Every once in a while someone takes an unnecessary shot at Karaites and Karaism. Sometimes these shots actually cause collateral damage to the Rabbinic community. So, even though I hate to respond to modern polemics, Rabbi Jeremy Rosen at the algemeiner, you’ve got my attention.
Rabbi Rosen starts off well-meaning enough. He asks a simple question “Who are the Karaites, and do they keep Simchat Torah?” But from there he veers wildly off course. Let’s review.
Jacob Moussa holding an ancient manuscript in 1977, surrounded by Egyptian Karaites (still living in Cairo at the time).
The three most well-known codices in the Jewish biblical tradition are the Cairo Codex, the Aleppo Codex, and the Leningrad Codex. At one time or another, each was in possession of the Karaite Jewish community.
The Cairo Codex is an ancient vocalized manuscript of the Nevi’im, i.e., all of books of the prophets in the Tanakh. It is commonly believed that the Cairo Codex of the Prophets was written by the Karaite Moshe ben Asher in the year 895/896. [1.]
But it turns out that this common belief is almost certainly wrong.
My copy of Alan A. Winter’s Savior’s Day. Quite a read!
I love reading anything that raises the profile of Karaites, even when the work is fictional. So, I thought I’d offer some thoughts on Alan A. Winter’s Savior’s Day, a recently published novel that mentions Karaites quite prominently.
Savior’s Day is historical fiction about a series of murders tied to the lost pages of the Aleppo Codex. It is a tale that spans centuries and takes us through many of the Middle Ages’ greatest Jewish communities: Jerusalem, Tiberias, Fostat, and Aleppo.
So it turns out that many medieval Rabbanites from the Land of Israel and the surrounding environs deserve a badge of interdenominational awesomeness as well.
And traces of this awesomeness run from Cairo in the early 11th century all the way to the Rabbanites of Egypt in the years following the birth of the State of Israel. Again, don’t take my word for it.
Only part of my proof that Karaites are awesome.
My law school classmates know that I’m not one to throw around a highly-technical term like “proof” willy-nilly. And I certainly would never use a phrase like “beyond a reasonable doubt” without good reason.
So, when I say that the Aleppo Codex is “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” that Karaites are awesome, I mean it in the most legalistic way possible. But you don’t have to take my word for it. In fact, as a Karaite, I have to tell you not to rely on my opinion.