The Shofar and the New Moon: Solving a Karaite Quandary (Reader Poll)

Yemenite Jew blowing the Shofar

I finally did it. For almost 20 years I have been thinking about how to reconcile Psalms 81 which specifically says to blow the Shofar on new moon with the traditional Karaite view that there is no commandment to blow the shofar on the Yom Teruah (i.e., what the Rabbanites call Rosh Ha-shanna), which is a new moon. And this weekend, as I was preparing for a class I taught at a Conservative Synagogue, I did it.

It was actually pretty easy once I read the entirety of Psalms 81 (and not just the part that was perplexing me).

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Filed under New Moon, Rosh Chodesh, Rosh Hashanah, Shofar, Yefet ben 'Ali, Yom Teruah

Reader Poll: Does God’s Mercy Extend to the Bird’s Nest?

An excerpt of the Liturgical Poem for Ki Tetzei

Today we ask two simple questions: Does God’s mercy extend to the bird’s nest? And if so, can we acknowledge this in prayer? Right away, my observant (and studied) Rabbanite readers know exactly where this is going. For everyone else, let me start at the beginning. Continue reading

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Filed under Aaron ben Joseph, Dr. Gabriel Wasserman, Eshkol Hakofer, Israel Maghribi, Judah Hadassi, Judeo-Arabic

My Vision: A Response to the Karaite Jews of America’s Open Request

I have thoughts for what should happen here and beyond.

Over the past few weeks, the Karaite Jews of America asked members of the community at large to share their vision regarding the future of Karaite Judaism. I did not respond directly to the KJA, because I thought that a very courageous public request deserves a public response. So, here are my thoughts.

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Filed under Karaite Jews of America, Shechita, Tallit, Techellet

A Renaissance of Tekhelet: A Non-Jewish Woman’s Journey

I have known Azriel Kowtek, online and in person, for some time now. She visited the Karaite Jews of America’s Shavuot extravaganza in 2015. She and her daughters recently came to visit the KJA for family Shabbat this past September.

Her greatest biblical passion is the original source of tekhelet, the color “blue” that the Israelites are commanded to attached to the corners of our garments. The interesting thing about Azriel, and she is very open about this, is that she is not Jewish. She runs a site called “The Ancients’ Blue” where she discusses her process for dyeing tekhelet and tying tzitziot (tassels). From a Karaite perspective, I am fascinated with her work because her product meets two of the historical Karaite Jewish viewpoints on tekhelet: (i) she is using a ritually pure source, and (ii) her tekhelet is (daytime) sky blue.

Today, I interview Azriel regarding her work and her passion.

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Filed under Techellet

How ibn Ezra Trolled the Karaites – A Closer Look at Ki Eshmera Shabbat

Ki Eshmera Shabbat, by R’ Abraham ibn Ezra, as printed in the Vilna Edition of the Karaite Prayer Book (Vol. IV)

Virtually, every Karaite respects Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra. He lived in the 12th Century, and he is arguably the greatest of the classical Rabbanite peshatist (plain meaning) commentators. I have even quoted him in my talks. One of the reasons he is such a good peshatist is because he was combatting the then-thriving Karaite movement, which espoused peshat above all.

In addition to writing commentaries, ibn Ezra also penned numerous poems – the most famous of which is Ki Eshmera Shabbat. It is well known that the poem wound up in Karaite prayer books. It is less well-known that the Karaites modified the poem to remove anti-Karaite rhetoric. And it is even less well-known that the version that appears in Karaite prayer book still appears to have anti-Karaite polemics.

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Filed under Abraham ibn Ezra, Karaite Rabbanite Relations, Prayer

Go Karaite and Go Karaite Hard

A group of Karaites praying at a memorial service for a departed loved one.

Several years ago, I read someone’s advice regarding the news industry. In short, the article was discussing how it is difficult for smaller news outlets to compete with the industry giants who have far greater resources to cover national and international stories. The advice was simple (and I am paraphrasing), “If I went into the news business today, I would go local and I would go local hard.”

The implication is that smaller outlets could compete in an area where the giants cannot – what is happening in any given neighborhood, town or city at any given time.

I do not know whether this was actually good advice for the news industry, but the guidance has shaped my views of how to sustain a Karaite Jewish community.

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Filed under Mission Statement

Exciting News: Web Courses and Educational Donations

Please join me for an online course. Thursday 6:30 Pacific time. Register here.

My fellow Threaders,

First, do we like being called Threaders? (Let me know at the end of the post.)

As you know, I have been blogging less than I had originally planned. And indeed, I am blogging less than I want to. There is a simple reason for this. I have been working on several other initiatives that I hope will create long term sustainability for the Karaite movement. Blogging is a great short term investment, but we need something more substantive if we are going to exist in 100 years.

So today, I want to announce two exciting initiatives.

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Filed under courses, Tefillin, Uncategorized