In the spirit of the halakha that one begins studying matters relevant to a holiday thirty days before the onset of that holiday, I am interrupting regular programming for this remarkable (and serious) television report, tackling the question whether the Libyan revolutionary leader Mu’ammar Al-Qadhafi is Jewish.
As a matter of introduction, I should note the remarkable prophecy at the end of the book of Yesha’yahu (66:18-21):
… the time cometh, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and shall see My glory. And I will work a sign among them [i.e. among the Gentile Nations], and I will send such as escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard My fame, neither have seen My glory; and they shall declare My glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brethren out of all the nations for an offering unto HASHEM, upon horses, and in chariots, and in fitters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to My holy mountain Jerusalem, saith HASHEM, as the children of Israel bring their offering in a clean vessel into the house of HASHEM. And of them also will I take for the Kohanim and for the Levites, saith HASHEM.
According to most commentaries, the emphasized verse at the end says that also from among the gentile nations will G”d take Kohanim. The problem is that while any gentile can choose to convert and become part of the Jewish people, there is no conversion process to the Kohen-hood. Now one could argue, as IIRC R’ David Kimchi proposes, that this is not to be taken literally, but rather to mean that also from among the nations will G”d choose pious, righteous people, for religious leadership by example. Such as Shemaya and Avtalyon, who were either the sons of converts, or were themselves converts, and on account of their great piety and scholarship became the top leaders of the Nation of Israel, including presiding over the Sanhedrin.
But most commentators take the verse literally. They resolve the difficulty by stating that among those who were believed to be gentiles, there will be discovered many Jews, who had assimilated away over the ages, who had forgotten they were Jewish. Some of those Jews will be the descendents of Kohanim, however, that would not be enough for them to still be Kohanim. Kohanim must descend from a Kohen on the paternal line, and none of the female ancestors may have been women legally prohibited from marrying Kohanim. Thus, the posit that some of the originally exiled and assimilated Kohanim and their descendants will unknowingly always have married Jewishly born women who were not divorcees.
This reminds me of a large painting of a bride on her wedding day, which is displayed in the Jewish Museum of Berlin. The bride stands by the window, and on the window sill lays a Bible, but not a Jewish Bible. It prominently features a cross on the cover. But the woman was Jewish, one of the possibly 100’000 Jews who are estimated to have converted to Christianity out of social ambitions, in the 19th century. However, she did not marry out. While she did marry in the church, intentionally or not, since she married a grandson of Moses Mendelsohn, theirs was a Jewish couple. Their story is only unique in that we can identify the players, but that story repeated itself countless times, and it is a recurring story that people discover they are really Jewish, and decide to return to the Jewish fold. Some of those people even discover that both their parents were Jewish, or that, unbeknownst to them, they had married a Jew. Such is the touch of Providence.
So is Qadhafi also one of those Jews, who will come back “Tarshish, Pul and Lud, … Tubal and Javan”? Watch the report below [hat tip: SE], and leave your opinion in the comments section: