loyal devotion to the faith of his forefathers, the Sons of Menashe lived in the deepest, darkest corners of the exile for more than 2,700 years. Yet, like their Biblical namesake, they remained loyal to their traditions despite their physical disconnect from the Land of Israel. The pages of the Bible have come to life this week when the sons and daughters of Menashe rose up like dry bones and returned to the land and the people of Israel.

A century ago, Christian missionaries entered the Indian regions of Mizoram and Manipur and were astonished to find the local tribe of Kuki who claimed to descend from an ancestor named ‘Manmaseh.’ The Kukis worshipped one God and were familiar with many stories from the Bible. They had strange practices, such as circumcising their sons at eight days old, observance of family purity laws and wearing fringed garments during prayer. Because the Kukis recognized the Bible stories and practices, they were converted to what they thought was the religion of their ancestors and began practicing Christianity.

In the 1970’s, some Kukis started researching the origins of their religion and discovered that their tradition of being the “children of Manmaseh” actually referred to the Biblical tribe of Menasseh. They began to refer to themselves as the Bnei Menashe, or the Sons of Menashe, and realizing that their origins predated Christianity, decided to embrace the original religion, began learning Hebrew and expressing their desire to return to the land and the people of Israel.

There is no greater example of the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies such as Ezekiel (36:24) “For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and I will bring you into your own land,” than the story of the Bnei Menashe. As a Biblical Zionist, I am awed by the opportunity to see these great miracles unfolding before my eyes. And as a father, I now understand that when blessing my son this Shabbat to be like Menashe, I will not only have in mind how Joseph’s son played an important role in the ancient development of Israel. I also see how God is using the Sons of Menashe to play a pivotal part in His historic plan for Israel and the world.

The resettlement costs of the Bnei Menashe are great, please consider donating to Israel Returns and playing an important role in the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.


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