Skip to content

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


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.

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?




Image may contain: tree, sky, outdoor and nature

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

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).

Image may contain: text

It Is Rare To Come Across a Non-Truncated Representation of the Decalogue in Synagogues.


No automatic alt text available.


I am not sure why that is (a simple space issue?), but I must say that it is precisely why I adore this non-truncated version. It comes from the Karaite Mosheh Al-Dari Synagogue in Cairo which has recently undergone some extensive restorations.

See more here

The Bombing of the Karaite Jewish Quarter in Cairo, Egypt, 68 Years Ago

1788341584On June 20, 1948, a bomb detonated in the Karaite Quarter of Cairo killed 22 Jews and wounded another 41. As part of a series of attacks on the city’s Jewish population, the event gave a significant push to an ongoing wave of emigration of Jews from Egypt.

Read more


and here