Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Karaite ikkarim, or principles of the faith.

This is the list of 10 principles of faith for Karaites printed in the book Petah Tikva (Constantinople 1831), which you can read or download at here. (I know!) The book was intended for children.

The seventh is particularly interesting: "ובלשון העברי נתנה תורת האלהים ולכן חוב ללמוד ולהגות לשון התורה ובאורה," "In the Hebrew language was God's Torah given; therefore it is an obligation to learn and contemplate the language of the Torah and its explanations."

These come abstracted from Elijah Bashyazi's אדרת אליהו, in the section called עשרה עקרים. In the edition which I linked it is on page מח., although it is number 6, not 7, as in this list. I didn't look them over to compare them, although I'll do that later. Or eventually.



  1. I am surprised that the Karaites believed in תחית המתים

  2. If you look at page 50 in Aderet Eliyahu, he explains in detail.

  3. A mistake some people might make is to think that Karaites literally (pun intended) have only the 24 books. Many of the Karaite scholars showed that they are very familiar with rabbinic works, and in the best Maimonidean tradition accepted the truth from them. It's just that they did not agree that there was another Torah and that that Torah is the rabbinic tradition. As far as I can tell, and I did not read it closely, he was influenced by philosophy.

  4. "it's just that they did not agree that there was another Torah and that that Torah is the rabbinic tradition"

    that explains the fascination with karaite literature.

  5. Hey, was the "ban deodorant" joke deleted?

  6. Yes. It has the distinction of being, as far as I remember, the first non-spam comment which I have ever deleted.

    1. It had nothing to do with this post.
    2. It was cruel and nasty.

  7. Can you please post a link to the Aderet Eliyahu?

  8. Of course - I already did, actually. If you click the words in the post you'll see that it is a link.

    But here it is also:

  9. 1. Karaites have long fostered a great love for (biblical) Hebrew and a complicated relationship with Aramaic and Arabic. Karaite Hakham Nissi ben Noah (early medieval period) in his introduction to his ביתן המשכילים had this to say about his work:
    ועשיתי זה הספר מדברי כל חוזה מפורש...ביארתים בשפה ברורה בלשון צחות כדברי העבריים ולא בלשון אשורים וארמיים

    שהיא לשון חרפה לאנשי הגולה

    Another Karaite Hakham, Daniel al-Qumisi (a proto-Zionist, circa 10th c. ) wrote almost exclusively in Hebrew. All of his writings, except for one letter, were preserved, and all of them are written in Hebrew, with the exception of one letter in Arabic.

    The Karaite siddur contains mostly prayers in Hebrew, but also some Aramaic ones. The latter were ontroversial, and some Karaites wanted to excise them (to this day).

    In Eastern Europe, their familiarity with Hebrew often brought them into good relations with local maskilim, who were instrumental in the revival of Hebrew (see for instance see the Nahman Krochmal-Karaite saga).

    The famous Firkovich had nothing but praises for Mendelsohn and his disciples and a poem in his honor has been preserved.

    This all changed in the waning years of the 19th c. and much more so in the 20th, as the EE Karaites moved away from Judaism and began to cultivate a separate identity as ethnic 'qaraylar'. Firkovich would claim that they were descended of the Ten Lost Tribes and were in the area (Crimea and then Eastern Europe) before the crucifixion. To that end, he forged tombstones and concocted other evidence.

    Firkovich's succesor Seraya Szapszal (1873-1961) was a dark and shady character (in his youth he worked as a spy for the Persian Shah). In stark contrast to the Hakhamim who preceded him, Szapszal claimed that they were descended of turkic peoples and even forbid the study of Hebrew! Thus may have saved them from Nazi and Communist oppression but it came at a great price; more than 90 percent of these Karaites (who once produced such luminaries as the Jewish apologust Isaac of Trakai, author of Hizzuk Emunah) assimilated and intermarried. Today a mere shadow of them still exist.

    None of this was happening in the Karaite center to the east:Cairo, Egypt, where the Karaites maintained their Jewish identity and fastidiously held on to Hebrew. A large number of them joined the Zionist movement, and a great percentage were transplanted into Israel with the creation of the state and the resultant wars.

  10. 2. The study of Hebrew grammar is counted by the Rambam as a מצוה קלה in his commentary to Mishna Abot. He does not however, interestingly enough, count it as a mitzvah, in his SEPHER HAMITZVOT (unlike the other miztvah kala, mentioned in his commentary: to rejoice on the chag).

    3. Not all Karaites believed in resurrection, although most did. Those who believed that the Karaotes were the spiritual and/or physical descendants of the Sadduccees (Zunz, Geiger and others) wondered about this belief and came to the conclusion that it was a result of direct Rabbinic influence. It should be pointed out that many scholars are of the opinion that even the ancient Sadducees were hardly monolithic in this belief (or lack thereof). One should bear in mind that just as there were two very different strains of Esseneism: those who lived as semi-hermits in caves in the desert, and another that lived in what is now the 'ofel', and was once known as the Essense Quarter in Jerusalem, there were also sub-sects of Sadduceanism; the Herodian Romanizing, usually Priestly upper class types and the pious types who spent their tie poring over intricate details of Halakha (of whichm only snippets have been preserved). It is believed that this last type did believe in the immortality of the soul and in resurrection.

  11. I should have said that not just Karaites but all Jews had a complicated relationship with Aramaic (and Greek), the main competitors to the Hebrew for a very large chunk of its (arguably most creative and formative years) history.

    Attitudes, reflected throughout Mishanic, Talmudic and Midrashic literature range from reverence to hostility. But that is for a whole 'nuther post.

  12. Great comments, Joel. Thanks!

  13. It is very nice Karaite Language that I can read and understand as my mother tongue. I adviced you to have a look at my blog.



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