What I Learned on the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah

I Heart ChabadWhere to begin? I’ve spent the better part of two weeks explaining that the holiday Jews just celebrated is not “Rosh Hashanah” – and I’ve also tirelessly explained that Karaites do not observe an additional day for our holidays.

So, I never thought I’d be writing a post about profound life lessons I learned on the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah.

Let me back up for a moment. The holiday known as Rosh Hashanah is really a biblical holiday called Yom Teruah. According to the Rabbinic calendar, Rosh Hashanah began on Wednesday night September 24, 2014 and ended on Friday night September 26, 2014.

Here’s what I took away from the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah, i.e., between Thursday night and Friday night [1.]:

Just Say Thank You (Most of the Time): On Thursday night, I was walking in my neighborhood and I ran into a non-Jewish friend, who wished me an emphatic “Happy New Year!” His words were heartfelt and sincere. All I had to do was say thank you. But I had previously discussed the differences between Karaites and Rabbanites with him. [2.] So, I went into a long diatribe about how this wasn’t the real New Year. My response was definitely more than he bargained for when he very thoughtfully wished me a happy New Year.

So, I’ve resolved, that in very casual settings that are not conducive to subtleties that most people don’t care about, to just say “thank you.”

Jewish Sectarian-Strife is Dying: On the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah – for various reasons that are not currently relevant – I attended services at the Chabad of Noe Valley (in San Francisco). I have always had a great respect for the family that runs that Chabad. And I think Karaites can learn a lot from Chabad’s uplifting and warm nature. The Chabad Rabbi called me to the Torah for an aliyah (an honor I graciously accepted) and even asked me if I wanted to read directly from the Torah (an honor I respectfully declined). Here I was a Karaite being granted the opportunity to read Torah aloud on the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah in an Orthodox Rabbanite setting. Talk about incongruity.

So, I’ve resolved to improve my Hebrew so that I can one day accept the honor of being called to the Torah in an Orthodox Rabbanite synagogue and read directly from the Torah in the traditional Egyptian Karaite trope and KILL IT!

Rabbanites are Genuinely Interested in Karaite Perspectives: I’ve long advocated dropping a K-Bomb whenever possible. But on the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah I did not have to. The Chabad Rabbi and his brother (also a Rabbi) and several guests (some Rabbis, some aspiring Rabbis and others) know that I am a Karaite. After lunch, we spent a good hour-and-a-half discussing the Karaite approach to text and tradition. And it was done in a respectful and engaging manner. These Rabbis and congregants were living the words of Pirke Avot: “Who is a wise man? He who learns from everyone.” Pirke Avot 4:1.

So, I’ve resolved to blog more and focus more on topics that are of interest to a wider variety of audiences – while still delivering some “inside baseball” references for all the die-hards.

Give Honor to my Karaite Predecessors: At one point in my conversation with the Chabad Rabbi, I mentioned a position held by “Yefet ben ‘Ali HaLevi.” The Chabad Rabbi interjected with a smile, “Hakham Yefet ben ‘Ali.” I asked him whether he was familiar with Yefet ben ‘Ali (again, I did not use any titles when referring to Yefet). He said, “No, but I know he is a Hakham.” For various reasons, I generally don’t use titles when I speak about historical Karaites – even the most accomplished ones. But this Chabad Rabbi thought that it was important to for me to refer to my learned predecessors as Hakhamim.

So, I’ve resolved to think about using titles (where appropriate) for historical Karaite sages – and perhaps we’ll come up with cool acronyms like “HaDaK” (for Hakham Daniel al-Kumisi) and “HaYaK” (for Hakham Yacub al Kirkisani). 

Wow, look at that. A Karaite learns important life lessons on a day that is not the biblical New Year and is not even the day after the biblical New Year and then made several non-New Year’s resolutions.

I pray that I am blessed to learn something equally as meaningful during the biblical New Year in the Spring. And if so, I’m sure I’ll figure out some appropriate resolutions.


*   *   *

[1] In fact, Thursday night to Friday night might actually have been Yom Teruah in San Francisco, because that’s when the new moon appeared here. If so, then consider this post another “shout” related to the “Day of Shouting,” which is my preferred translation of Yom Teruah.

[2] My friend happens to be from a Muslim family and we have previously discussed similarities between Judaism and Islam.



Filed under Chabad, Daniel al-Kumisi, Rosh Hashanah, Yaqub al-Qirqisani, Yefet ben 'Ali, Yom Teruah

21 Responses to What I Learned on the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah

  1. Keith Gilbert

    Chabad has provided me with many wonderful experiences because they are there for Jews who are in jail or prison and need the lessons in Torah they provide with the moral support of their good word and visits. It is nice that you have included them here…they add much strength to the Jewish community that has sometimes been lacking. Good article (not that you need my value judgment of viewpoint…nonetheless!)

    • Zvi

      The “lessons in Torah” (and I use the word Torah extremely loosely here in their context) is where I disagree. With such “strength” the Jews may have no need for weakness. In the proper way things ought to be in Rabbinic Judaism itself, is the understanding that the Sanhedrin had Mosaic authority to issue rulings, but in the current state of affairs in Orthodoxy, people with no authority whatsoever *even by Rabbinic standards* are unquestionable. Thus the Orthodox have ended up with a Halakha that contradicts what their primary sources (“Chazal”) actually established as Halakha; plus for example the bizarre truism that prevalent custom is Halakha (even if it contradicts the Halakha as set down by the primary sources), and is infused with the Qabbala as a (supposed) “holy” part of the “oral” Torah, even while a good deal of it contradicts actual Rabbinic Halakha.

  2. That’s a nice article. Hope it is sustained

  3. Very nice. I’ve become all-too familiar with Rabbinic interest in Karaites through my own conversion. It’s important for Karaites to extend a hand whenever one can to Rabbinic community events.

  4. Zvi

    If non-Jews are too daft to have a lasting vivid recollection of the differences between Qaraites and Rabbanites that a Torah-true man discussed with him, I propose that the appropriate response had better be “Merry early Christmas!” or “early Ramadan al-Karim!” (depending on their perceived religion).

  5. Caleb

    Please Forgive my ignorance
    And nerve to comment
    But I ( Hate ever false way )
    Psalm 119
    Peace two all praise YAH

  6. Matityahu

    If you have/come across any resources for Karaite Jewish trope please do share! I currently use a Sefardi (which I understand is similar) but would love to switch it up.

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