Who is a Jew?

Our Roots
Part Two

By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman © 12.29.2010 (last updated 11.13.2014)

Parts 1-3 Presented Live on Facebook

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Go to: Part 6

According to Genesis chapter five and I Chronicles 1:1-3 ten generations passed between Adam and Noah (Adam, Seth, Enos, Canaan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah). Through Noah (Noach) the Rainbow or Noahide Covenant was established.

The Noahide Covenant

HaShem established the Universal Covenant with all humanity through Noach and his sons. This Covenant is based on observance of the Sheva Mitzvot B'nei Noach (the Seven Laws of the Children of Noah). This Covenant remains in effect for all of humanity as I discuss elsewhere. This is a separate Covenant from the one we are discussing here and yet within it we find the seeds of the eternal Covenant with People Israel. In discussing the establishment of this Universal Covenant we learn of Noah's three sons. The elder son, Shem, and his descendents were authorized by God to lead the descendents of his brothers (i.e. the rest of humanity) as the anointed of HaShem. Avraham was a descendent of Shem, a Shemite (Semite).
The Avrahamic Covenant
A second ten generations passed between Noah, through Shem, to Avraham (I Chronicles 1:24 - 27). The Sinai or Mosaic Covenant (see below) resides within this Covenant. Avraham lived to a ripe old age but never had offspring with his wife Sarah.

As a young man Avram was directed by HaShem to leave his country and head to what would become Israel (then known as the Land of Canaan). He obeyed. Avram married Sarai (who was later renamed Sarah) and had various adventures (see Genesis 12:1-13:12).

Sodom, Ishmael and Islam
The events at Sodom happened and Avram showed himself to be a great man devoted to HaShem as he rescued Lot and the people of the plains (Genesis 13:13-16:1). Due to his faithfulness HaShem promised Avram that he would father many children and give birth to a great nation (Genesis 13:16). Beginning at Genesis 16:1 the events unfold that lead to the origin of that nation, the people we know today as People Israel, the Jews. This is the relevance of this to our current study. In order to determine who is a Jew we must understand their unique origins.

Because they were both old now (nearing one hundred years) and still without the promised child their faith waned. Sarai suggested that Avram have sex with her Egyptian servant Hagar in order for Avram to produce the promised offspring (Genesis 16:2). This was an example of faith mixed with doubt: faith that the child of promise would come but doubt drove them to try and fulfill its terms themselves rather than rely on HaShem. Similar mistakes happen today! We need to remember that HaShem is in control of the situations we face. The result of this doubting by the patriarchs continues to plague the world today. Avram did as suggested and Hagar became pregnant (Genesis 16:4). Through her son Ishmael came the Northern Arabs and eventually Muhammad Mustafa, founder of Islam. By this point Avram and Sarai had lived ten years in Israel (then called Canaan: Genesis 16:3).

Sarai realized their mistake quickly and besought HaShem for forgiveness and direction. Avram authorized his wife to send both the child and her servant away (Genesis 16:6) and she did so. However we each have free will and our choices have consequences. Ishmael now lived and had human rights as any other. HaShem used their lapse in faith for His own purposes. HaShem showed compassion to Hagar and her son Ishmael (Genesis 16:7). Of this we read:

Genesis 16:9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her [i.e. Hagar]: 'Return to thy mistress [i.e. Sarai], and submit thyself under her hands.'
16:10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her: 'I will greatly multiply thy seed, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
16:11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her: 'Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son; and thou shalt call his name Ishmael, because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.
Note carefully how Ishmael is described as this section continues:
16:12 And he [i.e. Ishmael] shall be a wild ass of a man: his hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the face of all his brethren.'
When Avram was 99 years old, HaShem revealed how He would deal with the people of the Covenant. Circumcision (the sign of the Covenant in human flesh) and other issues are presented and discussed. Avram is renamed Avraham (Genesis 17:1-7) and Sarai is renamed Sarah (Genesis 17:15). In verse seven HaShem says that He will:
... establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.
17:8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.'
17:9 And God said unto Abraham: 'And as for thee, thou shalt keep My covenant, thou, and thy seed after thee throughout their generations.
The Covenant was made with Avraham and 'his descendents'. But through which line? Would the Covenant pass through Ishmael (as maintained by Islam), the son fathered during Avram's lapse of faith with the servant of his beloved wife? As far as we know Ishmael was the only son of Avram at this point. HaShem clarifies this and establishes through whom the Sacred Covenant would pass:
Genesis 17:16 And I will bless her [Sarah], and moreover I will give thee a son of her; yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be of her.'
17:18 And Abraham said unto God: 'Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee!'
17:19 And God said: "Nay, but Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son; and thou shalt call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his seed after him.
17:20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee; behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation [i.e. the Northern Arabs].
17:21 But My covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.'
The Covenant People


Genesis 17:21 But My covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.'
The Birth of Isaac, the Son of Promise
Genesis 21:1 And the LORD remembered Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as He had spoken.
21:2 And Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.
21:3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac.
21:4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.
21:5 And Abraham was a hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.
The Covenant people are descended: As for Hagar and Ishmael:
Genesis 21:9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne unto Abraham, making sport [i.e. making fun the promised son thereby belittling the promise].
21:10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham: 'Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.'
21:11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight on account of his son.
21:12 And God said unto Abraham: 'Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah saith unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall seed be called to thee.
21:13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.'
21:14 And Abraham arose up early in the morning, and took bread and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away; and she departed, and strayed in the wilderness of Beersheba.
According to Torah, Hagar was a servant, a bondwoman, a slave, not a princess as Islam maintains. She and her son Ishmael were sent away. The Covenant remained with Isaac and passed through his son Jacob (see below). Hagar and her son embraced the greater Pagan cultures of the land. We know from extra biblical sources that they worshipped the god Hubal-Sin.
Genesis 21:21 And he [Ishmael] dwelt in the wilderness of Paran [where the god Sin reigned]; and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.

Ishmael, the son of an Egyptian slave, copulated with local Pagan women and embraced the worship of their gods. 360 such gods/baals were seated for worship and service at Mecca where Muhammad grew up. Hubal-Sin was chief among these. Whether these gods existed in Mecca before the days of Ishmael we don't know objectively but that his descendants worshiped these gods and even facilitated their abominable practices is certain

The descendants of Ishmael were disowned by the God of Avraham and they rejected His Torah. They sided against Israel in confederation with the descendants of the Nephilim such as the Rapha (who peopled among the Philistines -- the pel-ish-tee: a Greek sea faring people) referenced in the Tanach. The Ishmaelites warred against the Israelites and against the God of Israel seeking to genocide them completely as we read in the Tanach:

Psalms 83:2 (83:3) For, lo, Thine enemies are in an uproar; and they that hate Thee have lifted up the head.
83:3 (83:4) They hold crafty converse against Thy people, and take counsel against Thy treasured ones.
83:4 (83:5) They have said: 'Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.'
83:5 (83:6) For they have consulted together with one consent; against Thee do they make a covenant;
83:6 (83:7) The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagrites;
83:7 (83:8) Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;
83:8 (83:9) Assyria also is joined with them; they have been an arm to the children of Lot. Selah
We find reference to these Pagan gods, goddesses and their devotees throughout the Torah and archeology of the Middle East. The wrath of HaShem always burns hot against them and frequently He instructed the Israelites to utterly decimate their numbers, even killing their cattle and their crops, so vile was their abominations in the land that the Israelites were forbidden to have any contact with the remains of their camps (compare Deuteronomy 7:25)!

Hubal Sin: God of Ishmael

Among these false gods the Ishmaelites embraced was the Arabian Moon god named Hubal, the chief god of Mecca. Hubal is related to the Mesopotamian Moon god Nanna (or Sin), the son of Enlil and Ninlil. The two chief seats of Nanna/Sin's worship were Ur (where Avraham was from) and Harran in the north.

Hubal/Sin was a fairly major local idol (allah) in his day and it is likely that his image was among those destroyed by young Avram in his father's workshop as described above. His image stood atop the Kaaba in Mecca as ruler and overseer of the 360 god Arab/Ishmaelite pantheon. As chief god Hubal-Sin was known simply as Al-lah or "the god." Allah Sin's name is related to place names like Sinai, the wilderness of Sin and so on. The Allah of Islam is not the Eloahh (אלוהּ) of Israel.

Rather than Holy Jerusalem, Mecca is the Moon god's capital city and the Kaaba was and remains to this day his principle shrine. The crescent moon symbol of Hubal-Sin is prominently displayed on every Muslim shrine and throughout the lands controlled by the Ummah of Islam. The Kaaba of Hubal-Sin is where Muslims make their haj (pilgrimage) and Muslims the world over stop and bow to the Dweller of Kaaba five times a day.

In Genesis 22 we read of the intended sacrifice of Isaac and other events that prepared Isaac to take up the mantle of the Covenant. Islam plagiarizes Torah and claims that it was Ishmael who was offered in sacrifice rather than Isaac. Such replacement theologies were never even considered until the rise of Islam over two thousand years after these events occurred. The fact that so many people and religions plagiarize the Tanach demonstrates its uniqueness and greatness.

In time Sarah died in Hebron. She was 127 years old (Genesis 23:1-20). In Genesis 24 Avraham makes preparation for Isaac to marry Rebecca. At Genesis 24:67 Isaac takes Rebecca. as his wife through a process known as an "Isaac wedding' -- i.e. there is no clergy etc. only the intention of the couple and their sexual union. Avraham takes concubines after Sarah's passing but the Covenant remains firmly and eternally with Isaac. Again, note that Ishmael is not included in the inheritance: the Covenant passes exclusively through Isaac:

Genesis 25:5 And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.
25:6 But unto the sons of the concubines, that Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts; and he sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.
Clearly then the Covenant and its blessings (and responsibilities) pass exclusively through Isaac and his lineage, not through Ishmael's. For this and other reasons, IF one accepts the claims of Torah then the claims of Islam can not be accepted as correct. Indeed their claims seek to undermine the heart of Torah and the Covenant it proclaims.

Death of Avraham and the Promotion of Isaac

Avraham's death is recorded at Genesis 25:8. Isaac and the sons of Avraham's concubines, including Ishmael, bury him and then:

Genesis 25:11 It came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed Isaac his son; and Isaac dwelt by Beer-lahai-roi.
So not only was it the will of Avraham that his blessings and the Covenant pass through Isaac, it is also confirmed that the Will of HaShem is with Isaac and his descendents. To grant the Covenant to any other people therefore is to place oneself in opposition to the explicit Word of HaShem.

Esau and Jacob

Like Avraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca. were having difficulty conceiving and so they besought HaShem. By the Will of HaShem she became pregnant with twins: Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:23). Again a decision had to made. Through which of these would the Covenant pass? Through a series of events and evidences the Covenant passed through Jacob as Torah explains (Genesis 25).

Genesis 26:2 And the LORD appeared unto him [Isaac], and said: 'Go not down unto Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of.
26:3 Sojourn in this land [Canaan: Israel], and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore unto Abraham thy father;
26:4 and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these lands; and by thy seed shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves;

26:5 because that Abraham hearkened to My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.'
26:6 And Isaac dwelt in Gerar.
In time Isaac died and the Covenant passed to Jacob (Genesis 27, 28).
Genesis 28:3 And God Almighty bless thee {Jacob], and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a congregation of peoples;
28:4 and give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land of thy sojournings, which God gave unto Abraham.'
Jacob accepted his place within the Covenant:
Genesis 28:20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying: 'If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
28:21 so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then shall the LORD be my God,
28:22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house; and of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee.'
Jacob married Rachel as recorded in Genesis 29. Through Jacob came the Twelve Houses of Israel. We wont break this down here for the sake of brevity.

In brief however, the Ten Northern Houses of Israel disappeared from history due to spiritual adultery (II Kings 17:18). These are the famed Ten Lost Tribes. The leaders of the Southern Kingdom of Judah (along with Benjamin) was chosen by HaShem to maintain the eternal Covenant. Eventually similar failings by Judah caused it to fall (to Babylon) as well but Judah was never 'divorced' by HaShem as was Ephraim (i.e. the Ten Lost Tribes), they were merely chastised: ... "and there was none left but the tribe of Judah only" (II Kings 17:18). This experience was a further culling of the people by HaShem. It demonstrated the importance of loyalty and obedience to His Torah and established that HaShem is sovereign in the affairs of humanity. He builds up or removes governments as He desires (Daniel 4:17).

HaShem chose in favor of Judah and secured their continued existence as His Elect, the holders of the Covenant. Judah then is People Israel. All of Israel that survived established themselves as "the Jews." From then on the Covenant and Promise passed only through Judah (and Benjamin), the Jewish people.

HaShem will not forget the people of the Ten Houses forever however. Once Messiah is ruling, the Ten Houses will be restored under the authority of Judah (and 'the Lion of the House of Judah') and Israel will again be unified under the rule of Melech HaMashiach ben David (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 3:6-18; Hosea 1-3; Amos 9:8-10; Obadiah 15-21; Micah 2:12-13; 5:3-15; Zechariah 8:13; 9, 10; Ezekiel 34-37). May it be soon and during our our lifetime!


While the Covenant was established with the Semitic Hebrews through Avraham, Isaac and Jacob, throughout Jewish history our second way 'to be Jewish' has also applied: gerut or conversion.

It is not necessary for one to be a physical descendent of Shem through Avraham and Isaac in order to be a Jew. Indeed the Ashkenazim are believed to be physical descendents of Noah's grandson Ashkenaz (son of Japheth: Genesis 10:3) not Shem, and yet they hold a vital place within People Israel. They are descendents from converts. About converts Rambam wrote:

"Loving the convert who has taken refuge (lit., 'came and entered') beneath the wings of the Divine Presence [comprises] two positive obligations, one because he is included in 'fellowship' (and so is included in the obligation to love one's fellow as himself (Leviticus 19:18), and two because he is a convert and the Torah said, 'You shall love the convert' (Deuteronomy 10:19). [The Torah] commanded to love the convert as it commanded to love G-d (lit., 'His Name'), as it is stated, 'And you shall love the Lord your G-d' (Deuteronomy 6:5). G-d Himself loves converts, as it is stated, '...and loves [the] convert'" [Source of this quote.]

But again, who has the authority to make converts? What are the requirements? This is the subject of part three.

Go to: Part 1 -- Who Is A Jew?
Go to: Part 3 -- Becoming Jewish
Go to: Part 4 -- Our Movements
Go to: Part 5 -- Why Be Jewish? With Rabbi Meir Kahane (ZK"L)
Go to: Part 6 -- By the Numbers
As always, I invite you to Contact Me with questions or thoughts.

Be the Blessing you were created to be
Don't let the perfect defeat the good

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