In my last post, I demonstrated how I believe the Karaite siddur contains a beautiful error with respect to a single letter in a biblical verse. Today, I want to demonstrate that everyone and – as far as I can tell – I mean everyone who is singing some version of Shelomo ibn Gabirol’s She’areikha (“Your Gates”) is singing a version that is unattested to in the fragments that are publicly available through the Friedberg Geniza Project.
Despite this, I would wholeheartedly be honored if you would sing the Karaite transmission of the poem. And I would be equally honored if this post encouraged you to learn and sing any of the versions that appear in Rabbanite siddurim or in the Geniza fragments.
Let’s look at this highlighted line.
I recently discovered something beautiful. There is an error in the traditional Karaite siddur. It may sound strange to call an error beautiful, but I really mean it. The Karaite community has gone to great lengths to preserve – what is in my opinion – the wrong side of a mostly obscure debate over a single letter in a word in the Book of Chronicles.
I only first understood that this debate even exists two months ago, as I was working on a learner’s edition of the erev shabbat prayer book for the American Karaite community.
You can also give me your opinion on what I should print in this new edition of the siddur, by voting in the reader poll.
Ki Eshmera Shabbat, by R’ Abraham ibn Ezra, as printed in the Vilna Edition of the Karaite Prayer Book (Vol. IV)
Virtually, every Karaite respects Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra. He lived in the 12th Century, and he is arguably the greatest of the classical Rabbanite peshatist (plain meaning) commentators. I have even quoted him in my talks. One of the reasons he is such a good peshatist is because he was combatting the then-thriving Karaite movement, which espoused peshat above all.
In addition to writing commentaries, ibn Ezra also penned numerous poems – the most famous of which is Ki Eshmera Shabbat. It is well known that the poem wound up in Karaite prayer books. It is less well-known that the Karaites modified the poem to remove anti-Karaite rhetoric. And it is even less well-known that the version that appears in Karaite prayer book still appears to have anti-Karaite polemics.
A group of Karaites praying at a memorial service for a departed loved one.
Recently someone asked me to start posting about the modern Karaite Jewish experience again. You see, the Karaite Jewish experience was the crux of my blog in its early days. For many reasons, I’ve moved away from this – in favor of commenting on news, historical events, and highlighting where Karaite views are different from our Rabbanite brethren or have evolved over time.
But the modern Karaite Jewish struggle is real; and I am here to give a voice to that struggle. So here is a smattering of the things that people have said to my face in the past few months (and a proposed response, in case anyone says the same to you). I should note that most of the time, these comments are not made out of malice. But nonetheless, they sting.
When I’m not blogging, I teach people how to lead Shabbat morning services at the Karaite synagogue in Daly City. I never realized how beautiful the Karaite service was until I started teaching. And I never realized what geniuses the Karaite sages were till I started studying the service to improve my hazzanut (cantillation).
The traditional Egyptian Karaite service is a lyrical masterpiece, worthy of a Pitch Perfect mash-up. Oh Beca Mitchell, you were born in the wrong generation.
Eli Shemuel is no longer in the U.S., but he keeps on trucking. Last night the Karaite Jews of America released another learning by Eli. This time, Eli is speaking about Karaite Jewish prayer customs.
I previously wrote a little about Karaite prayer customs here. Eli’s new video goes into more detail about removing our shoes, ritual purity, the structure of the Karaite prayer. Check out the beautiful music from the Karaite Jewish choir of Israel as well.
Source: Magnes Museum; The Karaite Jews- Karaite Service, Foster City, CA by Ira Nowinski (Egypt, Israel, and USA, 1984)
Among the most common requests I receive is to provide readers with the means to learn a traditional Karaite prayer. Indeed, the Karaite community (in addition to having a rich interpretive history) has a rich liturgy. Thus far, I have resisted these requests, because it really isn’t the focus of the blog.
Recently, though, there was a discussion on Mi Yodeya asking how Karaites pray. And after Monday’s post on keeping it real, I thought it was time to do at least one post related to Karaite prayer. It didn’t take me long to determine where to begin: the Haqdamah.