Rechavam is King Shlomos (Solomon's) successor. Shortly after his coronation, ten tribes break away from his rule. He retains the tribes of Yehuda (Judah) and Binyamin (Benjamin) and the Temple is under his sovereignty.
This loss of power was foretold to Shlomo by the prophets. The Oral Torah takes a lesson from the way it happened.
Shlomo levied heavy taxes on the people and they asked Rechavam for relief. The new monarch asked his Elders for advice. They told him that he would win the peoples loyalty if he were to reduce their tax burden. Rechavam then asked his contemporaries for advice, members of the younger generation. They advise him to make a stand and show the people that he is the king. This made more sense to Rechavam and he unfortunately followed their advice.
The Oral Torah encapsulates this in the following lesson: Demolition of Elders is a construction. Construction of youngsters is a demolition.
The Ten Tribes become the Kingdom of Yisroel (Israel) and the remaining tribes form the Kingdom of Yehuda (Judea).
Yisroel is politically, militarily, and economically stronger than Yehudah. However, Yehuda is spiritually stronger. Over time, only Yehudah will survive.
Yeravam rules over Yisroel. He is an outstanding scholar who unfortunately becomes corrupt and introduces idolatry.
It started in the following manner. Out of respect to the presence of G-d, no one is permitted to sit down in the Temple courtyard, with the exception of kings from the Davidic dynasty. Yeravam could not envision himself standing among the people during the three pilgrimage festivals while Rechavam was privileged to sit in the Temple courtyard. Because of this political disadvantage, Yeravam did the unthinkable. He established his own Temples which housed no less than a set of golden calves. He also set up a blockade to prevent his people from celebrating the holidays in Jerusalem.
Yeravam disregarded Torah observance. By doing so, he damaged the Jewish peoples basis of unity and commonality. Through his tampering with Torah observance, he broke the commitment that his people made to G-d, thereby placing their welfare in jeopardy.
Yeravam is remembered as a sinner who caused others to sin. He is denounced because this adversely affects the eternity of others. The Oral Torah views this as a crime of the worst nature. It declares that all who sin and who also cause others to sin have no share in the World To Come.
Since Yeravams time, we have unfortunately experienced a number of similar break-away movements. They have taken their followers away from Judaism and out of the path towards Jewish greatness and destiny.
The open disloyalty to the Torah is not acceptable to all of Yeravams people. They lack the power to mount a revolution. Some have said that many of Yeravams people resisted passively by abandoning their homes and ancestral estates and moving to Yehuda. In an agricultural society where being landless and poor are synonymous, this was an act of heroism.
The Kingdom of Yisroel is ruled by a number of short-lived dynasties. Most of the political leadership loses touch with the Torah and their roots. Most of the kings are driven by imperialism, many worship idolatry, and the government is plagued by coups.
Some two-hundred-forty years after the split, the ten tribes are be taken into captivity by Aram and Ashur (Assyria). The prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) will bring a small number back to the Jewish land.
Most Jewish people today are descendants from the Tribes of Yehudah, Binyamin, and Levi. Other than descendants from Levi, most Jewish people do not know which tribe they are from.
We believe that no tribe will ever become completely lost to the Jewish people. The Ten tribes are mostly represented by the descendants of those who moved to Yehuda and by those who returned with Yirmiyahu. The rest are lost to the mainstream of Jewish history.
There is a legend that the people of Ten Tribes are alive and well in some far-off land that is bounded by a magic river. Time will tell whether this is true or whether this is the product of wishful thinking.
As a political entity, the Ten Tribes fall into the ash bin of history.
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