When I was in high school, I learned two truths that would change my world. The first truth I learned was that my male relatives were detained in Egyptian internment camps during the Six Day war. The war lasted six days, but the Egyptian government’s internment of Jewish males lasted approximately three years. The second truth I learned was that every year my Uncle Ben had personally slaughtered the lamb we ate on Passover. I never knew any of this till my high school years. Crazy.
This weekend, Jews throughout the world will be retelling the story of our national exodus from Egypt. And in the traditional haggadah reading, both Karaites and Rabbanites recite the following three words from Deuteronomy 26:5: Arami Oved Avi. The most common translation of these words is “My father (“avi”) was a wandering (“oved”) Aramaean (“arami’)”. This is in fact how the Jewish Publication Society has chosen to interpret these words.
There is an interesting debate in the Rabbinic community about what these words mean. But none of the Rabbinic opinions I have come across is fully satisfying. The historical Karaites have a unique interpretation of these words. And that interpretation is also not perfect. At the end of this post, you can vote on the interpretation you believe is the “best.”
With the Feast of Unleavened Bread quickly approaching, I wanted to make sure that everyone had easy access to my previous posts on the topic. Today, there is nothing new, just a bunch of old posts I wanted to bring back to your attention.
On Thursday, I will chime in with some breaking news.
A few weeks ago, I received a well-reasoned and thoughtful letter from a (non-historically Karaite) Jewish man who has been attending the Karaite Jewish synagogue in Daly City for a few months. He said that the Shabbat service is the best asset the KJA has, because it is more engaging than its Rabbinic counterparts. He added, though, that he hoped the KJA would find a way to make more parts of the service accessible to persons who do not speak Hebrew.
His email to me was well-timed; the KJA had just put together a committee to review its siddur and to reflect on the nature of our services. Exciting things are on the horizon.
For those of you following along, you now know why I have been posting more frequently about the need to revive historical Karaite Jewish literature. In my personal opinion, one part of the decline of the Karaite movement was that we stopped reading our own literature. And when we stopped reading our own literature, we stopped writing our own literature. Writing our own literature is absolutely crucial to the survival of the Karaite Jewish movement.
The Karaite Press aims to take the lead in reviving historical Karaite literature – with the ultimate goals of educating about the unique perspective preserved by this literature and inspiring the creation of new Karaite works. Today, I share some of the vision of the Karaite Press.
I’ve been unfaithful. Instead of blogging, I’ve been working with the Karaite Jews of America on launching The Karaite Press. I will provide a more detailed overview of The Karaite Press, its vision, and its goals in the coming weeks. For now, I want to make sure everyone knows that The Karaite Press’ first publication, Esther Explained, is available at a pre-sale price of $14. But if you enter discount code “KJA”, you can save an extra 15%.
After the jump you can see some more of the marketing material.
In 1979, Hadassah Magazine visited the last remaining Karaite Jews of Cairo, Egypt. The magazine provides this tidbit regarding the shochet of the community, Farag Murad Yehuda Menashe:
[H]e will read a Haggada based on biblical texts, free of all Talmudic references. He will have no seder plate, no four questions, and no four cups of wine. His Shavuot will always fall on Sunday, and instead of fasting on the Ninth of Av, he will fast on the seventh and tenth. He has never heard the shofar blown, never put on tefillin, and never affixed a mezuzah to the doorpost of his home, and never lit a hanukkiya. (Indeed, Hanukkah is totally absent from his calendar.)