Category Archives: Women in Karaism
Maybe it’s the internet or maybe it’s that we’re all simply more curious these days, but the inertia that once confined Jews to a single Jewish movement our entire lives is eroding rapidly.
The transient nature of Jewish observance and identity was recently on display when CNN’s Belief Blog interviewed Matisyahu. (See Q and A with Matisyahu: ‘Hasidic reggae superstar’ sans the Hasidim.) Matisyahu described how he “started out with the Chabad movement . . . with the idea that ‘this is it.'”* Matisyahu eventually opened up to other Jewish movements.
I’m not saying that Matisyahu would ever explore Karaite Judaism (or even that Karaite Judaism is the right path for Matisyahu), but many Rabbanites are drawn to Karaite Judaism for the same reasons that Matisyahu recently underwent a very public “rebirth.”
In this post, we’re picking up where we left off by summarizing and annotating the second half of a question-and-answer session between Rabbi Moshe Firrouz, the Chief Rabbi of the Karaite Council of Sages, and various attendees at the workshop. Based on the number of views, the post on the first half of the question-and-answer session was a hit, and YouTube has a video of the entire session.
A little background is necessary before jumping into this post. A lot questions relate to ritual purity. Karaites generally concern themselves with ritual purity more so than Rabbanites because the traditional Karaite view is that one may not enter a holy place (such as, in the Karaite tradition, the sanctuary of a synagogue) while ritually impure. We’ll discuss this issue in more detail in a later post. Other topics in this post relate to Karaite butcher shops, mikvehs, fertility, and even the permissibility of pets.
One of my professed goals for starting A Blue Thread is to promote the study of Karaite Judaism at secular and religious institutions. This is the first in a series of posts related to a workshop, entitled Karaite Studies: The State of Field, that was held in Israel from February 27, 2012 – March 1, 2012.*
For today, I’ve created cliff notes and commentary (not to be confused with an oral law) for the first half of a question-and-answer session between Rabbi Moshe Firrouz, the Chief Rabbi of the Karaite Council of Sages (Hebrew: Moetzet HaHachamim), and various researchers and academics in attendance at the workshop. The topics covered in this post range from women in Karaite Judaism; Karaite Torah scrolls; rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem; and efforts of the Karaite community to maintain its halakha (religious interpretations), culture and traditions.
(Editor’s Note: This is the first of what I expect to be many posts relating to women in Karaite Judaism. It is my hope that one day soon this series will be authored by a woman or – better yet – a group of women. If you are a Jewish woman with sincere interest in contributing in this manner, please contact me at Shawn@abluethread.com.)
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“When [a certain Karaite Jew] passed on to hell, he was survived by his accursed wife, whom [his adherents] used to address as al-Mu’allima and on whom they relied for authoritative tradition. They would ask each other what Mu’allima’s usage was, and they would follow suit.”
– Abraham Ibn Daud, Sefer ha-Qabbalah (English: The Book of Tradition)*
(12th Century Spain)
Abraham ibn Daud was an ardent Rabbanite Jew living in Spain during the 12th Century and his brief rendition of the history of Karaites in Spain has always intrigued me. According to Ibn Daud, the Karaite Jews of Spain once had a female leader. The Karaite community referred to this leader as “the Teacher” (Arabic: al-Mu’allima) – which, interestingly, is one of the translations of the word “Rabbi” – and the Karaite community relied on her for authoritative tradition. For now, I’ll address just two of the many thoughts that come to mind.