My Birkat brings all the boys to the yard, I can teach and I won’t even charge. Or something like that. About a year ago, I was caught in what appeared at the time to be a mind-numbing debate over some minutiae regarding a single word in the Birkat Hamazon that appears in Karaite texts. It turns out the debate was not mind-numbing at all and a simple look through the Cairo Geniza would have solved the whole issue and explained a whole lot more.
There are a million times when it’s clear that Karaite voices are beyond the scope of what a Jewish educator is asking for. And I get that. If I am teaching Rabbinic Judaism, I am not likely to want to bring a bunch of Karaite sources. But if you send out a note asking for – and I quote – “diverse Torah reading voices and traditions”, please do not respond that Karaites are not within the bounds of what you are asking for.
When I was a kid, I received my formal Jewish education at Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City, CA. There, I met a guy named Aaron Moskowitz, who was one year older than me. He was always a nice guy. But poof, just like that he was gone. It turns out he moved away and I never actually interacted with him again until we connected on facebook, through a group for alumni of Alpha Epsilon Pi (the Jewish fraternity).
I asked the group whether anyone could help me create new, modern music for Karaite songs. I was even open to something like what Jimi Hendrix did to (and for) the National Anthem. Aaron was one of many people who said he could help. He said the project contained his two favorite things: Rock & Roll and Judaism.
Yes. I know it’s Wednesday. But what is time anymore? Today, I Monday-morning-quarterback my performance during my Judaism Unbound podcast interview. This is super meta for a Karaite. It’s like my gemara on the mishna that was the podcast.
Before I get started – HUGE shout out to Judaism Unbound for surpassing a million downloads recently!
“Ariella chanted the Torah portion using Egyptian te’amim (trope) – a combination of Karaite and Rabbanite – because she likes the sound of it.” Lex Rofeberg of Judaism Unbound sent me this in a facebook message with a link to the recordings. My reaction, and I quote, was, “Holy Smokes”. Is that phrase sacrilegious? Who knows.
A few years ago, when David Ovadia and Maryellen Himmel-Ovadia threw the grand-reopening events for the Karaite Jews of America’s synagogue and the launching of the Karaite Jewish Cultural Center in Daly City, California, they brought in an oud player to add some joy to the festivities. I was skeptical. I thought there was no this would resonate with American born Karaites. It was, at best, a tip of the cap to the Egyptian roots of the community. Or so I thought.
What has two thumbs and got deceived by Firkovich? This guy! Okay. To be honest, I can’t fully or even partially blame R. Abraham ben Shemuel Firkovich, the greatest collector of manuscripts in Karaite Jewish history, for the set of events that cost me $150. But he sure is a convenient target.