Several months ago on the American Karaite Judaism Facebook group, people commented that Hakham Avraham Qanai’s An Introduction to Karaite Judaism: History, Theology, Practice, and Custom is the best book of its type. The support for An Introduction to Karaite Judaism is so widespread that I’d be a fool not to make it our book of the month.
I’ve never met Avraham in person, but he and I have been in several of the same online Karaite groups across the years. And seeing how we are in the midst of the feasts of the Seventh Month, this is a perfect time to read the book.
His work is a must read for individuals seeking to learn about Karaite Judaism, and for a while it was the main text used by the Karaite Jewish University. I myself flip through the book on occasion whenever I’m looking for a quick answer on some point of Karaite understanding.
While An Introduction to Karaite Judaism is not a purely halakhic work, it carefully explains the majority Karaite position on certain legal matters. For example, the book provides that consuming alcohol is forbidden (as a form of hametz) on the Feast of Unleavened Bread (usually referred to as “Passover”). (See pp. 179-180.) And in fact, the overwhelming majority of the historic Karaite community in the world today refrains from alcohol during this week-long holiday. But other Karaites historically believed that alcohol was not hametz and was permitted during the Feast.
Perhaps most useful to the Karaite newcomer is the explanation of various Karaite prayer-positions. As most know, Karaites pray with full prostration. This is a bit different from how most Jews have grown up praying; when explaining this concept the book provides pictures to assist the reader.
The book has been well-received by the Karaite Jewish community of Daly City, and is one of the texts we recommend people read when they are first learning about Karaite Judaism.
My favorite part of the book is its translations of and references to famous Karaite works. I think that for Karaite Judaism to survive, more such works need to be available in the English language.
Well, if you’ve read the book, please let us know what you think. And if you want to win a free copy, comment below!
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A Blue Thread is giving away ten copies of An Introduction to Karaite Judaism. A Blue Thread will even cover the shipping. Avraham generously donated them at his printing costs and signed them in the Hebrew and in English. To be eligible for the giveaway, simply comment on the post below. Your comment could be anything from “Choose me!” to “I love this book.” I’ll hold a random drawing on September 17th, and will notify the winners via email. My only hope is that after you read the book, you will post your thoughts to the comment section below. (If you’ve already read the book, feel free to do so now.)
If you miss out on this give-away, fear not. You can purchase the book from Amazon. And we intend to do a similar give-away with another book next month.