When I was a child, I constantly heard my uncle – the then acting rabbi of the Karaite Jews of America – say that whenever people visit us, they feel like we – the living Karaites in the 1980s – are the best kept secret in Judaism. While I always appreciated the sentiment, I never wanted Karaites or Karaism to be a secret. (Here, I note that many Egyptian Karaites who came to the United States actually kept their Karaite origins a secret from their Jewish communities.) Today, I take a quick look at some things that show the secret is out.
Category Archives: Shabbat Candles
Oy. Where to begin. Just over a month ago, I spoke at a Jewish high school about issues in Karaite Judaism – particularly as they implicate Shabbat and technology. Speaking with me was a conservative rabbi who happened to grow up at the same conservative synagogue that I did – though we did not know each other previously. This synagogue housed the KJA and our Shabbat prayers from 1984-1990.
After a quick introduction – curses started flying.
This week, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the long-time spiritual leader of the Sephardi movement, passed away. The reactions of the Jewish world have been far-ranging and I don’t intend to express any opinions on his legacy or his halacha.
But Rabbi Yosef’s passing reminded me that he has encouraged marriages between Rabbanites and Karaites so that Karaites would eventually accept the Oral Law.
I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure that David Suissa, President of the Jewish Journal, was paying a compliment to Karaite Jews when he recently referred to us as “rebellious” due to our rejection of the Talmud.
I’ve met Mr. Suissa on a few occasions (though he probably would not remember me) and several years back I actually heard him speak at a Shabbat dinner in a private home in Los Angeles. In every instance, he has shown himself to be a sincere individual and a dedicated Jew. I was, thus, particularly flattered when Mr. Suissa likened Karaites to rebels – especially around this time of year when most Jews throughout the world will soon begin the celebration of Hanukkah.
Hanukkah commemorates one of the most successful rebellions in the history of our people. The Maccabees, as they are commonly referred to, were the heroes and leaders of a rebellion against the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. Because of the Maccabean Revolt, the Jewish people reclaimed The Temple and rededicated it to the God of Israel. The word Hanukkah is Hebrew for “dedication.”
But the connection between Karaites and the Maccabees is much deeper than my not-so-artful twist on the word “rebellious.”