About a thousand years ago, the Karaites cancelled Purim. They just skipped it altogether and with the waving of a hand they jumped a month into the future to celebrate Passover. Sounds crazy. But it’s true. You can read about this and more in my article Comparing Purims, in which I identify some interesting similarities and differences between the Rabbinic and Karaite conceptions of Purim.
Below, you can check out some more Purim shenanigans that I did *not* put into the article.
First, let me express my sincere thanks to folks at TheTorah.com for inviting me to write another piece for them. My first piece was A Shofar-less “Rosh Hashanah”: A Karaite’s Experience of Yom Teru’ah. And I’d also like to thank them for editing the work to make it look like I’m way smarter than I am. And finally, Tomer Mangoubi, author of Mikdash Me’at, deserves my gratitude for continuously making classical Karaite thought available to the masses.
As promised, some things that did not make the article:
- A Purim Effigy: In my article at TheTorah.com and on this site previously, I discuss how the Karaites light candles on Purim. Did the Karaites take it too far one year? In the year 1030, some Rabbanites spread a rumor that the Karaites burnt “three Rabbanite figures in effigy on Purim.” This sounds strange today, but it was actually a long-standing Rabbinic tradition to burn effigies of their adversaries on Purim. The Rabbanite leader at the time looked into the matter, and determined (with the assistance of other Rabbanites) that the rumor of the effigy was pure libel- and the Karaites had done no such thing. Strife ensued within the Rabbinic community, with some Rabbanites seeking a ban on the perpetrators of the rumor. The affair ended with the Rabbinic masses having “finally been convinced of . . . avoiding confrontation” with the Karaites. [1.]
- A Subversive Purim Celebration: My article at TheTorah.com discusses how the Karaites and Rabbanites celebrated Purim together in Egypt in the mid-1900s. Those celebrations took place for the love of the holiday; but in the year 1039, Karaites and Rabbanites celebrated Purim together in Ramla, which some tried to leverage as a power play. In short, the Rabbanites were in the midst of a leadership struggle, and one of the Rabbinic leaders wanted to show that he was able to unite Rabbanites and Karaites (even if only to assert dominion over them all). This Rabbanite leader held a public reading of the Book of Esther at his synagogue, about which he would later boast in letters to distant Karaites that “not a single Rabbanite or [K]araite” missed the Purim celebration. As Dr. Rustow points out, “[E]ven correcting for self-serving exaggeration, the vision is arresting: the man claiming the highest rabbinic office . . . is at pains to emphasize the presence of [K]araites in his house of worship.” [2.]
I wish we’d return to the days where Karaites were numerous enough that prominent Rabbanites would engage in “self-serving exaggeration” about their relationship with us. Maybe one day.
In any event, check out my article at TheTorah.com, and let me know what you think.
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[1.] Heresy and the Politics of Community, Rustow, pp. 224-226.
[2.] Heresy and the Politics of Community, Rustow, pp. 307-310.