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Thursday, March 22, 2012

מלך המשיח: The 13th Tribe (Part 6: More Philosophy)

In the future, the מלך המשיח and his direct descendants will have an eternal portion in Eretz Yisroel, or 'נחלת ה.  He will effectively become a 13th tribe, in the sense that all the people living on that part of the land will trace their lineage to the  מלך המשיח and will be identified, by themselves and others, as his descendants.  This creates a group of people associated to the  מלך המשיח, in the same way that the other 12 tribes are associated to their respective progenitors.  That is one of the great benefits of land as an אחוזת נחלה.

We can gain some insight into what this might mean by analyzing one of the other changes mentioned in Yechezkel of the structure of the tribes that will occur in that time period.  As explained by the Rashbam on our gemara, the two tribes of Ephraim and Menashe will be condensed back into one tribe of Yosef (and the tribe of Levi will get a portion).  What can we derive from this change?

In Bereishis 48:4, Yaakov tells Yosef, that God blessed him (after changing Yaakov's name to Yisroel) by saying that "ונתתיך לקהל עמים." Rashi explains:
ונתתיך לקהל עמים: בשרני שעתידים לצאת ממני עוד קהל ועמים ואף על פי שאמר לי (לעיל לה יא) גוי וקהל גוים, גוי אמר לי על בנימין, קהל גוים הרי שנים לבד בנימין, ושוב לא נולד לי בן, למדני שעתיד אחד משבטי ליחלק, ועתה אותה מתנה אני נותן לך
Yisroel was given a zchus, a right, to gift a double portion to one of his children by splitting that child into two tribes.  That gift Yaakov gave to Yosef by creating the portions of Ephraim and Menashe.

Yisroel was responsible for setting up the structure of a nation that would endure throughout history.  A nation that would survive when all other ancient nations would fade.  A nation that would be organised around the true idea of God.  A nation that would serve as a beacon of light to the other nations about the ways of God and how to properly serve Him.

Yisroel formed the nation of Bnei Yisroel through a combination of his wisdom and רוח הקודש.  In this capacity as the architect for the nation, Yisroel was given the right to choose which tribe would be split.  However, he was only building a nation to endure until the end of days, not through the days of the משיח.  His zchus to gift a double portion expires at the end of days, and the two tribes of Ephraim and Menashe become one again.

The final form of Bnei Yisroel living in 'נחלת ה in the days of the משיח will be different than the form we had getting there.  The best way to structure a nation to make it to the end of days, is not the perfect structure for those days themselves.  One thing we can learn from Yechezkel is that the ultimate form of Bnei Yisroel in those days, permanently living in our land of אחוזת נחלה, will include the last and final piece.  The 13th tribe of the מלך המשיח.


  1. It would seem that the original 12 tribes only, will be inscribed on the choshen and aphode of the Kohen Gadol. The change in the number of tribes will occur only in the framework of dwelling in the land. We leave it to the reader to pursue the two different concepts involved in the different areas.

  2. How do you know that according to Rambam Levi will receive a chelek? Won't the halacha in shemita and yovel chapter 13 still apply in yemot hamashiach. (The issur deorayta in the koteret # 19) otherwise isn't that a negation of one of the mitzvot? In terms of Shaar levi echad, that could be speaking about yerushalayim (which is how IIRC some meforshim learn the gemara/pesukim)

    1. we used the Rashbam and Rashi to help uncover the idea of a change in the structure of the nation that Yisroel established. Whether or not the Rambam agrees with the particular changes to menashe, ephraim, and levi is not the relevant issue (we didnt explain what those particular concepts are.

      The Rambam agrees that in terms of nachala, the מלך המשיח will be the 13th tribe, and that certainly is not the way it was originally established by Yosroel. The concept of changing the structure of the tribes is applicable to all 3 rishonim.


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