Photo Source: CNN
This past weekend Karaite Jews throughout the world read the Torah portion of Chukat (Numbers 19:1–22:1), and this coming weekend, Rabbanite Jews will do the same. Each Shabbat, I give a talk at the Karaite Jews of America’s synagogue in Daly City. Because those talks are not the point of the blog, I’ve resisted posting them here.
But after this last weekend’s talk, some people urged me to post it online. So, I am making a one-time (I think) exception. Here you go:
Last week, an Orthodox Jewish website, Hamodia, published an Op Ed discussing whether Reform and Conservative (Rabbinic) Jews have the right to hold services at the Western Wall. For those who do not know, the State of Israel recently designated certain areas of prayer at the Wall for Reform and Conservative Jews, but many in the Orthodox community are not too pleased.
And the best way for the Orthodox world to express their dissatisfaction with their fellow Rabbanites is to start by making fun of Karaites.
When I was in high school, I learned two truths that would change my world. The first truth I learned was that my male relatives were detained in Egyptian internment camps during the Six Day war. The war lasted six days, but the Egyptian government’s internment of Jewish males lasted approximately three years. The second truth I learned was that every year my Uncle Ben had personally slaughtered the lamb we ate on Passover. I never knew any of this till my high school years. Crazy.
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.
A group of Karaites praying at a memorial service for a departed loved one.
A few weeks ago, I received a well-reasoned and thoughtful letter from a (non-historically Karaite) Jewish man who has been attending the Karaite Jewish synagogue in Daly City for a few months. He said that the Shabbat service is the best asset the KJA has, because it is more engaging than its Rabbinic counterparts. He added, though, that he hoped the KJA would find a way to make more parts of the service accessible to persons who do not speak Hebrew.
His email to me was well-timed; the KJA had just put together a committee to review its siddur and to reflect on the nature of our services. Exciting things are on the horizon.
For those of you following along, you now know why I have been posting more frequently about the need to revive historical Karaite Jewish literature. In my personal opinion, one part of the decline of the Karaite movement was that we stopped reading our own literature. And when we stopped reading our own literature, we stopped writing our own literature. Writing our own literature is absolutely crucial to the survival of the Karaite Jewish movement.
The Karaite Press aims to take the lead in reviving historical Karaite literature – with the ultimate goals of educating about the unique perspective preserved by this literature and inspiring the creation of new Karaite works. Today, I share some of the vision of the Karaite Press.