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Sivan 25, 5774

The term "Bnei Israel"


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Question:
Dear Rabbi,

in a conversation with a friend who is not Jewish he asked if the Jewish belief is transfered from the Jewish mother to her child. I said that the child of a (halachically) Jewish woman is a Jew and in the first place its not about beliefs but about being a Jew and that all Jews are members of Bnei Israel. And all Bnei Israel are obligated to the mitzvot of the Torah.
My question however is if using the term Bnei Israel was accurate. The Torah says that the Children of Israel are to keep Shabbat for their generations, an eternal covenant and a sign between Hashem and Children of Israel (as in Shmot 31,16-17). Could this mean "future generations of the Children of Israel"?

The term Children of Israel appears also in later generations, (I found Judges 1,1 and in the Second book of Chronicles, 30,6 and 30,21).
However my thinking was this may or may not mean the same as "Children of Israel" in the Torah (in the Sinai-Desert).

However the question remaims for me, that even if in later generations (for example in the generation of Ezra) there were "Children of Israel" in the same sense as in the book of Exodus, and even if these terms are interchangeable, were all of Israel at that time or a later time, or even today part of the "children of Israel"?

I would also think of converts or people who had a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father, who from my understanding were and are not part of any tribe.
Are these people (who from my understanding are part of Israel) also part of the "children of Israel"? Or is the term "children of Israel" limited to jewish people who have a paternal lineage from one of the tribes?

Is it accurate to say that a convert to Judaism becomes part of both "Am Israel" and "Israel"? (are these two terms interchangeable?) And does he become part of "Bnei Israel"?

Thank you very,very much!

Answer:
Shalom! Converts are 100% Israel, there is no difference between Am Yisrael and Bnei Yisrael. Its actually a prohibition to differentiate between a Jew from birth and a convert.

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