February 6, 13
- Rabbanites Judaism v. Karaite Judaism
- 1) One could suggest that orthodoxies need heterodoxies (need
- Judaism has defined itself as an orthodoxy.
- 2) History shows many religions how they might learn and adapt to
things – orthodoxies are not so in tune with learning from history
- 3) General Rule – Traditions depend on geniuses (prophets) to
revive traditions. (Max Weber – “Virtuosos”)
- 5 Stages:
- 1) Origins of the movement - Founder – Anan Ben David
- 2) Benjamin Nahawendi
- 3) Daniel – al-Kamisi
- 4) Reasons for the decline of Karaism and Saadia
- 5) Why did Karaism arise in the first place?
- Probably the greatest protest movement to arise in Judaism.
- Threatened the future of Judaism
- There was a time where more Jews were Karaites than Rabbanites.
- Attracted great minds
- Why it started:
- 1) Anan ben David
- 2) Sparked by social and economic causes (Babylonian Jewish
- 3) Simple, pure, theological disputes
- Anan ben David – was in the line to become the exilarc – king of
the Jews in exile (traced back to David). – Tremendous authority. –
for some reason he was passed over – given to his younger brother
instead of him.
- ^This is because he was found to have a blemish (not physical).
- He had spent a lot of time in Persia – hot bed of all kinds of
- Abu Isa – from Persia his disciple – Ugedan – they claimed to be
the fore-runner of the messiah – they said they were planning the
way – spiritual and military leaders – Jewish/Persian army to take
back Israel – thwarted by the Caliph but this happened twice.
- Tries to organize a counter exilarc
- He is denounced by the Jewish government – sent to prison
- He meets an Islamic radical (Abu Hanifa) – He becomes an advisor
to Anan – if you want to succeed don't claim to be the exilarc but a
sect in Judaism.
- Leaves jail and makes his sect – Originally called Ananites
- Karaites only believe in the original Bible (not the Talmud).
- They reject Talmud and Rabbinic authority. - Introduced all kinds of other innovations which were not regarded
with sympathy from all Jews – he decided to see Muhammad as a
prophet (not for Judaism but in general)
- The calendar – he insisted to go direct observation by the moon not
new innovations to the calendar.
- He brought in an aesthetic lifestyle.
- Wrote his own book. – Book of the Commandments
- Introduced – Search thoroughly in the scriptures and do not rely on
my opinion (very similar to Protestantism) – Sola Scriptura
(ultimately you need an interpreter authority) (He himself didn't
follow it too well in writing his book).
- Capitalized from things against the Geonim and yeshivot.
- The leadership is a type to charismatic leadership with romantic
background - Karaism
- Rabbinic – authority who have been properly trained
- 1) Emphasizes the priesthood – Rabbanites took things from the
priesthood and adapted – they went back
- 2) He changed the methods of circumcision (slightly)
- 3) He turned the tithe into a basic tax – to maintain his community.
- 4) Forbade all eating of meat (minus a few exceptions – only the
deer and in terms of fowl – the pigeon) – goes with a subtheme of
this movement – emphasis that the Jews were in exile – language
of the prophets – the Rabbanites are at ease in exile – He says that
they should be unhappy in exile until their return to Israel.
- Meat eating was a type of penance for his community
- 5) He changed the dietary laws – you can eat meat with butter – it
isn’t a dairy product
- 6) Passed a rule – Cannot leave your home on the Sabbath – you
are technically traveling. – Also you cannot have a Shabbat goy.
- 7) Restricted the laws of marriage – laws of propinquity – who you
can marry and who you cannot.
- 8) Banned going to doctors.
- 9) Added a 70 day period - Day time fast and night time feasting
- 10) Calendar back to the moon and not scientific
- He was a rigorous - not for loosening up
- Usually the protests are to make the laws easier but this was the
- 715 – 795 (CE)
- 2) Nahawendi - He is in Persia
- He consolidated and produced the name of Karaites – made into a
- Not only search thoroughly in the scriptures – Also don't only rely
on my opinion – more ritualistic than before - Anan starts compiling a law code - not laws but suggestions that
people would ant to do – Nahawendi introduced new interpretations
– a lot of rigor to the text.
- People in debt can be sold into slavery to repay their debt.- brought
back because it was the original Torah.
- Closer to fundamentalism
- You rely entirely on the scripture itself.
- He allows Karaites to leave their homes during the Sabbath to pray.
- He becomes a distinguished theologian.
- Rabbanites - they disregarded theology
- Karaites saw the value in theology.
- Movement in Islam called the Kalam - Islamic theology – 2 basic
schools – Asharites (orthodoxy of Islam) and the Mutazilites
(reason and rationality) – Proving the justice of G-d.
- Use of anthropomorphism. – When you depict G-d in human terms.
- G-d created an angel to help create the world - the angel took care
- Mt. Sinai – an angel was the one who spoke to the people. – G-d
speaking means he has vocal chords.
- Nahawendi helps spread it abroad – establishes itself in Egypt,
North Africa, a beach head in Spain, Iraq, Iran, and Israel
- Very close with Islam
- 3) al-Kamisi – lives in 9 and 10 C – died 946CE
- In Iran (Persia) – goes further than both others in expressing the
centrality of Israel for Jews – Jews should pick up and leave and
pray for their sins so G-d will forgive them. Quazi-Zionism – They
become the first number of Jews to go back to Israel – Imitated by
- For people who haven’t gone back – they make a new movement –
The Mourners of Zion. – Take on themselves extra aesthetic
traditions to mourn – midnight vigils – banned meat, wine, and any
luxury items from their lives – pray for the restoration of the
Temple in Jerusalem.
- al-Kamisi decided that the battle against the Rabbanites should still
- Wrote books on Karaite history.
- He was more rigorous for laws – marriage laws – patterns which
were really laws – brought the movement to its pique power in the
900’s – What explains the exile? – part is punishment for sins but
also the function of the Jews t help spread the knowledge of the
Torah to the world. - The dark side of exile – The destruction of the Temple was not just
a crisis and catastrophe for G-d himself – a cosmic destructive force.
- The burdens on the Jews – help heal the world.
- He went back to not letting people go to synagogue – you cannot
have real worship of G-d on polluted soil.
- Part of this mourning movement – reversal of a modern trend –
Karaites tended to be a poorer group and the Rabbanites a richer
- The Karaites – this is proof of our virtue – more pious and devoted
than them – more committed to godliness.
- In Egypt – they became the more wealthy community and the
Rabbanites were not.
- 4) Why did the movement start to decline after Kamisi and who is
- Factors of the decline:
- 1) Religious polemics (Saadia)
- 2) The aesthetic lifestyle
- 3) They never developed proper unifying sources and authorities –
only relied on charismatic leaders – Only ok up to a certain point if
you can’t count on producing those leaders. – needed structure
- 4) Relied on messianic fervor. – they didn't have much else.
- 5) The shift in Jewish life – Rise of Western Christian world – As
Christian religious spread they became less popular.
- 6) The general rise of Christian Europe
- 7) A lot of the anger to the religious academies – started to decline
– Maimonides causes an eclipse over the Babylonian world – He
didn't like the academies – changed the dynamic of Judaism.
- 882 - 942 - Saadia ben Joseph – Saadia Gaon
- First non-Babylonian to become the head of the academies.
- he was from Egypt – Went to the academy in Sura – Helped by the
exilarc David ben Zakkai
- Saadia became famous for a battle he waged against the
Palestinian scholars - they wanted to show that they were the
center of Judaism – the calendar to be the direct observation of the
moon in Israel.
- He wrote the Book of Seasons
- He was a Polymath - he knows everything and talented in all aspect
of Jewish learning.
- Maimonides - if not for the master Saadia Gaon - Torah would be
lost in Israel. - Cultivated the study of the Talmud – made out the principle of how
to properly derive laws from the Talmud
- First one to set the final stages of prayer for Jews
- He also wrote liturgical compositions.
- Wrote a rhyming dictionary for poets.
- He wrote a book about Hebrew Grammar.
- (The Karaites were very critical about their use of Hebrew – they
focused on Aramaic)
- Must know the scripture as well as they know the Torah
- He translated the Bible into Arabic.
- He wrote a book against an Afghani Jew – tried to criticized the
Jewish tradition – he refuted all his charges.
- Saadia showed all of Anan’s mistakes and gave the Rabbanites
points of defense against Karaites.
- Wrote a book of beliefs and opinions
- Writes a commentary on the Jewish mysticism – importance of the
Hebrew language and alphabet – G-d made the world through the
letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
- Saadia makes it into a rationalistic theology of the above.
- No difference between reason and revelation
- Why did G-d need revelation?
- Not all human beings will know the truth of science
- Science develops in many stages – scripture just lets them know
- Scripture gives them the answers they require