Passover Supplies Sent to Bnei Menashe in India
The Bnei Menashe, a group claiming descent from a lost tribe of Israel, will enjoy a kosher for Passover festival this year thanks to provisions being sent from Jerusalem. The Amishav organization, which reaches out and assists “lost Jews” seeking to return to the Jewish people, has arranged for the dispatch of hundreds of kilograms of matza and dozens of bottles of kosher for Passover wine to the Bnei Menashe, who reside in the northeastern Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur. “Passover is full of symbolic and religious meaning for the Bnei Menashe,” said Michael Freund, Amishav’s Director and an Arutz-7 radio and television host. “They are anxious to observe its rituals to the fullest extent possible, so we have sent them the supplies they need in order to do so.”
An Amishav emissary will conduct a traditional Seder at the group’s Hebrew Center, located in Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram. Local government ministers, as well as some 350 members of the Bnei Menashe, are expected to attend. Freund noted that up until the arrival of British missionaries in northeastern India a century ago, the Bnei Menashe had celebrated an annual springtime festival known as “Chap char Khut”, corresponding to Passover. As part of the ritual, he added, a village priest would sacrifice an animal, and then spread it on the doorposts of his home, just as the Jewish people had done in Egypt at the time of the Exodus. The priest would then separate the meat from the bones of the animal’s carcass with particular care, as even one broken bone would invalidate it for use in the sacrifice. “This, of course, mirrors the law of the korban Pesach (the Passover sacrifice), where the Torah says that not one bone of it may be broken,” Freund said.
Then, while offering the animal on an altar to G-d, the priest would recite a series of ancient chants, one of which read as follows: “We had to cross the Red Sea, our enemies were coming after us with chariots, the Sea swallowed them all as if they were meat. We were led by the cloud during the day, and by fire at night. Take those birds for the food, and drink water coming out from the rock.” The Bnei Menashe claim descent from the tribe of Manasseh, one of the ten tribes exiled from the Land of Israel by the Assyrians more than 2700 years ago. In the past decade, Amishav has brought more than 800 Bnei Menashe to Israel, where they undergo a formal return to Judaism via conversion by the Chief Rabbinate. Approximately 6,000 Bnei Menashe remain in India, all of whom wish to make aliyah. Since June of last year, however, Interior Minister Avraham Poraz of Shinui has refused to allow them to come.