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The Myth of the Cultural Jew by Roberta Rosenthal Kwall REVIEW

 

Are you a secular Jew? Think that Jewish law is irrelevant in the formation of your purely cultural areligious (0r even anti-religious) identity? Think again.
Dr. Roberta Rosenthal Kwall in her very informative book The Myth of the Cultural Jew seeks to lay down a comprehensive and cohesive description of what Judaism was, is, and even what it ought to be.

It is instructive that Benedict Spinoza, who is often referred to as the “first secular Jew” was contrary to what one might expect deeply enmeshed in Jewish law and ethics. In my article “The Curious Case of Benedict Spinoza”, I elaborate how the eminent philosopher, (the anniversary of his excommunication by the Sephardic community of Amsterdam happens to be today incidentally), was in fact deeply Jewish in ways that many contemporary secular Jews would find incongruous with current conceptions of secular Judaism. Some examples of Spinoza’s Jewishness includes his extolling of ritual circumcision; his praise of the Jewish unique national character and identity, and the fervently-expressed hope for restored nationhood (some would later call this “proto-Zionism”). Spinoza was no atheist; Some Orthodox Rabbis, such as Chaim Hirschensohn were even convinced that Spinoza comprehended God in a way that nobody of his generation was yet ready to process.

In her masterful study of what shapes Jewish identity, Kwall utilizes the cultural analysis paradigm. As Kwall puts it, “cultural analysis rejects the view that law is objectively neutral and coherent and thus lacking a relationship to its surrounding cultural environment. Instead…[it] understands both law and culture as products of social context and historically specific circumstances. It also sees law as the product of discourse and debate, shaped in response to the push and pull of social forces. Halakah [Jewish law], like all law, both reflects and constitutes social and cultural practices. Jewish law which is binding upon Jews…produces Jewish culture, and Jewish culture produces Jewish law.

The study of the connection between culture and law is a fairly new discipline, Kwall points out and a comprehensive study of the interrelationship between Jewish culture and law is in its infancy and forms, of course, the substance of the book.
In order to better understand this interrelationship, Kwall lays down some definitions of law. Law is said to be a product of creation much like culture. Social stratification and power dynamics are likewise taken into account. As a former Supreme Court Justice put it, the law is not always necessarily a reflection of objectivity and laws are not necessarily always promulgated for the benefit of the greater good.

This is followed by a sweeping overview of the history of the development of the Halakha or Jewish law. Halakha, the oral law, tradition, and customs are discussed at length in Chapter 1.
Chapter 2 focuses on what Kwall calls the top-down view; that is the law as well as its accouterments as given over from on high down through the chain of command, all the way down to the layman. The chapter also discusses the pervasive influence of Hellenistic culture on Jewish law and methods of law; be it hermeneutic principles as well as the binary written/oral system.

According to Kwall, “the leaders of the Jews in Hellenistic Palestine saw no inherent contradiction between a Hellenized lifestyle and Jewish practice”. Even pagan imagery was tolerated if not eventually co-opted. Professor Eric Myers maintains that this “became the paradigm for future accommodations to other major world civilizations, such as Rome, Byzantium, Islam, and Christianity”.

This cross-cultural fertilization was apparent even in areas of law. For instance, Kwall quotes the Middle East scholar, Bernard Lewis who illustrates this point by looking to the issue of polygamy. “Islam permits polygamy and concubinage, Christianity bans both. In the Christian world, the Jews adopted and practiced monogamy to the point of making it a rule of law; in the Muslim world most Jewish communities practiced, or at least permitted, polygamy and concubinage until almost the present day”.
And while the Jewish communities in France and Germany were small and tight-knit, seemingly living in a shielded bubble, this was not, in fact, the case. Kwall cites the many sources that describe how Jews in Ashkenaz pulled back the restrictions on dealing with non-kosher wine and lending on credit-things that are seemingly blanketly prohibited in Jewish law. The Jewish authorities offered substantial latitude in fields that were essential to Jewish economic success in the societies within which they lived.
Chapter 3 devotes substantial space to what Kwall calls the bottom-up approach in the development of Jewish law. The bottom-up approach refers to practices by the people that were eventually enshrined into local Jewish law. One example cited is the famed medieval French sage knows as Rabbenu Tam restricting the ability of a husband to inherit from his deceased wife’s estate if she died within 12 months after the marriage. This is in seeming contravention of a law clearly set down in the Bible but it caught on quickly among the people-so much so that when the Rabbi wanted to overturn this rule, it was too late; it had already become deeply enshrined.

Other examples of Rabbinic toleration (and eventually validation) of bottom-up practices are the widespread custom, stemming from Central Europe, to make an early Shabbat; to pray Maariv/Arvit way before the Halakhically mandated time for evening prayers (The custom originates at a time when towns were not regularly illuminated and evenings often came early. It was done for reasons of safety and practicality).

The safety aspect is also evident in other customs of early Ashkenaz. For instance the use of amulets and other seemingly superstitious rituals to guard newborns and the like. The Rabbis did not necessarily look upon these things with favor but were forced to concede to the powerful will of the people. These practices often became enshrined customs which became almost legally binding.
It is interesting to note, (because of the timeliness of the subject), in this context, the custom among German Jews to drink wine and eat meat on the night before the circumcision. So attached were the German Jews to this custom that the Rabbis were forced to allow this, (with a proviso that the celebrants give up either wine or meat), even when it fell during the nine days preceding the Ninth of Av-a time where Ashkenazim customarily enter a minor period of mourning sans consuming flesh or imbibing wine.

The bottom-up also takes into account what David Biale observes, namely the fact that “the people themselves actively participated in the redaction of the Talmud’s authority by virtue of their embracing and reaffirming the Talmud’s tradition and worldview”.
Other elements of dominant local Christian culture assimilated and “kosherized” by Jews are cited. For instance the institution of “sandek” (literally, Godfather), at a ritual circumcision and many of its attendant customs (such as the nighttime vigil) which resemble a Christian baptism.

Jewish mourning customs too, closely resembled, the Christian monastic practice of reading necrologies and the lighting of candles.

Interestingly, the term “yahrtzeit”, Kwall informs us, is taken from the same term used by German Christians to recall the souls of the departed on the anniversary of their deaths. Also interesting to note, observance of “yahrtzeit” was initially resisted by Sephardic Jews given its Ashkenazic origins (this is unrelated to the ancient and North African custom of sage veneration and gravesite vigils).
Kashrut standards too were often a bottom up affair.
It is interesting to note that the stringencies regarding separate dishes for meat and milk are just that: stringencies. The same goes for the 6 hour waiting period between meat and milk. The early Ashkenazic Rabbis were extremely lenient on this front often requiring no waiting period at all, (let alone separate sets of dishes). The stringencies in this area were a product of the actions of “the people” (apparently it was the German-Jewish Pietist movement known as Hasidim-not to be confused with their much later namesakes to the east) which eventually took on the force of enshrined custom.
Chapter 4 provides a sustained look into various Jewish denominations and their divergent views of Halakha.

It is interesting to note the development of early Reform. Aside from the sustained influence on the movement by a liberal German Protestant theologian named Julius Wellhausen, early Reform vociferously opposed assimilation and in fact called for strong, distinct religious identity among the movement’s adherents.

The initial reformers were proud of their Jewish heritage and sought to work within the Halakhic framework. Kwall: “consistent with their support of universal ethical monotheism, they invoked the ethical commandments of the Biblical prophets as their primary source of authority for change”.
When the first Reform Temple opened in Hamburg, its radical introduction of choral singing and the use of an organ on the Sabbath was defended on Talmudic grounds. They genuinely believed they were upholding “mesorah” (tradition) as Kwall puts it.
It was only, later, beginning in Frankfurt of the 19th century, under the leadership of leaders like Samuel Holdheim, that Reform took a turn toward the radical, with the latter for instance seeking to switch the Sabbath to Sunday as well as abolish circumcision.
Orthodoxy is also given the autopsy treatment. Kwall discusses the various groups and subgroups that make up Orthodoxy. The clear picture that emerges is that Orthodoxy was not and is not a monolith by any stretch of the imagination.

I do take issue with Kwall’s characterization of the German Orthodox Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch as “Modern Orthodox” in the modern sense of the term. Rabbi Hirsch is often described as such, giving off the erroneous assumption that institutions like Yeshiva University and the philosophy of Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik, for instance, grew out of this school of Orthodox thought.

But the truth is far more nuanced than that. While YU and the Hirschian Orthodox community, by a twist of fate, both ended up in the Washington Heights section of New York, they were as often ideological adversaries as they were allies (it is also important to note Hirsch’s sharp criticism of Maimonides in this context. Kwall mentions it on p. 111). The important differences revolved/s around the elevation of secular studies as an end in and of itself and Religious Zionism (which the Hirschians did not embrace at all).
Kwall does indeed hit the bull’s eye with her characterization of Orthodoxy’s steady shift to the right during the post-war years. I’ve covered the kosher aspect in my review of Roger Horowitz’s Kosher USA; how “glatt” suddenly became the standard, modes of dress became much more conservative (a glance at photos of Orthodox American Rabbis wives’ from the earlier part of the last century bears this out; Yeshiva boys did not perpetually garb themselves in black and white but took part in the prevailing fashion et al).

A brief discussion of the highly complex and paradoxical Chabad movement is also offered.

Kwall then moves on to a history of the development of the Conservative movement. It is interesting that the early advocates of this denomination were likewise deeply traditional (the name does give it away). Solomon Schecter’s avid Zionism is ironically juxtaposed with the anti-Zionism of contemporary Reform as well as that of large sections of the Orthodox.

Lawmaking in the Conservative movement is interesting and complex if nothing else. The Halakahic-making body is for instance not beholden to its Israeli counterpart (interesting, but not mentioned by Kwall is the effusive praise once offered by none that the Sephardic Orthodox Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to some Israeli Conservatives, better known as Masorti for their serious approach to — and keeping of Halakah).
Space is also devoted to the first homegrown American version of Judaism, namely Reconstructionism and its founder Mordecai Kaplan. Kaplan is said by some to be the harbinger of a “Copernican revolution”.
Chapter 5 wades into the dicy areas of Who is a Jew and Sabbath Laws.
When the Reform movement (as a result of heightening intermarriage) introduced the so-called patrilineal principle which decreed that children born of non-Jewish mothers are still Jews (granted that they identify as Jewish), it all but guaranteed a firestorm of controversy and discord among traditionalists (it also ignited controversy among Conservatives and even among some Reformers; Reform Rabbi Donald Tam, for instance, called it destructive and harmful to Jewish unity and continuity).

Kwall cites Professor Shaye J.D. Cohen, who in turn cites a very interesting responsum from the Sephardic sage Rabbi Yomtob Algaze which allegedly “foreshadows reform’s position”. According to this, Algaze interpreted the Talmud’s matrilineal principle, (namely that only one born to a Jewish mother is considered Jewish.) only when the child was raised by the mother and given a Jewish identity.

The Conservative analog to the aforementioned controversy is arguably the issue of driving on the Sabbath. In 1950, the Conservative Halakhic body published the famous Sabbath Responsum. In short, it maintained that being that operating a motor vehicle is a mild Sabbath prohibition (in Halakhic parlance, a “shevut” rather than a “Melakha”,), driving to the Synagogue in order to attend services (only!) is permitted. The responsum sought to justify this from within the Halakhic framework.

Significantly, the Masorti Conservative Jews in Israel did not accept this.
Within the ranks of Conservative American Jews, the issue was, likewise, far from accepted without controversy initially
.
Chapter 6 discusses the issue of homosexuality and its attendant controversies among the three different denominations. Of interest is that as late as 1973, the Reform Rabbinic body issued a responsum that referred to homosexuality as a sin, and stressed that “Judaism places great emphasis on family, children and the future”. It also advocated against establishing gay Synagogues in order “to decrease their mutual availability to one another”, although, it took pains to instruct that homosexuals are not to be excluded from the community or synagogue.

Within Orthodox Judaism, mention is made of a minority of left-wing Rabbis who seek a greater role for the Orthodox homosexual. While not agreeing with the eventual Reform and Conservative stances regarding homosexuals (namely full admission and recognition), Rabbi Asher Lopatin of the left-wing Open Orthodox Hovevei Torah pleads for Rabbis to plunge into the vast seas of our tradition in the hope of an eventual breakthrough on the issue.

Chapter 8 discusses the role of the State of Israel in forging Jewish law and culture.
The Who is a Jew controversy of the 70s still resonates to this day. In fact with the influx of so many immigrants whose ties to Jews and Judaism are not (historically) certain, it has taken on an even harsher and more immediate tone of urgency.

Who is a Jew? Who is an Israeli? Concrete answers to these questions don’t look like they will materialize anytime soon. Kwall mentions a group of Israelis who petitioned the High Court to have the ethnicity of “jew” erased from their identity cards because they identify as Israeli and see the category as discriminatory toward other Israelis who don’t happen to be Jewish. This radical move was turned down by the High Court.
I disagree with Professor Anita Shapira who saw this move as “something very revolutionary”, the “Canaanite movement” of the early 20th century is indicative of this type of disassociation which some Jews felt was essential to a revivified nation and people.

Different categories of Jews are enumerated. Aside from the Religious, the secular and the Ultra Orthodox, there are other still emerging categories such as “familists” (which sees the nation as one cohesive and distinct family). The people that are not easily placed into neat categories; those who are traditional (I am surprised that Kwall didn’t mention the Mizrahim Jews from Arab countries who are not Orthodox in the strict sense of the term but tend to be deeply traditional; they might sit down for a Sabbath lunch after prayer in the Synagogue and then drive down to the stadium and watch a soccer game) can occupy a valuable “middle ground” and may be the key to solving latent conflicts among various sectors of the population.
.
I don’t think that any of the categories listed are particularly new; in the pre-state Yishuv labels like “Torah Observant Seculars” and “Religious-Seculars” were not unknown.
Kwall cites the upsurge of interest in Judaism among a young generation of Israelis. Secular Yeshivot where religious texts are intensely studied -sans the fire and brimstone aspect- is now a ubiquitous thing.

Kwall feels that the study of Jewish lore (Aggadah) can serve to unify a people whose views of what Judaism is or ought to be, differ so significantly. I was immediately reminded of the great secular poet Hayyim Bialik who published a highly popular compendium of Agadic sayings from Rabbinic literature. I often find this very book, well thumbed, at my local Orthodox Synagogue (granted I live in the US).
While Israelis tend to not be drawn to non-Orthodox forms of Judaism (this is due to their tendency to see things in black and white; Orthodox or not. I also think this is due to that fact that a large number of Israelis are of non-Ashkenazic stock where non-Orthodox denominations seem utterly foreign).

Chapter 9 deals with Jewish identity in the United States
The Pew Research Poll of 2013 is liberally cited although its drawbacks are recognized. Not surprisingly, Orthodox Jews are still in the minority; the vast majority of Jews identify with liberal denominations of Judaism or eschew denominations altogether (an increasingly large and growing group among the youth).
Most American Jews identify with Israel but a growing minority among the youth feel increasingly alienated.

Political liberalism constitutes the belief of the vast majority of American Jews.
Chapter 10 concludes with the introduction that sums up the entirety of the book: “The myth of the cultural Jew is that one can adhere to Judaism on just a cultural level. In reality, those who claim to be “cultural Jews” still are embracing Jewish law and tradition regardless of whether they are aware of this reality or acknowledge it”.
Further: “From a cultural analysis perspective, the human element of Halakah is of vital importance..cultural analysis of law concentrates on how law reflects and shapes humans and their world. This human component of Halakha not only represents a search for the divine will but also establishes that Halakah is embedded figuratively into the DNA of the Jewish people regardless of the level of the religiosity of any one person. Recognition of this reality may help explain why people are proud to be Jewish even if they do not explicitly recognize the role of Halakah with respect to their pride. further, because Halakha as it has been developed over the centuries also is the product of culture, environment, and historical circumstances, it essentially embodies the entirety of the Jewish people’s existence and experience.

I can only conclude myself by paraphrasing the Talmud, This is indeed Torah, the rest, go out and learn.

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STOLEN WORDS Tells the Story of the Jewish Books Plundered by the Nazis and What Became of Them.

 

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Rabbi Mark Glickman delights once again with his latest book Stolen Words. This book recounts the saga of an overlooked group of survivors. The Jewish people are known as “People of the Book”. For millennia we have cherished the written word. Before the era of printing, scrolls were painstakingly compiled. Much love and care was put into the composition of documents. The generous contents of the Cairo Genizah indicate that Medieval Mediterranean Jews were often loathe to part with writings, even with those of a mundane nature.

Rabbi Glickman leads the reader into the saga of Jewish books that survived the savage Nazi onslaught by recounting his acquisition of a rare copy of the Laws of Rabbi Isaac Alfasi. Inside he discovered a strange marking which puzzled him. The stamp bore the legend “Jewish Cultural Reconstruction”. Some more digging opened up an entire portal into a story not often told, of post-war reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Jewish people.

The Nazis, unlike their medieval Jew-hating predecessors, were determined to get their hands on all the literary treasures of the Jewish nation. If their Jew-hating forbears were in the habit of looting and burning the precious holy books of the Jews, the Nazis had other plans. In Glickman’s words “Nazi Germany worked hard NOT to destroy Jewish books but to save them”…They weren’t interested in editing or censoring..they wanted to study the volumes in their original form…they weren’t scared of Jewish books; they were fascinated by them…their efforts to preserve Jewish literature would have been utterly baffling to European leaders of the past..
The question, of course is, why? Why were the Nazis determined to preserve the Jewish literary riches?

Since the days of Luther, Goethe and Kant, the Germans were a bookish and book-loving people. For instance the Frankfurt Book Fair which began in the Middle Ages still continues going strong today.

By sequestering the Jewish books, the Nazis would not only accomplish the complete destruction of the flesh and blood Jew, but would also be in full control of everything that shaped his identity. In fact Glickman writes that the Nazis were even interested in the Yiddish language; a linguist named Franz Beranzek argued that Germans should “reclaim” the study of Yiddish, claiming that it was actually a dialect of German and it could reveal “the racial and unique cultural foundation of Jewry”.

A grandiose scheme was hatched whereas several different Nazi agencies under the directorships of Alfred Rosenberg and Heinrich Himmler were to to collect all these items and eventually sort them and exhibit them in what was to become the Museum of the Extinct Jewish Nation.

Tons of books and precious ritual items were looted from both Municipal as well as private-owned libraries (such as the famed Vilna Strashun Library), from the centers of Ashkenazi Jewry to Salonika, Greece, known as “Jerusalem of the Balkans”, precious and priceless items such as incunabula and documents from the Cairo Genizah (pages from the ancient thought to be lost hebrew Book of ben Sira) that once belonged to the private library of Edmund Rothschild were shipped to various depots in Germany (Especially to the town of Offenbach) and Nazi-occupied eastern Europe.

The Nazis selected Jewish scholars to sort and organize what amounted to the detritus of a millennium of physical Jewish history of European Jewry. These Jews, scholars and librarians in their “former life, often risked their lives to hide and smuggle out their wares. A courageous Muslim curator at the Bosnian National Museum spirited the famed magnificent Sarajevo Haggada to safety.

The devastation of war resulted in the permanent disappearance of many of these items but there were tons of them still left once the smoke cleared.
Various organizations sent scholars to asses the items that were sitting in warehouses now under American military administration. Great Jewish historians and scholars like Salo Baron, Gershom Scholem, and Lucy Dawidowicz spent hours poring over books and manuscripts and sometimes resorted to subterfuge in order to spirit the documents out of the lands that have become so drenched with Jewish blood.

The book abounds with interesting facts and anecdotes. For instance:

*In 1559, partly to quell the rise of Protestant sedition, Pope Paul IV issued something called Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Index of Prohibited Books). It included the Talmud as well as other Jewish books. Later Popes issued revised lists but as late as 1948 Pope Piux XII issued a final version which included large sections of the Talmud, and the writings of Maimonides. It was only in 1965 that Pope Paul VI abolished the list altogether.

*In Medieval times destruction of what was deemed objectionable Jewish material was also accomplished via less radical means than burning. In the late 13th century, King James I of Aragon introduced the Jewish book censor,history’s first official censor of Jewish books-Glickman informs us- was a Dominican priest by the name of Ramon Marti or Raymond Martini. Many documents that have come down from that period show instances where texts that were find offensive by the church were simply blacked out with ink or cut out.

It is worth noting a great irony of history here. By engaging in intense study of Jewish texts (in order to refute them but also often attempting to demonstrate the truth of the Christian faith from within them), the Dominican did the Jewish people and the world of scholarship a great favor by inadvertently leaving us a wealth of ancient Jewish material that was otherwise lost of censored into oblivion. According to Alexander Fidora in his THE LATIN TALMUD AND ITS INFLUENCE ON JEWISH-CHRISTIAN POLEMIC, “Martini completed (in ca. 1280) his magisterial Pugio fidei (‘Dagger of Faith’) containing
innumerable citations from the Talmud and further rabbinical writings proving
that the Messiah had already come. Unlike his earlier work, the Capistrum Iudaeorum (‘Muzzle of the Jews’),where he also included Latin quotations from
the Talmud, here he first cites the texts in their original language and then provides Latin translations, which in their entirety constitute a considerable corpus
that is also deserving of our close attention”.
See here: http://pagines.uab.cat/…/pagines.uab.cat.l…/files/LATTAL.pdf

 

The last page of STOLEN WORDS features a photo which provides the story with a fitting bookend. It shows Rabbi Glickman with his edition of Alfasi-the one that propelled him on this journey- surrounded by curious Jewish youngsters. Words can never truly be stolen.

Did the Karaites and Hasidim Essentially Share a Mikveh in the Old City of Jerusalem?

From the Brill entry on the Anan Ben David Synagogue:

“The oldest known Karaite synagogue is the one in Jerusalem. …The northeastern room [of the Karaite Synagogue] served as a ritual bath and may have been connected underground to the ritual bath of the adjacent Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue”.

See my article here for more

 

Do Surnames Indicate Origins? The Case of the Skulener Rebbe.

“הרב פורטוגל (המשפחה נקראה כן בשל היות מוצאה מגולי פורטוגל אשר השתקעו ברוסיה

https://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%97%D7%A1%D7%99%D7%93%D7%95%D7%AA_%D7%A1%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%9C%D7%A2%D7%9F

 

Has anyone written an in depth study (utilizing primary source material) of the Sabbath Lamp controversy that hit the the Karaites in the 15th century?

The focus should be on the dynamic father-son duo Moses and Elijah Bashyatchi of Byzantium. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elijah_Bashyazi

While the Bashyatchis instituted many reforms, the lifting of the ban on Sabbath lamps is the most interesting and the most important. It was this prohibition that had the Karaites apart from their Rabbanite brethren for centuries.

The Bashyatzi reforms were not accepted without vigorous opposition (sometimes from their own close family members). The communities became fractured into two opposing camps: one was called מדליקים,literally “the lighters”, i.e. those who lit candles on the eve of the Sabbath and the מכבים, literally the extinguishers, i.e. those who made sure to put out all fires with the arrival of the Sabbath. Tracts like איגרת איסור נר שבת by Byzantine Hakham Abraham Bali (an unapologetic extinguisher) and other apologia that were composed by traditional old-line Karaites have never, to my knowledge, been properly studied.

It is also still unclear exactly which communities accepted this relaxation wholesale; made compromises in Synagogues but not in dwelling places; and who continues to adhere to the original Karaite interpretation of this prohibition to this day.
For instance, it is commonly perceived that this specific Bashyatzi reform was embraced in Asia minor, The Crimea, and Eastern Europe (although a friend informs me that his father once wandered into a dark cold Karaite Kenesa in Birzai, Lithuania on a Friday eve. Other anecdotal evidence points to such anti-reformist tendencies in the Crimea as well) while the deeply traditional Middle Eastern Karaites categorically rejected it. This is certainly no longer true as traditionally most Karaite synagogues in Israel not only light oil lamps on Friday eve but even sell this honor to the highest bidder. By the 1940s, the last Karaite Hakham of Egypt, Crimean-born Toviya Levi-Babovich daringly proclaimed from his Cairo pulpit that “our ancestors were mistaken in their well-meaning zeal to adhere to the literal interpretation of “thou shalt not light a fire in your dwelling places on the Sabbath”.

On the other hand, I have personally witnessed Egyptian Karaites in Israel who still sit in the dark on Friday eve (some even unplug all electrical appliances).
i should think that an exhaustive study of this phenomenon is a scholarly desideratum.

What Is The Provenance of This Painting?

 

 

 

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This purports to represent the excommunications of Karaites, by the Rabbis of the Geonic Academy on the Mount of Olives (as Marina Rustow shows in her Heresy and the Politics of the Community, this ceremony was initiated by a rogue group of Rabbanite zealots and was hardly sanctioned by the Academy of Eretz Yisrael) see my post here for more http://ha-historion.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-ban-decared-against-karaites-on.html

Rabbi Yehuda Halevi Offering Praise to a Karaite? (and by extension, to THE Karaites) Surprising?

בספר שירת חייו של ר’ יהודה הלוי ישנו שיר לכבוד חתן יהודי קראי, בו ריה”ל מגלה יחס חם לבני קהילת בני מקרא: ” יראי אל בני מקרא / בניכם שימעוני… לכן חזקו ואל ירפו ידיכם / ביען אין בכל העמים כמותכם”.

Judah Halevi sends his warm tidings, in the form of a poem, to a Karaite groom. The poem offers effusive praise of the Karaites as a whole. Surprising? somewhat, however cf. Yashar Delmedigo’s letter to the Karaite Hazzan Natan ben Yosef of Troki (the relevant excerpts are reproduced in my post here).

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