A little confused (well, maybe a lot) about 12 lost tribes and current Jewish "division": Are Ashkenazim Jews one of them (12 tribes)? What about Sephardi?

  • 1
    I believe you mean 10 lost tribes
    – sam
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 15:33

2 Answers 2


Ashkenaz and Sfard are modern divisions based on where those groups lived during the time of the galus (exile). They have nothing to do with the original division into the twelve tribes. Consider that after the revolt against Rechav'am (son of Shlomo Hamelech) many members of the twelve tribes resettled in Yehudah because they maintained loyalty to Hashem. After the dispersion of the ten tribes, more of them fled to Yehudah. After the destruction of the two temples many lost the identity of their original tribes.

The term Sephardi means "Spanish" and results from the expulsion from Spain in 1492. That is why others (such as the Yemenite Jews) are called Eidot Hamizrach (the Eastern Communities).

Ashkenaz means Germany (though it includes Northern and western Europe) and after the expulsions of Europe they basically settled in Eastern Europe.

Other communities became mixed with these two main groups. Since the Shulchan Aruch and the Ramah's gloss became the main halachic standard, they are the two groups that are most known.

  • OK - such explanation then begs for 2 more questions(and i am not sure if that is allowed by Stack exchange, but I'll try) 1) from what i know (forgive my ignorance if i am wrong) - there were 12 tribes(according to the legend) , 10 are lost, what are the 2 that NOT lost? 2) origins of the words Ashkenazim and Sephardi are well known, but one question still remains: how and from where Jews in middle ages migrated to the territories of modern France and Germany(Ashkenazi) and Spain (Sephardi)
    – Ben
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 1:13
  • 1
    this is an LDS site but the map is nice lds.org/ensign/1982/01/judah-through-the-centuries?lang=eng
    – rosends
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 1:28
  • Thanks Danno for the map and timeline! It is indeed very nice map. It does have small mistake about Eastern European Jews: they were in Poland few centures early than map says see here , but of course on grand schema of history it is negligible.
    – Ben
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 1:50
  • 1
    Yemenite Jews are not Edot Mizrach. That's for Iraqi/Persian/Afghani/Egyptian/Syrians.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 1:57
  • 2
    @Ben The two tribes that stayed loyal to Rechav'am were Judah and Benjamin. The tribe of Levi (and Kohanim) were not considered because they did not have a territory and were connected to the Bais Hamikdash. Yosef was the tribes of Menashe and Ephraim Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 3:35

Apperentaly, yes, the Ashkenazi Jews are (part of) the Tribe of Judah (which is the source of the word "Jew", in Hebrew "יהודה" is the Tribe of Judah and "יהודי" is Jewish) and the Tribe of Binyamin (those two tribes were not exiled with the rest of Bnei Yisrael). And so are the Spheradic Jews.

In Addition, the Tribe of Levi was disperssed and assimilated within the other tribes and thus, when we lost contact with the Ten Lost Tribes, a portion of Levi members remained with Judah.

However: in Targum Yonatan (Bereishis, 49, 8) he writes that the blessing to Yehuda included that all the tribes be named after him, and some say that from the Tefila in Parashat Haneseiim of the month Nissan it is implied that it is unknown. Furthermore, some claim that the Ashkenazi Jews are might in fact the decendants of the ten tribes and they "prove" that claim from the Book of Obadiah (end of chapter 1) which is the Haftara of Parashas VaYishlach. It is seems to be opinion of the Aruch and the Maharshal (on the Gemara Yevamos, page 17). And you can find more info in the book "וַאֲשֶׁר תָּבֹאנָה יַגִּידוּ".

  • 1
    This isn't grounds for a downvote, but one of your points is incorrect; the levi'im were almost completely in Yehudah and Binyamin, as it says in Divrei HaYamim Bet 11:4: כִּֽי־עָזְב֣וּ הַלְוִיִּ֗ם אֶת־מִגְרְשֵׁיהֶם֙ וַאֲחֻזָּתָ֔ם וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ לִיהוּדָ֖ה וְלִֽירוּשָׁלִָ֑ם כִּֽי־הִזְנִיחָ֤ם יָֽרָבְעָם֙ וּבָנָ֔יו מִכַּהֵ֖ן לַיהוָֽה׃ For the Levites left their open land and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem; for Jeroboam and his sons cast them off, that they should not execute the priest’s office unto the LORD;
    – user9907
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 12:36

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .