My law school classmates know that I’m not one to throw around a highly-technical term like “proof” willy-nilly. And I certainly would never use a phrase like “beyond a reasonable doubt” without good reason.
So, when I say that the Aleppo Codex is “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” that Karaites are awesome, I mean it in the most legalistic way possible. But you don’t have to take my word for it. In fact, as a Karaite, I have to tell you not to rely on my opinion.
I recently came across a passage in The Aleppo Codex, the Matti Friedman book (not the actual Codex), that attests to Karaite awesomeness. For those who don’t know, the actual Aleppo Codex (not the Friedman book) is a bound copy of the Hebrew Bible and has long been considered to be the most authoritative document in the Jewish biblical tradition.
And the coolest part is that the Hebrew consonants of the actual Aleppo Codex were written by the Karaite Shlomo Ben Buya’a and the vowels were added by the Karaite Aaron Ben Asher.
What proves that Karaites are awesome, though, is something I learned from The Aleppo Codex (the book, not the actual Codex). As explained by Matti Friedman, in the 11th century, the actual Aleppo Codex was donated to the Karaite synagogue of Jerusalem, where, according to the Codex’s inscription, it was to be kept by the “great leaders” of the Karaite Jewish community.* And three times a year (apparently corresponding to Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot), the Karaite leaders were to take the Codex out and show it to the “communities of the city.”
Friedman notes that “surprisingly” the “communities of the city” appears to have included Rabbanites, even though Karaites and Rabbanites were deeply divided at the time.
But that’s exactly what makes Karaites awesome. As we’ve discussed previously, Karaites of that time-period also donated money to a Rabbanite yeshiva in Jerusalem, even though Karaites had their own Jerusalemite learning institution to support.
I guess it’s true: “[t]he Qaraite leadership shared bonds of loyalty to other Jews that operated separately from questions of theological or legal differences.”**
And for the (American) football fans out there, according to the Karaite Korner Newsletter, the late Hall of Famer Reggie White was so moved by seeing the actual Aleppo Codex and certain Christian manuscripts in the autumn of 2003 that he declared it the best day of his life.***
Now if only some of this Karaite awesomeness would rub off on the Rabbanut. . . .
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* See Matti Friedman, The Aleppo Codex: In Pursuit of one of the World’s most Coveted, Sacred, and Mysterious Books, pp. 57-58.
** See Marina Rustow, Heresy and the Politics of Community: The Jews of the Fatimid Caliphate, p. 199.
*** Karaite Korner Newsletter #445: Better Than the Super Bowl, February 7, 2010.