Parshas BaMidbar
Numbers 1:1 - 4:20

What Tribe Are You From? ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mrs. Ethel Sakash Belk, my mother, may she rest in peace.

Story: The Jewish Ancestral Tribe I Belong To
Many years ago my family was in the printing business. We owned several retail outlets in the suburbs of the metro area. When times became difficult it was necessary to downsize. We sold one store and closed another. That left us with only one store.

The individual who purchased our store was not interested in our accounts. He was only interested in our equipment. So we kept the accounts from both stores.

One day after downsizing I received a phone call from a client of a former store. He stated something like, "I have some copies to make and was wondering where your new location was."

I responded, thinking of the distance from the store we sold to our present location, "Why not go to our old store? They have quality copy machines. They are using the same copy machines we used to use."

He responded, "They don't do it right! I don't like doing business with them. Something funny's going on over there..."

I said, "Sir, we are a great distance from our former store. There are many quality copy and print centers much closer." It didn't matter! He wanted to do business with us. It seemed strange to me that a man would drive thirty to forty-five minutes through traffic for copies. The rest of the family just considered him a loyal customer and were proud of the fact he demonstrated that loyalty. Every time he would come by for copies, whoever waited on him would comment "so and so" was by for copies today. This continued for some time. One day I spoke with the gentleman while making his copies. "Sir, I do not believe you are coming here because of the quality of our copies. I do not think it has anything to do with customer loyalty."

He smiled in his friendly way and said, "You're right!"

Curious, I asked, "Why? Why do you drive so far out of the way to use our services?"

Pointing to our mezzuzah he said, "You see that little box over there on the door?"

I said, "Yes."

He said, "That means your Jewish, doesn't it?"

I confirmed, "But what does that have to do with you visiting our store? Why do you pass up dozens of businesses to come here?"

He said, "Do you know what tribe you belong to? He was referring to which of the twelve tribes of B'nei Yisroel I descended from.

I responded. "No." It was now clear why he was so dedicated to using our services. The man was a Mormon.

The friendly gentleman continued, "I'm a Mormon."

I interrupted, "I know that... I understand!"

He continued, "We believe that Jews will..."

I interrupted again completing his sentence, "...serve in your future temple..."

He said, "Yes."

We had a light exchange. He was pleasant. . His reason for driving all those miles and spending hours of commuting for copies was to eventually establish a friendship and to find out what tribe we descended from. Once I confronted him about his beliefs, he never returned.

Dear reader, most Jews do not know what tribe they descended from. If fact many Jews don't know they're Jewish. A dear rabbi friend told the story of a middle aged woman whose mother on her deathbed instructed her to open an old chest. Upon opening the chest the lady found two Shabbos candlesticks, at which point the mother said, "We're Jewish."

A young man who was adopted was summoned to his adoptive mother's bedside. Her last words to him were, "You're Jewish."

A young man in his mid twenties was visiting his foster parents with his wife and children when, out of the blue, they stated to him, "We raised you Christian but you're Jewish."

Holy readers, I am from a family where Judaism has been hidden for many years. G-d forbid! The light could go out in my family's Judaism. Unfortunately it happens... There are many people of Jewish descent who do not have a clue. Several years ago Naomi and I began a web site with only one intention in mind: "CONNECT WITH OTHER JEWS IN OUR COUNTY." It is not a religious site. It only has one Torah page on the entire site. The page is hidden. It is not easy to find, yet over several years our Torah page has grown in readership from zero to about thirty per month. Occasionally we receive an e-mail from one of our Jewish readers. Occasionally someone will mention to me that a certain person in our community is Jewish. This past year at Sukkos time we sent invitations to people we confirmed as Jewish, people rumored as being Jewish and people with Jewish last names. The response was interesting. A few accepted our invitation for a meal in our sukkah. A few visited our sukkah. One was an individual whose adopted child was Jewish. One phoned and many did not respond.

This week's parsha states that men were called to army service based on the tribe they descended from. See Numbers 1: 17 - 45. "And all the witnesses came together, in [day]one, on the month's renewal of [month] two. And they registered according to their family ancestry according to the father's house, each man from twenty years and above. " Numbers 1:16 Camps were established according to family ancestry. "And camp, sons of Yisroel, each man at his own camp and each man at his [family's] standard bearer according to troop divisions.

Holy reader, what we receive from our weekly parsha is that every Jew had a family ancestry and based upon that ancestry each Jew had a specific place where they were to live, work, receive orders and defend if necessary. Much of this specific importance has dissolved unfortunately because of assimilation. Now many of us do not know from which family we descended. As a result we live in a certain degree of confusion as to where we should live, work and receive orders from. That is most unfortunate!

Yet we, thank G-d, can rally around a Jewish banner. We are Jewish! We can identify with Judaism. We can support Judaism. We can support Yisroel which is every Jew's eventual destiny. We can rally around our Torah! We can identify with Torah objectives. We can uphold some form of observance. We can still be very Jewish! We can establish a Jewish identity and a Torah connection that we can be very proud of. We can return to the G-d of our fathers. We can return to a Torah observant life. Our Torah observance may not be what others expect of us, yet we can find a family banner to rally around and to live under and to receive orders from so to speak.

If we can help you with your Jewish identity please contact us. We are looking for that lost Jew...

Good Shabbos!

Dr. Akiva G. Belk


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