Ten Tribes: Burma
In the mountainous region which lies on both sides of the border
between India and Myanmar (former Burma), lives the Menashe (Shinlung)
tribe which numbers between 1-2 million people. They intermarried
with the Chinese and look Chinese-Burmas, but the entire tribe is
conscious of their Israeli ancestry.
the tribe of Menashe we can see the custom of animal sacrifice in
the same way which had been done among the Ten Tribes of Israel.
word Menashe appears often in their poetry and prayer. It is the
name of their ancestor and they call themselves children of Menashe
(Beni Menashe). When they pray, they say, "Oh, God of Menashe,"
which is from the name Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribe of Israel.
to the history which they state, They were exiled to Assyria in
722 BCE with other Tribes of Israel. Later, Assyria was conquered
by Babylon (607 BCE), which later was conquered by Persia (457 BCE),
which later was conquered by Greece of Alexander the Great (331
BCE), when the people of Menashe were deported from Persia to Afghanistan
and other places.
they became shepherds and Idol worshipers. With the conquest of
Islam, they were forced to convert to Islam. Because of their speaking
Hebrew they were called the Semitic speakers. Throughout this entire
period they possessed a Hebrew Torah scroll which they guarded with
their elders and their priest.
Afghanistan their migration continued eastward until they reached
the area of the Tibetan-Chinese border. From there they continued
into China following the Wei River until they reach the central
China. They settled there at about 231 BCE.
the Chinese were cruel to them and made them as slaves. Some of
them escaped and lived in caves in the mountainous areas called
Shinlung, which became another name for the tribe of Menashe. They
are also called the cave people or the mountain people.
people lived in caves in poverty for about two generations but they
still kept the Torah scroll with them. But they started to assimilate
and have Chinese influences. Later they were banished from their
cave area and went west through Thailand and eventually reached
the area in Myanmar.
they wandered along the river until they reached Mandaley. From
there they reached the Chin Mountains. In the 18th century a part
of them migrated to Manipur and Mizoram which are in northeastern
India. Generally, they maintained the tradition about their wandering
and they realized that they were not Chinese even though they spoke
the local language.
call them themselves Lusi which means the Ten Tribe ("Lu" means
tribes, and "si" means ten).
Customs Among the Tribe of Menashe
to the history which Menashe people state, when they were banished
from their cave area they lost their Torah scroll when or perhaps
it was stolen or burnt by the Chinese. But the priests of the tribe
of Menashe continued to hand down their tradition orally including
their ritual observances until the 19th century.
had kept the custom of circumcision, which when it became difficult
was no longer practiced but they blessed the child in a special
ceremony on the 8th day. They also had holy days which were very
similar to the Jewish days, and even practice levirate marriage
where the younger brother had to marry the older brother's widow
to keep the name within the family.
following poem accompanied them throughout their migrations. It
is a traditional song about the crossing of the Red Sea which was
written by their ancestors. This is the English translation:
must keep the Passover feast
we crossed the Red Sea by dry land
At night we crossed with a fire
And By day with a cloud
Enemies pursued us with chariots
And the sea swallowed them up
And used them as food for the fish
And when we were thirsty
We received water from the rock
content is similar to the experience of Israelites written in Exodus.
The people of Menashe call their God Y'wa, which is similar to God's
every village they had a priest whose name was always Aaron, the
brother of Moses and the first Jewish priest. One of his duties
was to watch over the village. There were two priests in the larger
priesthood was passed down only by inheritance. They were involved
with worshiping and the offering of sacrifices. The priest wore
a tunic and a breastplate and an embroidered coat fastened with
a belt and a crown on his head. And they always sang about Menashe
at the beginning of each gathering.
case of illness the priest was called to bless the sick person and
to offer sacrifice for his recovery. The priest would slaughter
a sheep or a goat and smear the blood on the ear, back and legs
of the sick person while reciting verses from the Torah at the same
time, similar to Leviticus 14:14.
the atonement of sins a goat was offered in an altar just as it
was in the ancient temple and the blood was sprinkled on the horns
of the altar and the meat was eaten by the people. Yom Kippur was
observed as a day of atonement once a year same as among Jews. The
holy vessels of the priest were not made of metal but of clay, cloth
ceremonies were held by the priest in the case of certain illnesses.
This is a form of atonement carried out with a bird the wings of
which were sacrificed and the feathers thrown in the wind. In the
case of leprosy the priest would offer a bird in the field.
is also apparent that they practice idol worship and had superstitions
regarding spirits and demons. They also believed in reincarnation
but at the same time they believed in a God in heaven to whom they
would turn in times of trouble.
this group in the jungles of Burma in 1963 or 1964 and I can describe
their offerings and sacrifices as exactly the same as was offered
in the Bible.
is so amazing to me that in Burma, the Mizo tribe, untouched by
the missionaries, and the source of the Bnai Menashe, have so many
ancient Jewish ceremonies and rituals, as circumcision, Sabbath,
holidays, etc. and this group must be studied seriously. I think
the Israeli universities should send a team of scholars, historians,
anthropologists, biologists, rabbis to study the Mizo in Burma.
I will gladly join them.
1854 with the arrival of the first American missionary, V. Petigrore
of the Baptist Mission, the church was established. In 1910 more
missionaries came and they established churches in their area of
northern India. As a result, the tribal priest lost his stature
and the community was subjected to Christian influences and pressure.
With the spread of Christianity along the land, they were again
subject to great pressures and many of their religious articles
were then thrown away or burned by the British and American missionaries
a return to Judaism began. Several thousand people of Menashe decided
to observe the laws of the Torah and returned to Judaism. They have
synagogues in Manipur, Assam, and Mizoram. There are also those
who emigrated to Israel. Thousands long for returning to Israel.