Saturday, September 7, 2013

Place of Karaites in Modern Israel

NY Times  [...] That means that while most Israelis began celebrating Rosh Hashana at sundown on Wednesday, Karaite Jews are not set to start the Jewish New Year until Saturday — another example of the challenge this ancient sect has in holding on to its traditions in a state where Judaism is dominated by the Orthodox. 

For the Karaites, who split from rabbinical Judaism more than 1,000 years ago, being a couple of days out of sync is a mark of otherness. While most Israelis know little about them, other than to say that they pray “like Muslims,” the Karaites say that the Orthodox authorities — their centuries-old nemesis — have tried to wear them down in an effort to subsume them into the rabbinical mainstream. 

But a new generation of Karaite leaders has taken up the struggle to anchor their place in modern Israel.[...]

Generally, though, the community is estimated at 30,000 to 50,000, out of Israel’s population of eight million. There are also smaller communities in the United States, Turkey and Europe. Most came to Israel from Egypt in three waves starting in 1948, when the state was founded, and 1970. Many live in Ramla or the Mediterranean port city of Ashdod. Others are in smaller concentrations around the country.[...]


  1. Rav Saadia Gaon already put these reshoyim into their place.

  2. שו"ת יביע אומר חלק ח - אבן העזר סימן יב

    המורם מכל האמור שיש מקום רב לקרב את הקראים, ולהתיר להם לישא בת ישראל, לאחר קבלת דברי חברות, והנכון לשלוח אותם תחלה אצל תלמיד חכם ירא שמים, ללמוד את עיקרי ההלכות של יסודות היהדות, כגון שבת ומועדי ישראל, ובפרט פסח וכיפור, וכן עניני הכשרות, וטהרת המשפחה, גם את הבחור וגם את הבחורה שעומדים להנשא זה לזה, כדי שידעו את הדרך אשר ילכו בה ואת המעשה אשר יעשום, וכן יש להטיל על הבחור ללכת אל בית הכנסת שלנו הסמוך למעונו, כדי שיתרגל בנוסחי תפלתינו ויתחזק בתורה ויראת שמים, ורק אח"כ יקבלוהו להשיאו אשה בת ישראל לאחר קבלת דברי חברות.

  3. there is a specific question and the general one. The specific question is what is interesting about this article. They are essentially following the practice of the Sanhedrin, in witnessing the New moon, and fixing their calendar like that. Of course, Rabbonim will say that they have no such authority to watch the moon, and must follow the fixed calendar. But since they never accepted the Talmud, then what they are doing is not inherently treif - since it is what the Hachamim would do anyway! So it boils down to authority.

    The general question , of course has been debated for centuries and many books written on it.

    1. You couldn't be more wrong. For one thing, the Karaites only rejected the Talmud and the Rabbinate centuries AFTER it had been universally accepted by the Jewish People. Karaism only came about in the 10th Century.

      More importantly, Rav Saadia already addressed and rejected all your points.

    2. But in reality, karaites developed later, so saying "they never accepted the Talmud" isn't really accurate. They weren't around to accept or decline it. They are johnny-come-lately's.

    3. The Talmud was never universally accepted. There were sects, probably descendants of the Sadducees, and the Persian exile, who did not accept it. I am not justifying that, I am simply pointing out that they rely on the practice of Chazal at the time of the Sanhedrin, in witnessing a new moon.
      You are right, Anan was a Chacham, who turned somewhat Karaite, but he wasn't the founder of the Bnei Mikre.

      I don't know where Saadia rejected my points. Can you point me to the sefer in question?

      The question I am raising is as follows: if we had a Sanhedrin today, would it still keep with the fixed calendar, or based on witnessing the new moon? The Karaites are doing the latter. If the Sanhedrin would also do the latter, then there is nothing to refute about my point.

    4. The Sanhedrin themselves, in their last act, established the set calendar we use today and then disbanded. So anyone who accepts the rulings of the Sanhedrin, and we all must accept the Sanhedrin's rulings, must accept the Sanhedrin's establishment of Hillel II's calendar as permanent until Moshiach. Refusal to accept that is treason against the Sanhedrin and the Torah. And that is what the Karaites are unambiguously guilty of.

    5. Hillel II lived around 330 CE. That is 260 years after the Hurban. His "sanhedrin" did not have the same authority (d'oraita) of that on Har habayit - lishkat hagazit.
      Let me emphasize, I am not advocating anything, nor that we shift our calendar.

      We could get a Sanhedrin before Moshiach comes.
      My only point was and is that the Sanhedrin of Lishkat haGazit would declare a new moon by seeing it, and not by fixed calendar. This is what is being re-enacted by the karaites. I said nothing more and nothing less.
      If they allowed polygamy, I would also say that this was practiced prior to the Herem of Rabbenu Gershom. It is not the same as advocating that we do the same.

    6. You are incorrect. The Sanhedrin continued, with all its authority, for a few hundred years after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.

      Your polygamy comparison is invalid. Polygamy is only prohibited among Ashkenazim. Non-Ashekenazim even today are permitted to marry polygamously.

    7. Tirshata, your reply doesn't make any logical sense. You are claiming that the Sanhedrin outside of the lishkat hagazit did not have the authority of Sanhedrin. Aside from that being factually incorrect, you also then claim that the karaites, by simply mimicking or 're-enacting' the actions a lishkat hagazit sanhedrin (by people not even remotely on the level of authority of Hillel II's group), are authoritative or somehow authentic in what they do? That's absurd.

  4. And, most importantly, it really does not matter that "The Entire Jewish People Accepted the Talmud" since there is no reason a dead person's decision should be binding on the living. In fact, cannot think of a reason that a living person's decision should be binding on anyone.

    1. So go ahead and reject all of Judaism's principals that were established over the last 3500 years by people who are now "dead".

    2. More importantly than 'the entire jewish people accepted the talmud' is that the Talmud is a continuation and embodiment of the Torah-based leadership and legal system that preceded the generations of the talmud and of the tannaim and amoraim. These leaders are what matter, not the masses. Given Rambam's disdain for the masses, something tells me it's a misunderstanding of his point to use that above-quoted phrase as a literal description.
      hillel and shammai weren't born in a vacuum. The chachamim certainly innovated but they were continuing a tradition before them, the mantle of leadership was transitioned to them. Those who reject talmud or the talmudic process in general (torah she baal peh) are not part of the Jewish people. You can decide to join them even if we think that decision is wrong. I'm not sure what point you are trying to make, then.

    3. One more interesting point about the Karaites. For a moment, just drop the polemics. During their golden age, they were very significant, and had their Gedolim.
      Contrary to what R' Yehuda hALevi claims in the Kuzari, the vowelisation "niqqud" we have in Hebrew was not given at Sinai.
      The Massoretes invented these vowels, to make reading easier for us. There were a few systems, but the karaite ssytem is the one we have adopted.

      The Massoretes in Tiberias were dominated by the Bnei Mikre - or the early karaites. The Massoretic text of the Torah we have today, was the version of ben Asher, who is widely believed to have been a karaite. Maimonides chose this nusach as the best Text in town,despite Ben Asher being a karaite. Saadia, who was the biggest opponent of the karaites, preferred the Ben Naftali Text, who was a Pharisee, or a rabbinic Jew. Saadia even blasts Ben ASher the Msorete. His father, wrote in the introduction to the text, that the entire TenaCh is equal in value for halachic decisions - which is a clearly karaitic belief.

      Now some rabbis are trying to reclaim Ben Asher as having been a Rav, not a karaite - but this is not convincing.

      So, whatever opposition we may have to them, they have preserved the text of the Torah, and we rely on their version, which was superior to Ben Naphtali's version.

    4. The Reform and Conservatives also have their "Gedolim".

      Their are no so-called "Massoretes". You are referring to the Rishonim themselves.

      Your "facts" are wrong. Whether you are "convinced" or not.

      The Karaites have always been rejected from the get-go.

    5. What we use today was always preserved in Klal Yisroel by regular religious Jews (non-karaites).

    6. "Their are no so-called "Massoretes". You are referring to the Rishonim themselves."

      Incorrect. The text is called the maroetic text, you are just living in an artscroll bubble.

      "What we use today was always preserved in Klal Yisroel by regular religious Jews "

      You are simply rewriting history to suit your own ideology.

      Maimonides himself stated that the variety of texts was a shambles, with no reliable version, until he saw Ben Asher's copy. History didn't begin with Artscroll. The vowels did not exist in 1st or 2nd temple periods.

    7. So it's "polemics" to point out that a rejection of Torah shebaal peh doesn't make logical sense for Jews given the reality of historical events?
      So what should we call what you are doing? Btw, are you using multiple screen names in this discussion? If so, why?

    8. No, I am avoiding the polemics between Rabbis and karaites, since this is not the issue here. The issue is the contribution of the Massoretes to all of Judaism, namely the Massoretic text which Maimonides accepted, and the Tiberian diacritic vowels. And scholars in general consider ben Asher to have been a karaite.

      If you wish to argue that rejecting Torah She b'al peh is illogical, that is fine, but we rely on a script which was preserved by Ben Asher who did that nevertheless.

    9. Who cares what secular "scholars" consider regarding Ben Asher or that he was a Karaite. They are wrong about this as they are wrong about much else. Ben Asher was no Karaite.

    10. This bubbe maaisa by "scholars" about Ben Asher only came into their silly heads almost 1,000 years after Ben Asher's time. He was always, correctly, known as a true and righteous Jew. Suddenly with the Cairo Geniza, "scholars" dreamt up all sorts of flukes such as that Ben Asher was a Karaite. He was far from one.

    11. And it is only a few so-called "scholars" that even asserted this absurdity that Ben Asher was a Karaite. It is very far from being accepted even in the academic world.

      Also note that Rambam, who heartily accepted and promoted Ben Asher's vowel system, was a stringent anti-Karaite.

    12. So, frankly, Mr. Tirshata your entire premise on this thread here is based on the false notion of Ben Asher. And thus virtually everything you've commented about is undermined and invalid. This entire claim about Ben Asher being a Karaite is a New Age claim coming nearly 1,000 years after Ben Asher, during which the entire time it was known he was not any Karaite.

      And your above refeence to Saadia Gaon is also incorrect. The "Ben Asher" Saadia Gaon refers to he makes NO mention of him being a masorete and it is indeed a different person as was always widely known. The notion that Saadia Gaon was referring to the masorete Ben Asher is also a New Age claim that came about when those folks were reinventing history in the early 1900s, based on finds and specious interpretations from the Cairo Geniza.

    13. In fact upon further inquiry, it was only over the past 40 or 50 years or so that this absurd notion that Ben Asher was a Karaite was introduced into anyone's claims. And even those few making this claim admit they are uncertain.

    14. Dotan (Sinai, 41 (1957), 280ff.) and M. Zucker (Tarbiz, 27 (1957/58), 61ff.) hold that Aaron Ben-Asher and his family were not Karaites.

      So even scholars admit as much. (Not that we need scholars to verify this fact.)

    15. Wow Abe, you are making a claim with zero evidence to back it. This is a circular argument you present. Since you repeat 10 posts with no evidence, that is your so-caleld proof?
      The argument for Maimonides is also a fallacy. He was certainly anti-karaite, but that does not prove that Ben Asher was a Rabbi.

      This is an interesting article about a teshuva of Maimonides - where he says Karaite wine is permitted, since they are not idolaters!

      So it actually destroys your so-called argument that Maimonides could not have accepted a Torah written by a karaite, considering that he permits their wine!

  5. This is an essay by a Qaraite scholar on the 2 Ben Asher Codices

    The Colophon - which is the Massoretic notes at the end - by Moshe ben Asher (father of Aharon) writes a dedication to the Synagogue of the Bnei Mikre (Qaraites) and prays that the Karaite Shul will be built and established! Are these the words of an Orthodox Rav, that you allege Ben Asher was?

    If the Orthodox hate Qaraites so much, as Abe Davids clearly does, how on earth could one of your Gedolim pray for the Qaraite shul to be established forever?

    It is clear that Moshe ben Asher was a Qarai, he does not cite any of the Sages of the Talmud, which is another smoking gun for his non Rabbinic beliefs.


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