This year, I have compiled some of my favorite Passover resources in one place. Before I get to that though, I wanted to share a story about a speaking engagement I did last weekend at a synagogue in Sacramento. I was explaining that the Egyptian Karaites refrain from eating fermented foods (including wine) on Hag Hamatzot (“Passover”). I explained that we believe that hametz refers to fermentation (not just leavening). And out of nowhere a woman from Iran says that she also refrained from eating fermented foods (but did drink wine). And a man from Baghdad said the same thing.
“Sigh. Even when we’re right, we can’t even agree how to be right.” That was my initial reaction when confronted with the reality that this year well-meaning Karaites will be split regarding the date to celebrate Shavuot.
Since then, I realized that this is exactly what we need to unify the movement. Bear with me. . .
Almost a year ago, I lost my beloved uncle, Benjamin Pessah, the last Egyptian Karaite Jew actively practicing shehita in the United States. At that time, I made a personal resolution to continue to promote Karaite shehita whenever possible. Last week, the Karaite Jews of America released a new work on Karaite shehita. The work is Ritual Slaughter: A Guide to Modern Karaite Jewish Practice.
Today, I interview Travis Wheeler, the only shohet in the United States to be trained by the Karaite community of Israel. In fact, he was trained by H’ Moshe Firrouz, the Chief Hakham of the Council of Sages. Travis owns Six Star Meat and Poultry and recently released his Passover pricing list.
What makes this Haggadah different from all the rest?
This weekend, Jews throughout the world will be retelling the story of our national exodus from Egypt. And in the traditional haggadah reading, both Karaites and Rabbanites recite the following three words from Deuteronomy 26:5: Arami Oved Avi. The most common translation of these words is “My father (“avi”) was a wandering (“oved”) Aramaean (“arami’)”. This is in fact how the Jewish Publication Society has chosen to interpret these words.
There is an interesting debate in the Rabbinic community about what these words mean. But none of the Rabbinic opinions I have come across is fully satisfying. The historical Karaites have a unique interpretation of these words. And that interpretation is also not perfect. At the end of this post, you can vote on the interpretation you believe is the “best.”
With the Feast of Unleavened Bread quickly approaching, I wanted to make sure that everyone had easy access to my previous posts on the topic. Today, there is nothing new, just a bunch of old posts I wanted to bring back to your attention.
On Thursday, I will chime in with some breaking news.
Breaking News: Earlier this morning, the Supreme Court of the State of Israel
ruled in favor of the Karaites in a court case against the State’s religious authorities, who had tried to prevent Karaites from slaughtering in independent slaughterhouses that were under the Rabbanut’s supervision. I dedicate this post to everyone who worked so hard on that case.
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In the Rabbinic community, there are famous debates concerning the minhagim (and halakha) of Ashkenazi and Sefardi Jews. Everyone is familiar with the Passover/kitniyot debate. And historically it was the case that if you were from an Ashkenazi family, you followed your own minhag; and your Sefardi friends followed their own.
Geographic divisions like this, tend not to exist in the Karaite community. But historically there was one debate that divided the Karaites on theological lines, and caused a rift among geographical lines that somewhat reflects the Ashkenazi/Sefardi divide in the Rabbinic community.
These two win Passover this year.
Sometimes it feels as though Karaites get more press around Passover than the rest of the year combined. For good reason, Karaite Passover customs are distinct from the Rabbinic majority. Today, I provide a new video on Karaite Matzah, discuss some historical notes, and provide links to some online resources.