Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Karaites, tefillin, masorah and archaology

A very interesting discussion about Karaites in this DovBear comment thread. The Jewropean mentioned that
There also are different groups of karaism who can't seem to stand each other, but I am not really aware of the details here. The Karaite World Union seems to be Egyptian dominated though and [Karaites] of Crimean origin seem to make several of these claims

1) Tefilin should be worn, since archeologist findings prove that the "tefilin verses" in Torah are not a metaphor.
2) The KWU's conversion requirements don't meet the Tanach's requirements.
3) The structures of the KWU contradict the Tanach.
A split among the latter day Karaites? I didn't know about that, but could it be that the Egyptian Karaites have become "Rabbanized"? The Crimeans, more willing to follow archaeological findings, rejecting their "masorah"?

Conversely, we "rabbanites" seem may have split or are splitting into neo-Karaized and non-Karaized factions regarding our own texts and traditions.


  1. As someone who is quite involved with Crimean Karaites, what you wrote is quite true (though I wish it weren't). There is also, of course, more to this story than is generally known.

  2. Actually, I take that back. It's an accurate observation except for the tefillin part. No Karaites, to my knowledge, believe it to be anything but metaphorical. The archaeological findings of tefillin are extremely rare, by the way, and they were all excavated at sites that hosted zealots at one point or another, and we know that the latter included Pharisees.

  3. I am guessing it was based on some online musings that he read. It wouldn't surprise me if some modern Karaites reacted to the discovery of ancient tefillin by wondering if maybe it should be observed literally after all. Anyone can say anything online, right?

  4. Quite right.
    Thanks for reminding me to go back to the National Library where I was reading a fascinating in depth study on the tefillin found at Qumran.

  5. Parenthetically, I came across an interesting reference in Salo Baron today where he claims that the earliest Western European Jewish communities (particularly France) did not use tefillin or mezuzot. He says that this was due to their isolation from the main centers of world Jewry at the time, which may be true but it may also point to the preservation of an ancient tradition (not unlike the Samaritans) that took the verses to be metaphoric (of course this is all conjecture on my part צריך עיון)



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