I fell in love with this lamentation for the destruction of the Temple the moment I heard it. Love is complicated, though. And the history of this song is no exception. It appears in earlier Karaite sources – in a markedly different form. It was almost assuredly penned by a Rabbanite poet, but as far as I can tell has never appeared in any modern or even earlier printed Rabbanite siddurim. Oh – and the original poem calls for the destruction of non-Jewish Nations (as does the current version in the Karaite siddur, albeit more limited than in the original). Yikes.
I used to look forward to them and they used to bring me so much joy. Now they depress me.
And I carry that sadness for days.
I usually don’t express my Karaite state of mind publicly, but I am generally worried about the survival of the movement and its philosophy. As you can imagine, we have a massive demographic disadvantage, and despite the fact that the internet is the great equalizer, we are structurally behind our Rabbanite kin in terms of infrastructure and resources. This worry of mine isn’t “new”. I’ve had these same worries since I was in my teens.
In honor of March Madness, I thought I would do a series of posts asking you to choose which Karaite songs you like best.
Today’s contest is between two different renditions of the same song. The song is Lahatany Mivhar Banay, which translates to To my Groom, the Choicest of My Sons.
“The first step is the two-step,” sang the incomparable country musician Tracy Byrd. But Country music has nothing on the Turkish Two-Step (as I have dubbed it) and its apparent incorporation into Karaite poetry.
As I was reviewing some poetry for an upcoming birkon, I noticed that many poems printed in Karaite siddurim repeated the first two syllables of the chorus. As I was investigating why, I recalled the time I totally choked on singing the Karaite melody of Ki Eshmera Shabbat.
I really wanted to hate this song. And I really wanted to be frustrated at the Israeli Karaites who published it. These are not ideal qualities; I know. But once I took a deep breath, I realized that the song is absolutely beautiful; the Karaite sage who wrote about a shofar in a song about Yom Teruah (“Rosh Hashanah”) is a great poet; and I am a better person because of it.
I know. I know. It’s not even Shavuot and here I am talking about lamentations for the month of Av. But I can’t stop listening to these snippets I received from Hazzan Rotem Cohen. He recorded the introductory words of a well-known Karaite lamentation for me in two renditions: once with the Egyptian tune and once with the Crimean tune. Today, I want to see if you can identify which is which.