It’s 2016, and let’s face it: despite my best efforts, Karaites remain on the fringe, a mere after thought in the Jewish landscape. The normative form of Judaism today is Rabbinic Judaism – so much so that when someone contemplates his or her Jewish identity, they first think Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform (or maybe Ashkenazi, Sefardi, or Mizrahi). But he or she never even has to come to terms with the fact that their form of Judaism is operating within the Rabbinic Jewish framework.
In case you have not heard the bad news: Pitch Perfect 3’s release date was moved back from Summer 2017 to December 2017 (amid reports of squabbling amongst the movie’s stars). Pitch Perfect is centered around the all girls A Capella group, The Barden Bellas.
And this bad news comes just as Jews throughout the world read the story of the five daughters of Zelophechad who petitioned Moses for their rights to inherit from their deceased father. [1.] This is probably a good time to explain how the Karaite sages generally interpreted the laws of inheritance.
And at the end, you can vote for your favorite Karaite position and can tell me which Pitch Perfect was better: PP1 or PP2.
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.
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.