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).
Crescent new moon in the Land of Israel.
We hear a lot these days of “identity politics.” Today, I explore “identity halacha” and realize that my religious Karaite identity is slowly getting turned on its head. And I’m fine with that.
For approximately 15 years, I have been a zealous advocate of using the moon in the Land of Israel to determine when to observe our holidays in the Diaspora. I set this forth in a book. I stated this in a Karaite Fact Card. And I couldn’t count how many times I stated this at the Karaite synagogue.
But over the last year, I’ve come to realize that I might have been wrong.
Ankori’s Magnum Opus is a Must Read
Several weeks ago, I was out to dinner with a friend and we were discussing the state of the Karaite movement. “I think if we look at the history of the movement from the outside, the calendar issue is really what hurt Karaites,” my friend posited.
Because the historical Karaite calendar was based on empirical observations of the new moon and the ripeness of the barley, devout Karaites (especially those in the Diaspora) often disagreed as to when the true biblical holidays should be celebrated.
The Rabbanites historically mocked Karaites about this disunity. (Perhaps rightly.)
The gift that keeps on giving.
The new moon was sighted in Israel on May 11, 2013 – two days after the calculated Rabbinical calendar sets rosh chodesh (i.e., the start of the new month). As a result, most observant Karaites celebrated rosh chodesh on a different day from observant Rabbanites.
1100 years ago, though, (at least some) Palestinian Rabbanites set their calendar by the actual sighting of the new moon – and even observed “Rosh Hashanah” on a different day from the Babylonian Rabbanites.
Now that Purim is behind us, most Jews* are starting to plan for Passover, which they will be observing from the evening of March 25, 2013 through the evening of April 2, 2013.
Check out this matzah recipe used by the Egyptian Karaite community – which I promise you is better than store bought matzah. Okay; that’s not really saying much . . . but give it a shot.
What if Pippi Longstocking Went Blonde?
Forget a Karaite Tipping Point, today I wonder whether Karaite Judaism will even survive another generation.
A rabbi affiliated with the Aish HaTorah movement once helped crystallize my thoughts on Jewish identity and continuity. He was speaking at a gathering of undergraduate brothers from Alpha Epsilon Pi, where I was the Director of Jewish Programming. The rabbi asked us how we would respond if one of our future daughters were to be teased for having red hair. Even though the attendees were (mostly) between 18-22 years old, we intuitively knew what to do. We’d tell her how her red hair made her unique. We’d find strong, red-headed role models. We’d make sure she knew that her red hair was beautiful. As the rabbi explained, “The answer is not to dye her hair.”