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September 04, 2007

Comments

jay

Hahaha........

I wouldn't be responding to your provocative choice of title which I doubt you picked out of ignorance or any other bonafide intent if it weren't for its potential to mislead unsuspecting readers who don't know better. Qaraite Judaism isn't a religion per se any more than Orthodox Rabbinical Judaism is a religion in its own right.

Have a good one.

Jay

One more quick note.

From your link to your earlier post about the Samaritan adoption of eastern Slav women I seem to detect an insinuation or innuendo on your part that Qaraite conversion is invalid or leads to marrying foreign people, a ridiculous proposition. I trust most readers are sufficiently intelligent to dismiss the comparison and not arrive at the conclusion you seem to want them to draw from it.

Do you have a dearth of topics to write about lately? :-))

avakesh

It is all a matter of interpretation, the simplest or the most correct. :-)

One question, on what do Qaraites base conversion: source and criteria for valid or invalid, since it is not described in Tanach?

Jay

"The simplest or the most correct" -- a false dichotomy and therefore a logical fallacy since it precludes the possibility that the simplist IS the most correct. Sometimes in Halakha -- at least the Qaraite -- the simplest IS certainly the most correct.

Look, Orthodox rabbis have been sparring amongst themselves for decades concerning some features of conversion, so even in your camp there's a plurality of opinions on what constitutes a "kosher" conversion.

Conversion to the Israelite or Jewish people and religion IS mentioned in the Tanakh in a few places e.g. Ruth and Shemot 12, only you people can't or won't notice because of the layers of Rabbinic interpretation that have impacted your thinking. The karaite-korner website explains this lucidly and concisely so I'm sure you're well aware of what's a valid conversion in Qaraite Judaism and the sources. You simply have some (spare?) time on your hands which you're using to taunt the Qaraites.

Ariel

Jay: how do you know that Tanach is a reliable a record of what God commanded? Have you never heard of either higher or lower Biblical criticism? Have you considered that "objective scrutiny" might lead to the conclusion that, in all likelihood, there are minor or major differences between our Tanach and what existed 3000 years ago?

Jay

Ariel, what are you really getting at?

If your supposition or premise is that the "oral" law is a more reliable record of what YHWH commanded, then forgive me for smothering a wee chuckle here. No objective form of scrutiny leads to such conclusion nor does the Orthodox belief that Moshe received an Oral Law along with the real Torah stand up to objective scrutiny. You know, the Rambam wrote down in his forward to Mishneh Torah the "oral" Law's Chain of Transmission and lo, a few gaps in time have been found between some supposed transmitters and their predecessors. Heck... another version you people tout is that the "oral" Law existed already in Avraham Avinu's days. You folks seem to want to have your cake and eat it too and switch between those two versions when the only guideline is what's convenient for your agenda.

Here's another example: the rabbis have claimed throughout all their generations that Devarim 17:8-13 is the basis for Rabbinic authority over the entire Jewish people and one implication is a tacit agreement on their part is that these verses were written more than 3,000 years ago. Am I now to understand from you that somehow these verses are among the most reliable portion of the real Torah, but in all likelihood much of the remainder of the Torah is different in a minor or major way than the written origin? If so, what *objective* proofs could you offer for this claim? You can't have it both ways!!

SHABBAT SHALOM

Ariel

Jay, I notice that you did not answer my questions. Attacking someone else's beliefs does not amount to a defense of your own.

As for your specific assertions: 1) Any knowledgeable Jew knows that most deviations from the Torah's simple meaning are rabbinic enactments or customs. When and how these new practices come about, and which of them might or might not in fact be Biblical, is extensively and honestly debated by the "rishonim" (great medieval rabbis). Go learn them. 2) You refer to the Rambam, but apparently never saw the same Rambam's opinion that astounding midrashim (i.e. "the "oral" Law existed already in Avraham Avinu's days") were never meant to be taken literally. 3) Yes, we "rabbinates" disagree with each other on many issues, as you indirectly point out (by quoting contradictory sources). But we are aware of what we disagree about, and of what we agree about. You seem not to have the background to know which is which.

More generally: No, the "oral law" is not a single text that we interpret. It is rather a conglomeration of texts, traditions, philosophy, customs, observations, behavior patterns, and who knows how many other potential sources of knowledge. You, Jay, only know of one method of analyzing religious source material. When you apply this method to the "oral law" you end up in confusion, yet never stop to wonder if perhaps your approach was incorrect.

Oh, and try googling the term "radical skepticism" before you next ask someone for proofs. You could use a little philosophical education...

avakesh

A brief comment on whether Qaraism is a different religion than Rabbinism. Although, Jay, you are of course not bound by it, Troki Karaites and Crimean Karaites have sought legal definition as a different religion than Judaism and have so been certified. This enalbled both groups to escape opression, and in the case of Crimean Karaites, extermination. Before the Nazis granted the exemption, they sent the question of whetehr Karaism si Judaism to R. Menachem Xemba and Dr. Meir Balaban (of Tachkemoni) in Warsaw (and also to another scholar, whose name escapes me). All three answered that Karaites are not Jews - in oder to save Karaites from extermination. Crimean Karaites did co-operate with the Nazis and turned over community lists to them so that any Jew claiming to be a karaite can be discovered by them. see, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karaites and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimean_Karaites. I first read about it in a book on Lithuanian history.

The traditional view of Karaiites is Maimonides. It is that Karaites in our day are Jews. Maimonides holds (Hilchot Mamrim 3:3) that most of the Karaites and others who claim to deny the "Oral Law" are not to be held accountable for their errors in the law because they are led into error by their parents and are thus referred to as a tinok she'nishba, or a captive baby.
By the way, he advocates that Rabbanites should reach out to Karaites with respect and attempt to bring them back to Oral Law through discussion and persuasion. Let us then discuss in this spirit.

avakesh

A brief comment on whether Qaraism is a different religion than Rabbinism. Although, Jay, you are of course not bound by it, Troki Karaites and Crimean Karaites have sought legal definition as a different religion than Judaism and have so been certified. This enalbled both groups to escape opression, and in the case of Crimean Karaites, extermination. Before the Nazis granted the exemption, they sent the question of whetehr Karaism si Judaism to R. Menachem Zemba and Dr. Meir Balaban (of Tachkemoni) in Warsaw (and also to another scholar, whose name escapes me). All three answered that Karaites are not Jews - in oder to save Karaites from extermination. Crimean Karaites did co-operate with the Nazis and turned over community lists to them so that any Jew claiming to be a karaite can be discovered by them. see, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karaites and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimean_Karaites. I first read about it in a book on Lithuanian history.

The traditional view of Karaites is Maimonides. It is that Karaites in our day are Jews. Maimonides holds (Hilchot Mamrim 3:3) that most of the Karaites and others who claim to deny the "Oral Law" are not to be held accountable for their errors in the law because they are led into error by their parents and are thus referred to as a tinok she'nishba, or a captive baby.
By the way, he advocates that Rabbanites should reach out to Karaites with respect and attempt to bring them back to Oral Law through discussion and persuasion. Let us then discuss in this spirit.

Ariel

Granted, but it is harder to respect an individual who is trying to proselytize in our community.

Jay

Ariel, you diverted the discussion to matters totally different than this thread's topic and in all honestly I didn't have to reply to your recent questions, so you have no grounds for complaint. I was even almost tempted to tell you you sounded like an Epikorus verging on the agnostic. And whose premise is it that I wanted to defend Qaraite Jewish tenets from your questions? I don't think they need my defense because your questions didn't remotely pose any threats to them.

Frankly, the opinions of the Rishonim concerning when and how rabbinic enactments and customs first developed are only *one* aspect I'd study to figure this out for myself. To study them in isolation of the musings of Qaraite greats, contemporary non-Jewish sources, the archaeological findings and the historical record in general is woefully inadequate and a waste of time.

As for the Rambam, not only did he claim as you concede that astounding midrashim -- e.g. the one that posits the "oral" Law existed already in Avraham Avinu's days -- were never meant to be taken literally, but he appears to have invalidated the "oral" Law without even noticing when he wrote in Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Melakhim u-Milhamot chapter 11: "And the essence of the words are thusly: that this Torah's laws and judgements never change, and forever and ever do not, and they are not to be added onto nor detracted from, and all that add to or detract, or read facets into the Torah in a non-bonafide manner and have taken the commandments' words away from their plain meaning -- you can't deny that these persons are surely evil and [an] Epikorus". (My approximate translation)
However, Ariel, as important a figure he is in Orthodox Judaism, Rambam was only one rabbi and one Rishon, and you people shift between the Rambam's opinion on the matter and other Rabbinic Gedolim's (Greats') opinions on this issue according to expediency as I asserted above. BTW, I'm aware that the Rambam's writings were burned in the 12th century in his lifetime by many other Rabbinic figures and their disciples because he was considered a heretic by many of his supposedly lesser peers.

I find it amusing when you try to claim I don't have the background to know what you (pl.) disagree about and of what you do agree about amongst yourselves in the grand old Orthodox camp when you have no reason to know what my background is exactly. It seems like you tried gazing through your crystal ball in a flimsy attempt to figure it out.

>"More generally: No, the "oral law" is not a single text that we interpret. It is rather a conglomeration of texts, yadda yadda..."

Look, I'm hardly ignorant of these facts and you're not doing your beliefs any favors by repeating the obvious.

How do you know I'm not familiar whatsoever with Drash, Ramez and Sod? Oh... it's your crystal ball that helped you find out.
However, the only exegetical method worth applying in my view to the "oral" Law is to find out its plain meaning. As a Qaraite Jews, I know that in this life choices need to be made, priorities have to be set and time needs to be spent judiciously, something I won't accomplish by applying Drash, Ramez and Sod to the volumes of the multifarious "oral" Law (and yes... what may be considered its canonization process has extended way beyond the Qitzur Shulhan `Arukh...). In my view, Ariel, the "ora" Law itself is THE confusion and there's no way around it for those who take it seriously as authoritative.

Ariel, your invitation for me to Google the term "radical skepticism" before I next ask you or another for proofs is a lame cop out. You made claims that are off topic to the lead post, so you faced the music.

And I'm not trying to proselytize here. I just know that Rabbnites get away with antics and outright contempt for Qaraite Judaism and its adherents in Qaraite fora that Qaraites would never have been able to pull in Rabbinite fora. On the internet the intolerance is decidedly a one-way street from the Rabbinite side.

Anyway, Ariel, you didn't answer my question: what were you really getting at?
I fail to see what you've managed to offer to defend Avakesh's position in his lead post.

Jay

Dear Avakesh:

By the very fact you wrote the word "Rabbinism" instead of simply Judaism, you inadvertently conceded "Rabbinism" or Orthodox Judaism isn't synonymous with Judaism. This seems to me like halfway toward recognizing that Qaraite Judaism is a legitimate expression of Judaism.

The Qaraites in most of Eastern Europe turned their Qaraism in the start of last century into a convoluted form of Qaraite Judaism. With few exceptions, they cut themselves off from both the Jewish people and religion.
However, the benefits reaped by the Lithuanian, Ukranian and Russian Karaylar or "Karaim" (as they call themselves) from their classification as no-Jewish didn't confer immunity on many of them who fought the Nazis as Partizans and even among the ranks of the Red Army (if memory serves). Many Polish Karaylar joined the Polish Underground to struggle against the Nazi occupier.

I'm intensively aware that the Nazis consulted those three Jewish figures and each replied that the Karaylar weren't Jewish (though they were well aware of their recent bonafide Jewish past up to the 1920's when "chief Hakham" Seraja Szapszal enacted his sweeping de-Judaizing reforms). The extent to which Crimean Karaylar cooperated with the Nazis is almost ubiquitously inflated by hyperbole when it was on what you'll learn to be a surprisingly small scale:

"Eventually the Nazis caught onto the fact that thousands of Jews were escaping by masquerading as Karaylar-Karaites. The Nazis informed the Karaylar-Karaites that they had to prepare a list of all their members and anyone not on the list would be murdered. Green explains:

"In order to put an end to this state of affairs, the Germans instructed that a list of all Karaites in Poland be compiled" (Green 1978b p.42)

Of course, the Karaylar-Karaites had no choice but to prepare this list. Interestingly, the list was submitted to the Nazis by Sheraya Szapszal, the same Karaylar-Karaite leader who in 1936 proclaimed Jesus to be a "great prophet" (see above), so he can hardly be mistaken for a Karaite Jew (Green 1978b p.42). The preparation of this list by Szapszal is the source of one of the main accusations against Karaylar-Karaites. Critics argue that Szapszal's list was a "list of death" because it condemned all those Jews masquerading as Karaylar-Karaites to death. Of course, from Szapszal's perspective this was a "list of life". Anyone not on the list was as good as dead. Szapszal could have refused to prepare the list but it would have meant the lives of hundreds if not thousands of more people. In the movie Schindler's List no one accused the Jewish accountant in the movie, Itzhak Stern (played by Ben Kingsley), of preparing a "list of death". Like Szapszal, Stern made a list of names in which everyone on the list would be saved and everyone not on the list would be murdered. Yet Stern has been praised as a hero for saving about 2000 people while Szapszal is accused of being a Nazi collaborator, even though he saved perhaps as many as 9000 people (Spector, p.91)."

http://karaite-korner.org/holocaust.htm
(the only two blemishes that mar this great article are:
1. the mistaken assertion that no Qaraite Jews existed in Europe at the time of the Holocaust, ignoring the Turkish Qaraites that lived mainly in Istanbul and were never "Karaylar".
2. The author fails to take into account that a few Qaraite Jews were never swept by Szapszal's de-Judaizing reforms and thus remained Jewish along with their offspring.)

The same article highlights the near-certainty that at Lutzk, there were only about 50 Karaylar in all of Lutzk out of a total of 9,000 throughout Europe. One can hardly cast blanket blame on all Karaylar for the atrocities of a few in Lutzk who were in all probability "an exception". This would be like blaming all Rabbinites for the atrocities of the Judenrat or blaming all Muslims for terrorism. A few rotten apples cannot condemn the whole bunch.

As you probably realize, the truth on this matter is hard to come by and seems tucked away in hidden places.

The traditional view written by the Rambam which you cited from Hilkhot Mamrim 3:3 is sort of mirrored by the Qaraite view that most Raqbbinites who accept the "oral" Law as authoritative are not to be held accountable for their errors in their walk of Torah because they are led into error by their parents and religious figures of authority and are thus referred to as a "tinoqot she-nishbu (captive babbies). I've heard of the towering Egyptian rabbinic authority Dawid Ibn-Zimra of the 16th century as well whose view of the Qaraite "issue" is highly valued in Orthodox thought as well.

I know a few Qaraites who've been persuaded "back" to accepting the Pharisaic/Rabbinic "oral" Law through discussion, but for you people this route doesn't hold promise in convincing the cast majority of Qaraites. I think it was R. `Ovadia Yosef who found a better way to conquer Qaraites, namely being much more lenient in accepting Qaraites into the Orthodox fold through marriage. As for this Qaraite, I was under the "oral" Law's wings and will NOT be persuaded back under them. I've learned so many uncomplimentary facts about it that there's no chance anybody can entice me back to being a Rabbinite Jews. For example, the Babylonian Talmud has so much Zoroastrian influence that it's hard to tell where the Zoroastrian part ends and where the Jewish begins. In fact, I wonder to what extent the Rabbinites are unwitting worshipers of Zoroaster.

avakesh

Jay, thank you for a lot of interesting information. I must, however, object to the last paragraph. What you call Zorastrian influence is in the ares of demonology and medical practices, the science of the times, it is negligible and had no significant influence on codification of halacha.

A historical critical approach is an enemy of both Karaites and non-Karaites, whether applied to Talmud or Tanakh. With this observation, I close this discussion and will delete any future such comments. I do not wish this blog to be marred by polemics or criticism of the essentials. This is not the appropriate forum for that conversation.

Jay

Avakesh, I dispute the degree of Zorastrian influence you assign to the Talmud. Far from being negligible, it seems as if entire Zoroastrian books were copied straight into the Talmud.

Say what you will, I believe what you call a "historical critical approach" is much more favorable to the Qaraite positions and the Tanakh's plain meaning.

I regret you've decided to resort to the "time tested" Orthodox weapon of censorship when you it was your friend Ariel who initiated polemics and drew me into criticism of the essentials here with his off topic comments. I can only hope you won't make exceptions for him to make it appear he's "won" by posting the last word on the topics he opened for discussion.

Shavu`a Tov to you too.

Ariel

Just one more comment, I hope you will let it through. (and I hope you allow Jay one response)

There are many historical-critical theories which, if true, would be very damaging to "rabbinates" and/or Karaites. However, the nature of the theories is such that they cannot now, and possibly will never, be proven either true or false beyond a reasonable doubt. There is only a preponderance of available evidence favoring one side or the other.

If the preponderance is against us "rabbinates" and it touches on a key point of our faith, we can leave the matter unsettled. Perhaps someday evidence will emerge which supports our view (i.e. archaeological discoveries of the past 150 years, in relation to the veracity of Biblical history). But even if it doesn't, though we are unhappy with the situation, we know that our religion has not actually been proven false.

But it seems to me that Karaism, due to its belief in relying on the "most likely" theory to the exclusion of all others, is much more vulnerable to contradiction by historical-critical theories. (That vulnerability is independent of which particular historical-critical theory we are discussing, so most of the details we discussed are beside the point.)

That is why I brought the topic up.

Jay

First off, I'd like to remark that if Rabbinites can afford to leave matters unsettled if the preponderance of available evidence weighs against Orthodox Judaism and touches on a key point of their faith, the same is true for Qaraites as well since what's good for the goose should be every bit as good for the gander and whoever disputes this is hypocritical. In faith matters, a verdict of science that refutes a particular faith or creed doesn't matter at the end of the day for truly believing religious adherents. Another way to put it: atheists of all kinds maintain that both Qaraite and Orthodox Judaism have squarely been proven false.

That being said, I'm convinced that even if some elements of the Tanakh have been refuted by objective scrutiny, the edifice known as the "oral" Law has always been refuted at its very basis and I've briefly shown in this thread why. And since its foundation was disproven at its very outset, the amount of proven content it contains doesn't really matter.

The notion that Qaraite Judaism believes in relying on the "most likely" theory to the exclusion of all others is a misconception by the above commenter. What needs to be understood is that Qaraism strives to reach the best interpretation that suits the text's plain meaning: a valid interpretation must fit the plain meaning of the text and be consistent with the rules of grammar and the passage's context; choosing a correct interpretation requires intense study to discover the strengths and weaknesses of each argument.

Lastly, I believe Ariel was being very defensive claiming I was trying to proselytize in his community when I had done nothing of such nature. Unfortunately it's a fact of life that some individuals who can't take the heat of debate resort in lieu of sound arguments and reasoning to false accusations.

Jay

First off, I'd like to remark that if Rabbinites can afford to leave matters unsettled if the preponderance of available evidence weighs against Orthodox Judaism and touches on a key point of their faith, the same is true for Qaraites as well since what's good for the goose should be every bit as good for the gander and whoever disputes this is hypocritical. In faith matters, a verdict of science that refutes a particular faith or creed doesn't matter at the end of the day for truly believing religious adherents. Another way to put it: atheists of all kinds maintain that both Qaraite and Orthodox Judaism have squarely been proven false.

That being said, I'm convinced that even if some elements of the Tanakh have been refuted by objective scrutiny, the edifice known as the "oral" Law has always been refuted at its very basis and I've briefly shown in this thread why. And since its foundation was disproven at its very outset, the amount of proven content it contains doesn't really matter.

The notion that Qaraite Judaism believes in relying on the "most likely" theory to the exclusion of all others is a misconception by the above commenter. What needs to be understood is that Qaraism strives to reach the best interpretation that suits the text's plain meaning: a valid interpretation must fit the plain meaning of the text and be consistent with the rules of grammar and the passage's context; choosing a correct interpretation requires intense study to discover the strengths and weaknesses of each argument.

Lastly, I believe Ariel was being very defensive claiming I was trying to proselytize in his community when I had done nothing of such nature. Unfortunately it's a fact of life that some individuals who can't take the heat of debate resort in lieu of sound arguments and reasoning to false accusations.

Ariel

In all honesty, I am not sure what you think the "very basis" of the oral law is, nor where in the above posts you think you have disproven it. It is hard for me to reply when I don't know what I should be replying to. If you want, we can continue discussing this elsewhere (as Avakesh has requested).

Or else we could make a deal: I respect your a priori assumptions about the nature of Jewish law, and you respect mine.

My reference to proselytizing was meant not to support my arguments, which I believe stand on their own, but only to explain to Avakesh (after the fact) why I chose the tone that I did. Nothing more.

Jay

There I was entertaining a flimsy hope you'd post just one last comment, read my ensuing post and be done with this exchange.

Frankly I think rather than being concerned about having your "a priori assumptions about the nature of Jewish law" respected, you should be attending to a new concern of developing basic credibility so you'd be considered to have some minimal air of serious quality.

Too bad you didn't start our exchange with on-topic statements. Even now in what may be your concluding post here you went nowhere near it. I'm not gonna waste time with you elsewhere in endless cock scuffles when you can barely make one remark on topic.

avakesh

As the moderator, I call this exchange to an end. Ariel, I urge you to continue speaking to Jay off-line, if he wishes to participate in a serious, respectful discussion. You seem to be able to ably to represent Rabbinic Judaism and perhaps something good yet may come out of it. See Metsudat to Mishlei 26, 4 re: public discussions of this sort.

Jay, you are engaging in medieval style polemics. The times when Karaites and Rabbanites used such harsh language are long gone. I realize that there is a history and emotions to your approach but it does not work in this age and place.

For both of you, consider the following book which is a response to various Karaite arguments: http://www.yasharbooks.com/Advocate.html. The book is currenlty out-of-print but is available through various online re-sellers.

Jay

Avakesh, I couldn't agree more with you that medieval style polemics laden with fierce emotions do not work in this day and age, but I'm afraid to tell you that extremely offensive anti-Qaraite invective is still quite pervasive if not ubiquitous among many Orthodox Rabbinites as I'm about to prove, and I hate to have to correct your misconception this time round. Personally I've run into it on a Rabbinite website in Hebrew a mere few months ago where the author referred to Qaraites as "May their Names be Eliminated ("Yimah Shemam"). If you understand Hebrew, watch the following virulently anti-Qaraite video hate and see the comments below it that feature the following invective for examples:

1. "A wierd, crazy, insane cult" and "cut-off from Israel".

2. "B.S.D. - Indeed this is the 'naked truth' (lit. truth for its truthfulness), these evil spoilers/destroyers of Yisrael YSh"w [Yimah Shemam We-Zikhram/May their Name and Memory be Eliminated], and Fake Zionism sees them as Jews[!]"

3. "These Qaraites are a cult/sect of idol-worshippers."

4. "Great clip, truly a cult/sect of Gay Jews."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fe4WF87AZak

All dissenting comments have either been blocked or removed within hours!

So much for medieval style polemics. The harsh language and poisonous emotions seem to be flowing mostly from the Rabbinites...

Kol tuv -- all the best to you.

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