Karaite Judaism

Shalom friends, today we are going to meet a very special community of the Jewish People- The Karaites (“kara’im”). It is very common among people to think that there are only two or three main streams or thoughts in Judaism: the religious people, the Masoratic and the secular ones. However, the reality is different. There are many different and diverse Jews in Israel and around the world.

The Karaites are a small movement (approximately 25,000 Jews in Israel and 10,000 in the rest of the world) that recognizes only the Old Testament (“Tanakh” or “Mikrah”) as the authority of the Jewish Law.

There are some verses from the Hebrew Bible that express the idea of this movement.

The Old Testament

The first is from Joshua 8:34-35-

“וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן, קָרָא אֶת-כָּל-דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה, הַבְּרָכָה, וְהַקְּלָלָה–כְּכָל-הַכָּתוּב, בְּסֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה. לֹא-הָיָה דָבָר, מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּה מֹשֶׁה–אֲשֶׁר לֹא-קָרָא יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, נֶגֶד כָּל-קְהַל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְהַנָּשִׁים וְהַטַּף, וְהַגֵּר, הַהֹלֵךְ בְּקִרְבָּם”

“Then afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them.”

From this verse in Joshua we can learn that Moses got in Mount Sinai all the laws of G-d and he told it to Joshua who passed these laws to the Israelites. With this approach the Karaites believe that only what is written in the Bible is the truth and the word of G-d. If we use this approach, the oral tradition and the additions to Judaism do not have validity.

Another verse that can tell us the about the Karaites is from Deuteronomy as written:

” כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם–לֹא-נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ, וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא. לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם, הִוא: לֵאמֹר, מִי יַעֲלֶה-לָּנוּ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ, וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ, וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה. וְלֹא-מֵעֵבֶר לַיָּם, הִוא: לֵאמֹר, מִי יַעֲבָר-לָנוּ אֶל-עֵבֶר הַיָּם וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ, וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ, וְנַעֲשֶׂנָּה. כִּי-קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר, מְאֹד: בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ, לַעֲשֹׂתוֹ.”

““For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

If there are no answers in the Hebrew Bible, each of the Karaites can and should find the answer on their own, it is not in heaven. Among the Karaites there are also sages that help people from the community to understand laws and interpret them. If the truth could be in our hearts, said the Karaites, we don’t need the help of other Scriptures and sages. The only way to serve G-d is by reading and learning the Hebrew Bible as written:

“אֵת כָּל-הַדָּבָר, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם–אֹתוֹ תִשְׁמְרוּ, לַעֲשׂוֹת: לֹא-תֹסֵף עָלָיו, וְלֹא תִגְרַע מִמֶּנּוּ”

“Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.”(Deuteronomy 13:1)

An ancient Karaites Cemetery

Let’s learn a few of the Karaites customs:

1. All of them don’t wear shoes in synagogues as the priests in the

Priest’s blessing.

2. The date of the Festival of Weeks is different every year due to a different counting from the Rabbinic Judaism.

3. The first month is as in the Bible – Month Nisan.

4. The Karaites don’t celebrate Channukah because this festival is not mentioned in the Old Testament.

What do you think about this movement in Judaism?

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Main phrases of the Post, Transcription & Translation:

סְפִירָה- Sefirah- Counting

תֹּקֶף- Tokkef -Validity

יַהֲדוּת- Yahadut -Judaism

קָרָא- Karah- He called

קָרָאים- Kara’im- Karaites

9 Responses to Karaite Judaism

  1. Awolowo Michael says:

    Is very interesting infact i felt as if I should continue reading about this wonderful people. I wish to know more about their manners and customs in future and I don’t mind if their is chance for me to come to Israel. Shavua tov.

  2. Eli'ezer ben Ephraim haKohen says:

    It is very nice that you have taken notice of Karaite Judaism. Most estimates of Karaite Jews in Israel now place the population at 40,000 and we can see this by the expanding number of Karaite Synagogues in Israel with Ashdod recently opening it second Synagogue.

    Many Karaite Jews do not ignore the Hasmonean observance of Hannukah, we just do not observe it in the fictitious manner of our Rabbanite brethern by making up a story of oil, when the book of Macabees itself tells us why we observe the remembrance of the event for eight days.

    One other comment, in stating that the Karaites believe that only the TaNaKh is the divinely inspired word of God, their whole position is overlooked. The now Karaite Chief Rabbi,Moshe Yosef Firrouz, was quoted in a May 22, 2007 article in the Jerusalem Post “Laying Down the Oral Law” that Karaite Judaism is based upon three foundational elements: 1. The TaNakh 2. Rational or Logical Interpretation of the TaNaKh; and 3. Sevel Hareyusha or Custom.

    • Zvi says:

      Many Qaraite Jews may note and mark Hannuka, but nearly all of these treat it as a secular observance (excuse the pun). Very few observe it religiously as you do.

  3. Sylvie says:

    Shalom Jacob,Thank you for your reply and explaining your poisoitn. Unfortunately, I did not misunderstand you, you are judging Adonai’s children who do not follow the the Mosiac Law and the restrictions of men and calling their convictions for dietary adherence non-Biblical . Shame. Romans 1413Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. 14I know and am convinced in the L-rd Yeshua that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Messiah died. 16Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17for the kingdom of G-d is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18For he who in this way serves Messiah is acceptable to G-d and approved by men. 19So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20Do not tear down the work of G-d for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before G-d. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.Yes, Biblically Kosher is indeed Biblical, as we (adherents of Biblical Kosher) follow the Scriptures as to clean and unclean foods, but we also follow the Scriptures in their purity by not insisting that the Law of Moses is binding for Believers in Yeshua.No man, and no man’s rules supersede G-d Almighty and His Word. None. Thank you for your time, I’ll be moving on now.~~In Messiah Yeshua,VickilynnMicah 6:8

  4. Zvi says:

    It should have been stressed when alluding to the Feast of Weeks (Shavu`ot) that the Qaraites always celebrate it on a Sunday – “the morrow of the Shabbat” — as the “written” Torah commands to do.
    This in turn means the `Omer Counting also begins on a Sunday as the Torah ordains, seven weeks prior to the Feast.

  5. Kamlesh says:

    Qaraite Judaism is the true observance acidorcng to the peshat meanings commanded at Sinai. Unfortunately, the rabbis have created another religion then the one given to us over 3500 years ago. We follow the Torah acidorcng to the plain meaning of the text, striving to put ourselves in the shoes of the ancient Israelite shepherd or farmers, interpreting each verse as the ancients did when hearing the Torah read aloud to them every seven years. The Torah does not need an Oral Torahto define things which were part of every day life in ancient Israel.This can sometimes be confusing to us thousands of years later butwhen the Torah was given it was easily understood by simple Israeliteshepherds and farmers. When the Torah used words like “right” and“left” every ancient Israelite understood what these words meantbecause they were native speakers of Biblical Hebrew. In the same waythey knew what a Sukkah was (remember, they had dwelt in them beforethe commandment), what a foreskin was, and what it meant to slaughteran animal. It is amazing that anyone could accept the rabbinical claim that anOral Torah was revealed to Moses during his 40 days and 40 nights onMount Sinai. You would think that if YHWH revealed an Oral Torah toMoses, which is supposedly indispensable to understanding the writtenTorah, this fact would be mentioned somewhere in the Tanakh, at leastonce. Yet in over 1000 pages of prophetic writings there is not asingle reference to the Oral Torah.

  6. Ooi says:

    Shalom Jacob,Thank you for your reply and explaining your poiiostn. Unfortunately, I did not misunderstand you, you are judging Adonai’s children who do not follow the the Mosiac Law and the restrictions of men and calling their convictions for dietary adherence non-Biblical . Shame. Romans 1413Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. 14I know and am convinced in the L-rd Yeshua that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Messiah died. 16Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17for the kingdom of G-d is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18For he who in this way serves Messiah is acceptable to G-d and approved by men. 19So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20Do not tear down the work of G-d for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before G-d. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.Yes, Biblically Kosher is indeed Biblical, as we (adherents of Biblical Kosher) follow the Scriptures as to clean and unclean foods, but we also follow the Scriptures in their purity by not insisting that the Law of Moses is binding for Believers in Yeshua.No man, and no man’s rules supersede G-d Almighty and His Word. None. Thank you for your time, I’ll be moving on now.~~In Messiah Yeshua,VickilynnMicah 6:8

  7. Adrianoc Aubuchong says:

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  8. Mike says:

    Derek,Sorry, you still would be hard-pressed In Rom. 11:29 Paul emphsizes that Israel’s savltaion is secure because God is faithful to His promises. That’s all. God’s covenant blessing upon individuals within Israel is not based on their liniage, but upon His choosing. See Paul’s example of Jacob and Esau in Ch. 9. Jacob receives the blessing because of god’s sovereign choice, not because his lineage.Does the remnant of Israel in each generation receives full covenant blessings because their lineage or because they believe? does not God also chooses individuals for savltaion also from the Gentiles (Rom. 9:23-24)?You see Derek, Gentiles are also saved through God’s sovereign call. the calling is for savltaion, not for Jewishness.

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