Nir & Priel Nissim (Photo by Aviram Elisha)
Nir & Priel Nissim should be Chabad emissaries – or whatever is the Karaite equivalent. Because of them, the past few months have given rise to an amazing, wonderful and spiritually uplifting occurrence in the Bay Area. The newly renovated home of the Karaite Jews of America is being filled with more learning and more blessings than I have ever seen.
It all started a few years back when Nir Nissim ha-Levy, a hazzan from Israel, visited the Karaite Jews of America in Daly City. The members of the community instantly took to his melodies, his heart and his desire. Fast forward a few years, Nir married Priel, an incredibly knowledgeable Israeli Karaite, and found their way to the Bay Area for a year.
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.
My Copy of Keter Torah
Over the last few weeks, I have been corresponding with some of the leading professors in Karaitica to get a particular Arabic Karaite commentary translated into English. One of these professors explained to me how daunting the task is, and respectfully suggested that I work on H’ Aaron ben Elijah’s Keter Torah (meaning Crown of the Torah), which he described as “the authoritative [Karaite] commentary on the Torah.”
Indeed, the significance of this work cannot be understated: it helped inspire the name of the Keter Torah Karaite synagogue in Ashdod.
The Karaite Press, a project of the Karaite Jews of America, is currently working on an edition of Keter Torah. Today I show you what the project entails and – just in time to start the Torah’s reading of Parashat Devarim – you can get a draft of the commentary on that parasha.
The gift that keeps on giving.
A few years back, I met a young Jewish college student at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly. He was fascinated by the concept of Karaism. And although he has certain Karaite affinities, he proudly declares, “At no point did I consider myself a Karaite” and at no point did he consider becoming a Karaite.
Among the reasons he is interested in Karaism, is because, as he put it, once you accept that Karaism is an option, “then, everything is on the table.” I’ve thought about this statement from time time. And I realized, there is no point to being a Karaite if everything is not on the table.
So here are some views that I think are supported by the plain meaning of the text – but clearly would put me outside the normative bounds of Karaism (and Rabbanism).
This may be (but hopefully is not) the only bookshelf in the world in which Karaites in Byzantium is next to Artscroll’s Chumash
Oy. Where to begin. Just over a month ago, I spoke at a Jewish high school about issues in Karaite Judaism – particularly as they implicate Shabbat and technology. Speaking with me was a conservative rabbi who happened to grow up at the same conservative synagogue that I did – though we did not know each other previously. This synagogue housed the KJA and our Shabbat prayers from 1984-1990.
After a quick introduction – curses started flying.