Monday Morning Karaite: Breaking Down My Judaism Unbound Appearance

Image Credit: David Wilensky, J: the Jewish News of Northern California

Yes. I know it’s Wednesday. But what is time anymore? Today, I Monday-morning-quarterback my performance during my Judaism Unbound podcast interview. This is super meta for a Karaite. It’s like my gemara on the mishna that was the podcast.

Before I get started – HUGE shout out to Judaism Unbound for surpassing a million downloads recently!


First, if you haven’t listened to the podcast you can listen to it in its entirety below or at the Judaism Unbound site.

But much respect, hazzak uvarukh, and kol hakkavod to Judaism Unbound for also enabling recast technology. As I go through my self-assessment, I am going to use excerpts from the relevant sections so you can hear it as I discuss them. (NOTE: the recast is limited to 90 seconds, so if you just listen to the recast snippets, you miss a lot of fun moments including a lot of anecdotes that help paint a picture of the Karaite experience.)




I know there is a rabbinic saying that a baker should not testify as to the quality of his dough. But I’m not a Rabbanite so I have no problem telling you how I think I did. But at the end, you can tell me how you think I did.

My First Words: “Excited to be here.”
Time Marker: 3:51
Grade: Gentleman’s C.

Analysis: I thought I reacted well to Dan’s prompt and welcome. But the actual excitement didn’t come through.  If I’m ever invited back, I will open with something much more colorful, like the Rock.



Dan’s Question: When did the split between Rabbanites and Karaites happen?
Response Grade: A-

Analysis: I crushed this answer. I had the opportunity to say that from a Karaite perspective the Rabbanites broke off. I also got to explain that what is Judaism is often defined by how people actually practice Judaism – that’s what I meant by “the people who ascribe to Judaism have views that are more or less divergent at times”. And if that is the case, we need to make sure that we not say things like “Karaites believe”, because what Karaites believe changes based on time and location. I have more thoughts on this – particularly whether there are “bounds” of what Karaism *is*. But I intentionally did not go into that, because my thoughts are not fully formed. And it was not relevant to the podcast.

The reason I didn’t get a full A, and only got an A minus is that I missed a golden opportunity to say that Moses was more or less a Karaite (in that he didn’t believe in an oral law) and I could have encouraged people to replace the words “Moshe Rabbenu” (Moses our Rabbi) with “Moshe Karaenu” (Moses our Karaite). But alas, I whiffed.

I’ve divided this clip into two, the first one is so you can hear Lex’s laugh at Dan’s musings – talk about two people who love what they do.


And now the core of my response:

Time Marker:
Lex’s Reflection: Lex says that he wanted to reflect on what it implies to even have a term like rabbanite.
Response Grade: A

Analysis: This was textbook Karaite advocacy on my part (and I didn’t even get into who is right in this debate). I mentioned the story of Boruch Helman – one that I’ve written about in this post: What Kind of Jew are You? I really think it is important for people to hear the words Karaite and Rabbanite early and often. At the end of this answer, I give my perception that no one really has to confront their own identity until they meet someone who is different from them. In this case, Rabbanites have a special privilege within Judaism that they are seen as the default, the norm, and even the “correct”. I wrote about that once here in this post on Rabbanite privilege.

Here is Lex’s reflection about how ingrained the concept of an oral law is within Jews -even non-orthodox Rabbanites.  If anyone wants to know why Judaism Unbound is a such a good podcast it is because the hosts listen to and reflect upon the implications of what their guests are saying. In doing so, they invite the listener into the studio and into the minds and hearts of those who have different perspectives on Judaism – however defined.

And now my STONE COLD SOLID A answer


Time Marker: 12:52
Lex’s Reflection: Right before this Lex says that people relate to Judaism though the holidays and through the calendar, and asks about the Karaite perspective on the holidays and calendar.
Response Grade: B-

My response captured my great Karaite awakening – at least one out of the two events that spurred me on my Karaite journey. (Maybe I’ll do a video about the other event.) The anecdotes in this response were fun – and definitely work a listening to; but I didn’t provide a snippet below.

While I did a great job on explaining two reasons the calendar can be different, I totally left out the aviv (the third reason) and how we can have a calendar that can be off by a total month.

And now my B- response on the calendar.

Time Marker
: 19:40
Dan’s Question: Dan asked about milk and meat – which gave me a chance to talk about biblical interpretation and how we can all do it.
Response Grade: A

Analysis: I think this was one of my favorite answers I gave.  And it actually inspired me to want to write a biblical commentary. I don’t have time to, so I won’t. But I think it would be cool to formally set down an opinion that chicken and eggs are not permitted to be eaten together.


Time Maker: 22:54
Lex’s Reflection and Question: I think Lex said something super important here – that if the only time you hear about a group of people is from sources outside that people, what you hear may not be very accurate. Then he asked about Tefillin and Mezuzot.
Response Grade: F for Cheating

Analysis: How in the world can I give myself an F, when the answer seemed to be well-delivered.  I have to be honest, I had Nehemias Wall open to the article on Tefillin and I, for the most, part just stated what he had there. My prooftext at the 26 minute mark is not from Nehemias Wall, and my anecdote at the 27 minute mark is cool.  (Note, I have not excerpted any of those sections for you.)

Time Marker: 35:15

My Shout out to the Mishawites and to the Empty Table

Here I suggest that once you understand what it is to be a Karaite both everything and nothing is on the table. You can interpret the Torah for yourself and decide what the text means and how to apply it to your life (within the constraints of the biblical narrative). I give an example of the Mishawaites who believed Shabbat started on Saturday morning. Look aside from Jewish historians, not many people have heard about the Mishawites. But they existed and they had a theology that we should examine – even if we are inclined to disagree with it. (You have to listen to the whole podcast to see the implications of the Mishawite theology as I didn’t include it below.)

I wonder how many Mishawites I created as a result of this podcast.

The last 25 minutes of the podcast are focused on the future of Karaite Judaism, what we can do to make it more accessible and what success looks like. If you only listen to 25 or so minutes, check out the last 25 minutes.

Okay, well, there you have it. Feel free to tell me how you think I did.


Filed under Abib, Calendar, Judaism Unbound, Mezuzot, Milk and Meat, Mishawites, Rabbanite Privilege, Tefillin

9 Responses to Monday Morning Karaite: Breaking Down My Judaism Unbound Appearance

  1. Zvi

    I can see the point in calling Moshe b. `Aram “Moshe Qara’enu” as a tongue-in-cheek kind of counteract to “Moshe Rabbenu”.
    But on a more serious note, Qaraite literature refers to him as either “Nevi’enu (our prophet) or “Adonenu” (our master). This is the title I believe we should employ.

    • Yes. I do prefer Moshe Adonenu.

    • Keren De Torno

      Interesting, and caused me to ponder.
      While I refuse to call NO man on earth our Adoneenu (our master), I have an even harder time relating him as the Nevi’enu (our prophet) to Moshe.
      I refer to him as our HOLY Tribal LEADER appointed by the Creator, to Lead Us, the Chosen People.

      • Zvi

        You mean as in the leader of the Lewi tribe?
        And how do you render this designation in Hebrew?

        • Keren De Tornos

          Moshe was the Scribe and the Supreme Leader of the newly dubbed “Hebrew”, including their sojourners, (those who crossed over) Tribes present at the Mount.
          He scribed the LAWS as was being dictated to him from YHWH.
          המנהיג העליון

  2. I listened [and heard] your participation on the Judaism Unbound podcast #264. Your presentation was very learned, well presented, and it reinforced things I am learning about Karaism. One point you made, and I humbly, take exception to, regards the item of community. Without face to face personal interaction and discourse all that can exist is a pool of people with a common interest and no real direction.

  3. Ana Lopes

    Very interesting your interpretation about chicken and eggs. It makes a lot of sense.

  4. Noah

    I loved this interview. I was curious about attending the Daly City Synagogue but I can’t find any direct contact on their website or yours. Do you have any info on whether it is open for services now?
    Shabbat shalom, Noah

  5. Fredrika

    I think it would be great if a karnite did work for darshan yeshiva!
    People that are curious about lerning about judaism and maybe even convert should be abel to learn about all the kinds of judaism. I think they would let a karnite be part of it if they ask? So why have not anyone done that?
    If people have more info they can make a more free choice 🙂

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