KARAITES AND KARAISM:
- Modifications of Ananism.
- Development of Dogma.
- Benjamin Nahawendi.
- Abu Yusuf al-Ḳirḳisani.
- Principles of Karaism.
- Expansion of Karaism.
- Reaction or Rabbinism—Saadia.
- Karaism in Europe.
- Aaron ben Elijah.
- Caleb Afendopolo.
- The Byzantine Period.
- Lithuanian Epoch.
- Abraham Firkovich.
- The Argument from Antiquity.
- Rules of Cleanliness.
- Marriage and Dietary Laws.
The Karaites () = "Followers of the Bible") were a Jewish sect, professing, in its religious observances and opinions, to follow the Bible to the exclusion of rabbinical traditions and laws. But Karaism in fact adopted a large part of rabbinical Judaism, either outright or with more or less modification, while at the same time it borrowed from earlier or later Jewish sects—Sadducees, Essenes, 'Isawites, Yudghanites, etc.—as well as from the Mohammedans. The founder of the sect being Anan, his followers were at first called Ananites, but as the doctrines of the sect were more fully developed, and it gradually emancipated itself from Ananism, they took the name of "Karaites," a term first used by Benjamin al-Nahawendi ("Ba'ale Miḳra" at the end of his "Sefer Linim") and in a quotation in "Yefet."Modifications of Ananism.
On Anan's death, between 780 and 800, his son Saul, and then his grandson Josiah, succeeded him as head of the sect, but both of them were too insignificant intellectually to leave many traces in Karaism. But between 830 and 890 men of greater mark appeared among the Karaites, who, while differing among themselves and creating various subdivisions in the new sect, agreed in diverging from Anan's doctrines, and even from his methods of teaching. The leaders of that time whose names have come down to us are: Benjamin al-Nahawendi, Ishmael of 'Akbara, Musa al-Za'farani (called also Al-Tiflisi), Mashwi al-'Akbari, and Daniel al-Ḳumisi (called also Al-Damaghani). Anan was an eclectic, borrowing various regulations of his code (a large part of which has recently been discovered and published by A. Harkavy) from rabbinical Judaism and from Jewish sects; but he attempted to base all this borrowed material, as well as the regulations which he himself drafted, on the Biblical text, resorting with that end in view to the most curious etymologies and exegetical rules. His ascetic views throughout were, moreover, so ill adapted to practical life that an unhampered secular life in agreement with Anan's code was entirely impossible. Anan's successors, therefore, set themselves the task of removing or modifying these shortcomings of Ananism, thus insuring the practical existence of the sect. While the strict Ananites lost more and more ground in the course of the ninth century in consequence of their asceticism, subsisting merely for a time at Jerusalem as strict hermits and mourners for Zion (see Abele Zion), and while Ananism entirely disappeared in the tenth century, Karaism still exists, though it is stricken with intellectual impotence.
Anan's eclecticism, which at first did good service to the heretic, since the members of various anti-rabbinical sects apparently found congruous ideas in the new heresy, caused after a time dissatisfaction in different quarters. While the liberals did not take kindly to the aggravations and rigorous ordinances of the new code, which entirely lacked the sanction of national tradition, this code was not strict enough for the rigorists in the sect, and throughout the ninth century and the first half of the tenth there were continuous dissensions, as appears from the detailed accounts of Al-Ḳirḳisani and Saadia. In some Karaite circles of the ninth and tenth centuries there arose, perhaps under Gnostic influence, an antagonism to the ceremonial law and the dogma of traditional Judaism similar to the inimical attitude toward Jewish law found among the first Christian Gnostic circles (the echo of which still appears in the attacks of Christian theologians on Jewish "legalism," although no one religion is exempt from nomism). This antagonism went so far, for instance, that the Sabbath and the feast-days were regarded merely as memorial days during the existence of the Jewish state, their observance being no longer obligatory in the exile, the resurrection of the dead was interpreted in an allegorical and rationalistic sense, as Israel's deliverance from exile, this view being probably borrowed from Sadduceeism; and the advent of the Messiah, as well as the restoration of the Temple, was referred to the past epoch of the Second Temple. The rigoristic Karaites, on the other hand, even forbade any one to leave the house on the Sabbath, to carry anything from one room into another, to wash the face, to wear a coat, shoes, girdle, or anything except a shirt, to make a bed, to carry food from the kitchen into another apartment, etc. In time, however, the extremists, such as the Ananites, 'Isawites, Yudghanites, and Shadganites, disappeared, and the moderate party in the sect organized itself under the name of Karaites.Development of Dogma.
Gradually the Karaite leaders abandoned their controversiesrelating to individual laws and details referring to the cult, and turned their attention to principles concerning dogma and the Mosaic Law in contradistinction to rabbinical oral law, visibly proceeding under the influence of the Islamic "kalam" and "mu'tazilah," especially the "uṣul alfiḳh" of the Mohammedans. Although Anan commonly applied the rabbinical rules of Biblical hermeneutics ("middot"), yet even he borrowed from Islam, chiefly from his contemporary and fellow sufferer, Abu Nu'man Thabit Abu Ḥanifah, the founder of the theological school of the Hanafites, and also from the then newly-founded Mohammedan sect of the Rawandites, who transplanted the doctrine of the transmigration of souls from India to Bagdad. This attitude of Anan was closely connected with his personal circumstances at the time of the founding of the new sect (see
Although no derogatory remarks referring to Anan have been found in Nahawendi fragments, it is yet evident that Nahawendi silently disapproved of Anan's extraordinary interpretation of Biblical words and his glaring abuse of the rabbinical hermeneutic rules, although he himself is not free from eccentricity. Nor is his attitude toward Rabbinism so harsh and absolutely inimical as that of Anan. Nahawendi shows no trace of Anan's artificial opposition to the Talmud; on the contrary he often defends the Talmudists against Anan's attacks. He occupies a highly important position in the history of Karaism, and he did much for the consolidation of the new sect. He was, moreover, the first Karaite writer to use the Hebrew language; as far as is known, he composed at least three of his works in Hebrew—"Sefer Dinim," "Sefer ha-Miẓwot," and the commentary on Genesis. He marks, therefore, a new epoch in the development of Karaism.
Contemporaneously with Nahawendi and somewhat later in the ninth century appeared Karaite writers and leaders who violently attacked the founder of the sect and heaped vituperation upon his method. Ishmael of 'Akbara, after whom a subdivision of the sect, the Okbarites ('Akbarites), was named, did not hesitate, for instance, to call Anan "asinine." This contemporary of Nahawendi, who took his name from 'Akbara, a place near Bagdad, abrogated several of Anan's severe measures; and he was the only one among the Karaites who had aptitude or liking for Biblical criticism. He did not hesitate to say that errors had crept into the traditional text of Scripture and that some of the readings of the Samaritan text and the Septuagint were preferable to the Masoretic text. Other subdivisions of the Karaite sect, as the Mashwites (c. 850; so called after their founder Mashwi al-Ba'labakki, a pupil of Ishmael of 'Akbara), the Tiflisites (the followers of Al-Tiflisi, c. 850), the Ramlites or Malikites (called after their founder Malik al-Ramli), and various other smaller groups, which have been fully described by A. Harkavy in his Karaite studies (in "Voskhod," 1898-99), differed considerably from Anan not only in regard to single religious laws, but also in leading doctrines. A somewhat later and very important Karaite writer, Daniel ben Moses al-Ḳumisi (toward the end of the ninth century), who at first was an enthusiastic follower of Anan, and called him "Head of the Sages" ("Rosh ha-Maskilim"), subsequently felt entirely disillusioned, and then styled Anan "Head of the Fools" ("Rosh ha-Kesilim"). On his divergences from Anan in detail see
These divergences contributed not a little to the undermining of Anan's authority among the Karaites, and his faithful followers, the Ananites, were pushed to the wall; as their rigorous observances were entirely unsuited to ordinary life, they were finally obliged to emigrate to Jerusalem and adopt the hermit life of the old Essenes, as mourners for Zion. Gradually disappearing, they left the field free for the great noontide of Karaism in the tenth and eleventh centuries. The representatives of this epoch are: Abu Yusuf Ya'ḳub al-Ḳirḳisani, Sahl ibn Maẓliaḥ, Solomon ben Jeroham, Yafith ibn 'Ali, David al-Fasi, Abu al-Faraj Harun, Yusuf al-Baṣir and his pupil Abu al-Faraj Furḳan.Abu Yusuf al-Ḳirḳisani.
The first-named, Abu Yusuf Ya'ḳub al-Ḳirḳisani (called incorrectly by later authors and even by Steinschneider, "Yusuf" instead of "Abu Yusuf"), wrote in the third and fourth decades of the tenth century; he is a unique figure in Karaite literature on account of his historical sense, his comprehensive survey of the development of the Jewish sects, and his acute, even if partial, criticism of his predecessors. For the historical part of his work he consulted the works of David ibn Merwan al-Muḳammaṣ see
Al-Ḳirḳisani was, so far as is known, the first Karaite writer to defend the dictates of common sense and of knowledge in religious matters; the second part of his chief work, "Kitab al-Anwar" (Book of Lights), treats of the necessity of investigation and of reason, and of the determination of the proofs of reason and analogical conclusions. He adopts for Karaism without modification the views of the Motekallamin and the Motazilites. Since that time there has been a wide schism in Karaism between the followers of scientific investigation, who patterned their theology on the Mohammedan kalam and the Motazilite doctrines, and the Orthodox, who would have nothing to do with philosophy and science. Among the former are some Karaite scholars of the tenth century mentioned by their contemporary the Arabian polyhistor 'Ali al-Mas'udi, and Yusuf al-Baṣir, the foremost Karaite philosophical writer, together with his pupil Abu al-Faraj Furḳan (Jeshua b. Judah; about the middle of the eleventh century). Among the latter are the important Karaite authors Sahl ibn Maẓliaḥ, Solomon ben Jeroham, and Yafith ibn 'Ali, all three of whom lived during the middle and the end of the tenth century. The Karaites produced no original author in this field after the middle of the eleventh century, but merely translators from the Arabic, compilers, and imitators, such as Israel Maghrabi and his pupil Yafith ibn Saghir (13th cent.), Solomon Nasi (Abu al-Faḍl; 13th cent.), Samuel Maghrabi (14th cent.), and others.
The following Karaite writers of this epoch cultivating other fields are noteworthy: Exegetes: Al-Ḳirḳisani, Sahl ibn Maẓliaḥ, Solomon ben Jeroham, Yafith ibn 'Ali, and Yusuf ibn Nuḥ (10th cent.); Abu al-Faraj Harun, Abu al-Faraj Furḳan, and 'Ali ibn Sulaiman (11th cent.). Lexicographers: Abu Sulaiman Daud al-Fasi (end of the 10th cent.) and his editors Abu Sa'id (probably identical with Levi ha-Levi, beginning of the 11th cent.) and 'Ali ibn Sulaiman; the first-named knows nothing as yet of the triliteral roots of the Hebrew language, and the last-named hardly uses the new system, although acquainted with Ḥayyuj's works. As Hebrew grammarians, only the above-mentioned Yusuf ibn Nuḥ and Abu al-Faraj Harun (called "the grammarian of Jerusalem" by Ibn Ezra) need be noted; the latter wrote first his "Kitab al-Mushtamil," a comprehensive work in seven parts, which also includes a large part of Hebrew lexicography, and then made a compendium," Kitab al-Kafi," so that (1026) Ibn Ezra mentions eight works. Codifiers (of Karaite religious law): Ya'ḳub al-Ḳirḳisani, in the third and fourth decades of the tenth century, whose "Kitab al-Anwar" may be considered as the most important Karaite work written in the Arabic language; Sahl (called "Ben Zita" by Ibn Ezra), whose code was entitled "Sefer Dinim," although written in Arabic; Yafith ibn 'Ali, known only through citations, and his son Levi ha-Levi, one of the most noteworthy codifiers, who often agrees with the Rabbinites; Yusuf al-Baṣir, author of the "Kitab al-Istibṣar," of which the "Sefer ha-Abib" and "Sefer ha-Mo'adim," mentioned by Pinsker, are subdivisions; Abu al-Faraj Furḳan, Sahl ibn Faḍl Tustari (called in Hebrew "Yashar b. Ḥesed"; end of the 11th cent.), and others.
Although the Oriental Karaite authors since Nahawendi wrote in Hebrew with more or less fluency, there were no noteworthy poets among them. The orthodox and ascetic views of the earlier Karaites did not encourage secular poetry, which was held to profane the holy language; nor did they produce anything noteworthy in liturgical poetry ("piyyuṭim"), for according to Anan, with the exception of short benedictions, prayers could be taken only from the Psalter (see specimens in Harkavy, "Studien und Mittheilungen," viii.). Even in later times they generally either borrowed Rabbinite poems or resorted to imitations of them. The only Karaite poet who left secular poems, Moses Dar'i (13th cent.), either imitated or simply borrowed from the Judæo-Spanish poets. It goes without saying that polemics against Rabbinism were obligatory upon every Karaite author in the period of propaganda and extension. The writers mentioned herein attacked the Rabbinites on every occasion and in almost all their works, and also wrote special polemical pamphlets, as Solomon ben Jeroham against Saadia Gaon, Sahl and Yafith against Saadia's pupil Jacob b. Samuel, Yusuf al-Baṣir against Samuel ibn Ḥofni. Some Karaite writers may also be noted who are known only as polemicists, as Ibn Mashiaḥ and Ibn Sakawaihi; some details have recently been discovered regarding the latter's "Kitab al-Faḍa'iḥ" (Book of Infamies), which was refuted by Saadia.Principles of Karaism.
In formulating the principles of primitive Karaism concerning the doctrine of the Law the leaders of the sect generally followed Mohammedan patterns. Anan, as has been seen, was influenced by Abu Ḥanifah, and added to the three sources of Islamic law—the Koran, the "sunnah" (tradition), and "ijma'" (the agreement of all Islam)—a fourth source, namely, "ra'y," i.e., speculation, or the speculative opinions of the teachers of the Law and of the judges, which are deduced by analogy ("ḳiyas"; Talmud, "heḳḳesh") from the laws originating in the other three sources. Anan, opposed on principle to Rabbinism, could not recognize tradition as a source of law, nor could he, the founder of a new sect, consider agreement as a basis for religious law; hence he found it all the more necessary to seize upon analogical speculation. But he introduced two important modifications, based on rabbinical precedent, into the principle of Abu Ḥanifah: (1) instead of logical analogy, of chief importance with Abu Ḥanifah, Anan gave preference to verbal analogy (the rabbinical "gezerah shawah"), and frequently even resorted to literal analogy; (2) for the religious laws which he based on his speculations he endeavored to deduce support from the Biblical text: he did not hesitate at the most forced interpretations, but followed rabbis who made deductions("asmakta") in support of ancient traditions. Hence this heresiarch believed himself justified in asserting that he took all his teachings directly from the Bible. Later, however, when Ananism with its opposition to traditional Judaism and its artificial system was gradually disappearing, and Karaism was so well established that it need hesitate no longer to call things by their right names, the Karaite leaders adopted openly the Mohammedan principles concerning canons of the Law. Thus Sahl ben Maẓliaḥ, according to Judah Hadassi, adopted outright Abu Ḥanifah's principles, with the single modification that instead of tradition he considered speculation and analogy as authoritative. Yusuf ibn Nuḥ entirely rejected speculation, like the non-Ḥanifitic Mohammedan theological schools; Levi ha-Levi (probably the reading in Hadassi should be "Abu Sa'id" instead of "Sa'id"), again, agrees with Abu Ḥanifah, though of course excluding tradition. Abu al-Faraj Furḳan similarly determines three categories of the Law, which agree with Abu Ḥanifah's categories, exclusive of tradition. However, many Mohammedan faḳihs also have excluded tradition from the socalled roots of the doctrine of the Law ("uṣul al-fiḳh"). Tradition was included among the nomocanons, under the curious designation "the inherited burden" ("sebel ha-yerushshah"), at a much later date, during the Byzantine epoch of Karaism.Expansion of Karaism.
During the first centuries of the existence of the sect, Karaism was widely extended among the Jews, and could boast of making many converts among the followers of the parent religion, gathering them in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Babylonia, and Persia. Several circumstances contributed to its success. Firstly, sectarianism was then rife in the East in consequence of the great changes brought about by Islam, and numbers of the adherents of different confessions throughout the califate eagerly accepted any new departures. In the second place, Anan's proclamation of the unrestricted study of the Bible as the only source of religion was most attractive, not only to the members of earlier anti-rabbinic sects, which had by no means been uprooted, but also to the more liberal elements within traditional Judaism that were dissatisfied with the stagnation shown in the methods of the Babylonian academies. In the third place, the directors of the academies (the Geonim), who were at that time out of touch with science and all secular matters, were too short-sighted to recognize the dangers threatening traditional Judaism on the part of the new sect, and believed that by simply ignoring it they could destroy it. They were, moreover, incapable of engaging in religious polemics with their adversaries, as they were familiar only with weapons which the latter refused to recognize, namely, arguments taken exclusively from the traditional writings, and did not distinguish critically between halakic and haggadic and mystical elements in rabbinical literature. Hence none of the attacks on traditional Judaism, not even those that were unfounded, were properly refuted, nor was the true state of affairs explained. Small wonder, then, that the new sect, filled with the zeal of propaganda, generally had the upper hand and went from victory to victory.Reaction or Rabbinism—Saadia.
At the end of the ninth and in the tenth century, however, there was a decided change, for several rabbinical scholars took up the study of the Biblical books, Hebrew grammar, and secular science, as in the case of Saadia's teacher Abu Kathir Yaḥya ibn Zakariyya of Tiberias (d. 932), David ibn Merwan al-Muḳammaṣ, and other Jewish scholars of that time. Men like these, who were well fitted to take up the systematic defense of their belief, presumably did engage in that work. Thus it has recently been discovered that a Palestinian scholar, Jacob b. Ephraim by name, of the beginning of the tenth century, wrote at least one polemic in Arabic against Karaism and in behalf of Rabbinism, and he probably was not the only one in the field. All these Jewish scholars, however, were eclipsed by Saadia al-Fayyumi (892-942), who subsequently became famous as the director of the Academy of Sura. As in many other branches of Jewish science, he was successful also in his polemics against the Karaites, which he began in 915, returning to the subject again in 926, and also, probably, later. Thanks to his forceful intellect and his scientific attainments, he entirely averted the danger threatening traditional Judaism and assured its victory over Karaism; he has therefore been the object of attack by all the leading Karaite writers, even of later periods. Saadia's pupils followed in his foot-steps. One of these, Jacob b. Samuel (c. 950), wrote polemical works in Hebrew, and possibly also in Arabic, against the Karaites, calling forth replies by Sahl and Yafith.
With the beginning of the second half of the eleventh century the field of Karaite activity was transferred from Asia to Europe by Abu al-Faraj Furḳan's (Jeshua b. Judah's) pupils from Spain and Byzantium. Karaism had been introduced into Spain by a certain Ibn Altaras, who carried it to Castile, where his successors, and chiefly his widow (!), apparently were too outspoken in their attacks upon Rabbinism, for the new heresy was soon suppressed by two influential Judæo-Spanish statesmen—Joseph Farissol and Judah ibn Ezra. This is the sole instance in Jewish history where the temporal powers interfered on behalf of the faith. This ephemeral appearance of Karaism on Spanish soil was fruitful for Jewish historical literature, for it induced the philosophically trained Abraham ibn Daud of Toledo to write his "Sefer ha-Ḳabbalah" (1161), which is invaluable for the history of the Jews in Spain. The new sect enjoyed a longer life at Byzantium. Two pupils of Abu al-Faraj of Constantinople, Tobias b. Moses (called "the Translator") and Jacob b. Simon, devoted themselves after their return home to translating into Hebrew the Arabic works of their teacher Abu al-Faraj Furḳan, those of the latter's teacher Yusuf al-Baṣir, and other works, adding glosses of their own and their teacher's replies to their questions.Karaism in Europe.
It seems that these scholars in turn had pupils and imitators. Although the translators were very unskilful, interpolating many Arabic or Greek words and phrases, their work was yet important for the European Karaites, who were unacquainted with Arabic. Karaism owes to these translationsits original Hebrew style—on the whole an acquisition of doubtful value—and the appearance of its leading European exponents. Among these are Judah Hadassi (beginning in 1149), Jacob b. Reuben (12th cent.), Aaron b. Joseph (end of the 13th cent.), Aaron of Nicomedia (about the middle of the 14th cent.), Elijah Bashyaẓi and his brother-in-law Caleb Afendopolo (second half of the 15th cent.), and Moses Bashyaẓi (first half of the 16th cent.). The first-named is the author of the "Eshkol ha-Kofer," a comprehensive work in the form of a commentary on the Decalogue, arranged alphabetically and in acrostics, and written in quasi-rime, all sentences riming with "kaf." As the author intended this to be a kind of encyclopedia, he not only included all the opinions and doctrines of religious law of Karaite authors known to him, together with the continual attacks upon the Rabbinites, but he also covered the entire field of Karaite dogmatics, religious philosophy, hermeneutic rules, Hebrew grammar (with unacknowledged borrowings from Ibn Ezra's grammatical works), etc.; he included also passages relating to natural science, partly fabulous, from Arabic and Byzantine sources. This work was until recently the chief authority for information regarding the earlier Karaite writers, and it has still some value, although the original sources of a large portion of the encyclopedia are now accessible. Hadassi composed, in addition, a few smaller works, including a compendium of the Karaite religious laws, of which there have been preserved only fragments—unless these fragments represent all that the author had accomplished. Jacob b. Reuben, whose birthplace and circumstances of life are unknown, used, in his Hebrew commentary on the Bible ("Sefer ha-'Osher"), the exegetical works of Yafith, Abu al-Faraj Harun, Abu al-Faraj Furḳan, and 'Ali ibn Sulaiman. As the last-named flourished at the end of the eleventh and the beginning of the twelfth century, Jacob can not have written his book before the twelfth century. He consulted also Ibn Janaḥ's lexicon. The Greek words occurring in his commentary point to his Byzantine origin; he frequently uses the current technical terms of the Byzantine Karaite translators, although his Hebrew style is in general more fluent and developed.
Aaron ben Joseph (called "the Elder") is more independent in his exegesis than his predecessor, although in his Bible commentary ("Sefer ha-Mibḥar") he follows earlier 'scholars, chiefly Ibn Ezra, whose pregnant style he endeavors to imitate. He often quotes early rabbinical views, without polemical intention, salving his Karaite conscience with the saying of Nissi b. Noah (a Karaite author of Persia; 11th cent.) that it was obligatory upon the Karaites to study early rabbinical literature, as the larger part of their teachings was based on the true national tradition (on his theology see
Aaron ben Elijah of Nicomedia (called "the Younger") was born in 1300 at Nicomedia, in Asia Minor. He composed his first work, dealing with religion and philosophy, entitled "'Eẓ Ḥayyim," in 1346; his second work, the Karaite code, entitled "Gan 'Eden," in 1354; and the "Keter Torah," a commentary on the Pentateuch, in 1362. Some liturgical and secular poems by him or relating to him are printed in the Karaite prayer-book and in the editor's preface to his works. His system of religious philosophy, in which, while imitating Maimonides, he attempts to refute his "Moreh Nebukim," is discussed by Franz Delitzsch in the introduction to "'Eẓ Ḥayyim" and in
Elijah b. Moses
Caleb b. Elijah Afendopolo (end of the 15th cent.) lived first at Adrianople, and subsequently in Constantinople. He is the author of various theological, homiletic, mathematico-astronomical, and polemical treatises, and liturgical and poetical works. His moderate attitude toward Jesus he borrowed from Hadassi, who in turn had borrowed it from Ḳirḳisani; this attitude had previously been taken by the heresiarch Abu 'Isa and, following him, by Anan, to attract the good will of the Mohammedans, who worship Jesus as a prophet. His poetic compositions contain interesting details of contemporaneous history—as the references in the elegies (in "Gan ha-Melek") to the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492) and Lithuania (1495); in the "Patshegen Ketab ha-Dat" to the forcible transposition of the Jews of Adrianople and Provato to Constantinople (1455)—and various personal details referring to contemporary Karaites, Karaite customs and observances, etc.
Moses b. Elijah
Abraham ben Jacob Bali, contemporary of Elijah Bashyaẓi, and his opponent in the question of the burning of candles on Friday evening, and Judah Gibbor, a liturgical poet of the beginning of the sixteenth century, are also of some importance in the Karaite literature of the Byzantine period; as also are Judah Poki Tchelebi (c. 1580), author of "Sha'ar Yehudah," on marriage prohibitions among the Karaites, and others. The friendly intercourse between Byzantine Rabbinites and Karaites during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is noteworthy, the latter not seldom being instructed by Rabbinic Jews. Comtino's pupils have been mentioned above; Abraham Bali studied with the Rabbinite Shabbethai b. Malchiel. Afendopolo refers to a Karaite ceremony (1497), on the occasion of the dedication of a Pentateuch roll, in which several Rabbinites took part. The more moderate views regarding the Karaites held by the famous rabbi of Constantinople, Elijah Mizraḥi, are known from his responsa; nor was he the only rabbi holding such views, for as early as the beginning of the fourteenth century Shemariah of Crete endeavored to incorporate the Karaites with the Jewish nation.
The Oriental Karaites were rapidly declining during the Byzantine period, especially after Moses Maimonides went to Egypt, at that time the chief seat of Karaism in the East. Although this famous scholar was on the whole tolerant toward the Karaites, permitting, for instance, the Rabbinite Jews to circumcise Karaite children on Saturday according to the rabbinic ritual, he yet endeavored to keep Karaite influences away from his congregation and to abolish the Karaite customs which had crept in among the ignorant Jews. Maimonides' influence on the Oriental Karaites was so great that his code (under the title of "Ḥibbur," without any specification) is often quoted as a fully recognized authority in the Karaite religio-legal works of that time. The authority and reputation which Maimonides enjoyedamong the Jews and Mohammedans had a depressing and disintegrating influence on Oriental Karaism; the few Oriental writers of that period were frequently obliged to borrow from the Byzantine authors the same material which the latter had previously borrowed from the earlier Oriental Karaites. Henceforth Karaism, of course, could no longer gain ground by new acquisitions; on the contrary, various Karaite communities in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Babylonia, Persia, and northern Africa gradually disappeared, partly by being converted to Islam—in itself a sign of internal weakness and intellectual decay—but mostly through being annexed by Rabbinism. Estori Farḥi mentions a wholesale conversion of Egyptian Karaites to Rabbinism in 1313, when a descendant of Moses Maimonides was Jewish governor ("nagid").Lithuanian Epoch.
The third and last epoch of Karaism is the Lithuanio-Russian epoch. As early as the twelfth century the traveler Pethahiah of Regensburg found Ananite rigorists in southern Russia, occupied at that time by Mongolian Tatars. After the Taurian peninsula was conquered by the Mongols in the thirteenth century, several Oriental Rabbinites and Karaites, and the so-called "Krimchaks," settled there. The epigraphs at the end of some Pentateuch rolls now in the St. Petersburg Imperial Public Library, and dating from the fourteenth century, are the earliest Crimean documents. At the end of that century the Lithuanian grand duke Witold settled some Crimean Karaites, together with captive Crimean Tatars, as colonists in Lithuania. A part of the city of Troki, in the government of Wilna, was assigned to these settlers, whence some of them subsequently emigrated to other Lithuanian cities, to Lutsk, in Volhynia, then belonging to Lithuania, and to Halitsch, in Galicia. These Karaites, on coming in contact with the European Rabbinites and developing their literary taste, began to correspond with their Byzantine coreligionists, and at the end of the fifteenth century Lithuanian pupils were studying with Elijah Bashyaẓi.
The Karaites of Troki were the first to achieve distinction, among the most noteworthy of them being Isaac b. Abraham Troki (1533-94), pupil of Zephaniah Troki and author of the well-known anti-Christian "Ḥizzuḳ Emunah" (1593), which was completed by his pupil Joseph Malinowski. This work evidences the author's acquaintance with the doctrines of the Christian churches and sects, Isaac acquiring this knowledge chiefly through his acquaintance with the clericals and theologians of the various Christian confessions. Apart from this book, which in Wagenseil's Latin translation made the author's name famous, Isaac's work is unimportant, including only some liturgical hymns, and compendiums of the religious laws in Aaron ben Elijah's "Gan 'Eden." His above-mentioned pupil, Joseph Malinowski of Troki, produced the same kind of mediocre work. Zerah b. Nathan, a contemporary and correspondent of the polyhistor Joseph Solomon Delmedigo, studied mathematics and physics, and by his questions induced Delmedigo to write the "Iggeret Aḥuz." Solomon Troki wrote for Professor Puffendorf a detailed treatise on Karaism entitled "Appiryon" (c. 1700), and also some polemical essays against Rabbinism and Christianity. Abraham ben Josiah of Jerusalem, who lived in the Crimea, was also probably a native of Troki; he is the author of a work on Karaite dogmatics which contains many polemical passages against Rabbinism ("Emunah Omen," 1712).
The example of the Karaites of Troki was followed by the Karaites in Galicia and Volhynia, and by some in the Crimea, most of the latter having come from the two former countries. Among the best-known of these is Mordecai b. Nisan Kokisow, who replied to questions regarding the nature of Karaism addressed to him by the Swedish king Charles XII. ("Lebush Malkut") and by Professor Trigland ("Dod Mordekai," 1699), these answers, in the commonplace Karaite style, being for the great-et part compilations from Afendopolo and Moses Bashyaẓi. Simḥah Isaac Lutski (flourished c. 1740-1750) went from Lutsk to the Crimea, where he composed his works, compiling a bibliographical summary of Karaite literature ("Oraḥ Ẓaddiḳim"), which is noteworthy as a first attempt in this direction, in spite of its many shortcomings. Isaac b. Solomon, Karaite ḥakam living at Chufut-Kale in the beginning of the nineteenth century, wrote several books, including a work on Karaite dogmatics ("Iggeret Pinnat Yiḳrat"), and a work on calendar science ("Or ha-Lebanah") after Immanuel's "Shesh Kenafayim." Joseph Solomon Lutski, ḥakam at Eupatoria in the third and fourth decades of the nineteenth century, annotated the works of both the Aarons, and wrote an account of the exemption of the Russian Karaites from military service ("Teshu'at Yisrael," 1828), and some hymns. The publication of several earlier Karaite works, part of them for the first time, is due chiefly to him. David b. Mordecai Kokizow wrote on calendar science and Karaite marital law, and also composed liturgical hymns and various treatises ("Ẓemaḥ Dawid," ed. 1897). Mordecai b. Joseph Sultanski, ḥakam at Chufut-Kale in the fifth and sixth decades of the nineteenth century, is the author of two works, "Petaḥ Tiḳwah" and "Teṭib Da'at" (1857-58). Solomon Beim, ḥakam at Odessa, wrote in Russian a historical treatise on Chufut-Kale and the Karaites (1862), in which the spurious and forged documents are treated as genuine history. Elijah Kasas published Hebrew poems ("Shirim Aḥadim," 1857) and a Hebrew grammar in the Tatar Karaite dialect ("Le-Regel ha-Yeladim," 1869), and translated various works from the French. Judah Sawuskan published two works by Aaron ben Elijah of Nicomedia, for which he wrote introductions (1866); some Hebrew essays and poems by him have also been printed in Hebrew periodicals.Abraham Firkovich.
All these writers were, however, surpassed by Abraham Firkovich (1786-1874), whose literary activity covered nearly fifty years, and who calls for more extended notice, because his name is closely associated both with the development of Karaite science and with one of the greatest historical forgeries. The finding of Karaite antiquities in the Crimea happened as follows, according to impartial accounts (comp. Harkavy, "Altjüdische Denkmäleraus der Krim," 1876, pp. 206 et seq.): When Emperor Nicholas I. visited the Crimea for the first time, in 1836, the governor-general of southern Russia, Prince Michail Woronzow, undertook to restore and furnish in truly Oriental style the old castle of the khans at Bakhchiserai. He entrusted the necessary purchases to the Karaite merchant Simḥah Bobowitsch, a man of affairs who had business relations in Constantinople. Bobowitsch went to that city and received during an audience with the sultan permission to select what he needed from the sultan's castles and warehouses. On his return to Bakhchiserai, Bobowitsch also had charge of furnishing the castle, remaining even after the czar had arrived. At that time a deputation of the Crimean Rabbinite Jews (the Krimchaks) was presented to the czar, and, like the other natives of the Crimea, they submitted their petition to be released from military service. The czar asked the delegates: "You believe in the Talmud?" "Yes, your majesty; we believe in it," they replied. "Then you must furnish soldiers," the czar replied curtly. On this occasion Prince Woronzow said to Bobowitsch: "You see, Bobowitsch, that you Karaites have done a very sensible thing in cutting loose from the Talmud; when did this happen?" Bobowitsch thereupon replied that the Karaites never had had anything to do with the Talmud, that their religion was older than the Jewish religion, that the Karaites had taken no part in persecuting and crucifying Jesus, and made other statements current among the Karaites. "Can you prove this?" asked the prince. "Certainly," replied Bobowitsch.The Argument from Antiquity.
When subsequently, in 1839, a society for history and antiquities was formed at Odessa, Woronzow remembered Bobowitsch's promise. Bobowitsch had in the meantime been elected chief of the Crimean Karaites, and commissioned his tutor Firkovich, who was known as an inveterate foe of Rabbinism, to furnish the necessary documents proving the great age of Karaism, especially in the Crimea, giving him, in addition to traveling expenses, a definite salary while occupied in this work. He furthermore procured for Firkovich an authorization from the government to collect all the necessary records and historical documents among the Karaites and Jews. Armed with this authority Firkovich traveled through the Crimea and the Caucasus; he took from their owners whatever documents he deemed necessary, plundering especially the rabbinic Krimchaks; fabricated various epitaphs (among them that of Isaac Sangari and his wife) and epigraphs in manuscripts; tampered with the dates of documents, and interpolated the names of Crimean localities and Karaite personages in many of them. He did all this for the sole purpose of representing the Karaites in the Crimea as a highly developed people dwelling there since the time of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser, in the seventh century
The recognition of the human and civic rights of the followers of any confession need not be deprecated; yet it is deeply to be regretted that the foremost champions of the rights of the Russian Karaites and their Christian fellows at the same time endeavored, and still endeavor, to cast slurs upon Judaism and to vilify the Rabbinite Jews, emphasizing the weak points of Rabbinism in order to show the alleged superiority of Karaism to better advantage. This inimical attitude of Russian Karaism and its paid protectors was occasioned by Firkovich. Nevertheless, it must be noted that Firkovich, with his industry in collecting much valuable material, rendered great services not only to Karaite literature (the material discovered by him and edited scientifically by S. Pinsker and others marking an important epoch of this literature), but also to the history and literature of the Rabbinite Jews and Samaritans. In conclusion it may be observed that Karaism, in opposing and criticizing the party of the Rabbinites, has done good service to the latter. The Karaites are estimated to number about 10,000 in Russia and about 2,000 in other countries.
- The historical works by Jost, Geiger, and Grätz;
- Steinschneider, Jüdische Literatur, in Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. section ii., part 27;
- idem, catalogues of the libraries at Leyden (1858), Oxford (1860), and Berlin (1878-97);
- idem, Hebr. Bibl.;
- idem, Polemische Literatur, 1877;
- idem, Hebr. Uebers. 1893;
- idem, Arabische Literatur der Juden, 1902;
- S. Pinsker, Liḳḳuṭe Ḳadmoniyyot (one of the authorities in this field);
- Fürst, Gesch. des Karäertums (must be used very circumspectly, as it is unreliable);
- Neubauer, Aus der Petersburger Bibliothek, 1866;
- Gottlober, Biḳḳoret leToledot ha-Ḳara'im, 1865;
- Harkavy, Altjüdische Denkmäler aus der Krim, 1876;
- idem, Noten und Beilagen zu Grätz's Gesch.;
- idem, Ḳirkisani's Nachrichten über Jüdische Secten, 1894;
- idem, Studien und Mittheilungen aus der Bibliothek zu Petersburg, part viii., 1903;
- P. Frankl, Karäische Studien, 1882-84;
- idem, Karaiten, in Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. section ii., part 33;
- documents in Bershadski's Russo-Hebr. Archives, i. (1882), and in Z. Firkovich's collection of Tatar documents and Russian laws for Karaites (1891, with introduction by a Judæophobe entirely incompetent to deal with the subject). Karaite texts have been edited also by Franz Delitzsch, Bargès, Margoliouth, Poznanski, Schreiner, and others. Statistical notes are given by Frankl in Ersch and Gruber, l.c., to which the notes in Schudt's Jüdische Denkwürdigkeiten must be added. On the latest organization of Karaite religious matters in Russia see Entziklopedicheski Slovar, xiv. 431-432.
Karaism is not, as asserted by its opponents, the outcome of mere personal ambition, but the natural reaction and counter-movement against Talmudism brought to a state of stagnation in the Saborean and early geonic period. In pointing to the written Law or Scripture as the only divine source of authority, it gave to Judaism a healthy stimulus in the direction of renewed Bible study and research and inaugurated a new epoch in Jewish history. Its weakness, however, consisted in its being an altogether retrogressive movement, deriving support from remnants, literary or otherwise, of seemingly long extinct Sadducean and Essene doctrines, and ignoring the progressive element represented by the rabbinic Halakah, in favor of Sadducean adherence to the letter of the Law (see Geiger, "Gesammelte Schriften," iii. 283 et seq.; Grätz, "Gesch." iii. 413-429). However bold and original Anan's combination of the Sadducean and rabbinic methods in his system of hermeneutics, the longing for the past glory of Zion, for the restoration of the Temple with its sacrificial and Levitical laws of purity, lent Karaism a somber, ascetic, and world-shunning character. "Only when and where wine and meat can be offered upon the altar may they be used at the table," was made the maxim of the Karaite "mourner for Zion," even though later Karaism did not adhere to it (Harkavy, "Liḳḳuṭe Ḳadmoniyyot," ii. 1903, Nos. 4, 128, 138); jurisdiction in civil as well as in criminal cases, outside the Holy Land, is suspended, though he who does not act in conformity with the Law should be excommunicated (Nos. 14-18); perfect separation from the Gentiles is enjoined, and no meal prepared in any form by them should be eaten (Nos. 6-7, 196). Rigorous Essene rules are inculcated in regard to married life; menstrual fluid, human excrement, blood, and any other unclean issue must be covered with earth; privies must be kept distant from the limit of human dwellings; ablution of both hands and feet after every easement of the body, and before entering the synagogue or reading from the Law, is required; both the water and the laver must be kept holy (Nos. 22, 26-34, 130, 200-204). None is allowed to enter the synagogue or read from the scroll of the Law with shoes on his feet, or after having taken wine; to irreverent treatment of a single Law there is attached the penalty of death by God's hand or of excommunication by man (Nos. 13-17, 21-22, 198). Tefillin are not recognized as Biblical, Deut. vi. 8 and xi. 18 being taken symbolically; all the more sacredness is ascribed to the ẓiẓit, which must be twisted, spun, and attached by an Israelite expressly trained for the purpose (Nos. 8-10, 196). Circumcision must be performed by a Jewish believer, with a consecrated instrument (scissors), and after the person has been consecrated; for proselytes the eighth, and for other adults the eleventh, day of the month is set apart, and in the case of both Periah is omitted (Nos. 75-89).
Regarding the Sabbath, the rules enforced are the same as those of the Samaritans and Falashas, and as those prescribed in the Book of Jubilees: No light or fire is allowed; marital intercourse and leaving the house are forbidden (later, it was permissibleto go as far as 2,000 yards); light burdens, however, may be carried in the hand (No. 69). No kind of work may be done by a non-Jew for a Jew (No. 189). The act of circumcision on the eighth day should be performed upon the child at the close of the Sabbath, so that the work of healing may take place on Sunday (Nos. 76-77); nor may the Passover lamb be sacrificed on a Sabbath (Nos. 72, 130). All work except preparation of food is prohibited also on the holy days; so is the slaughtering of animals (No. 74). The "maẓẓah," as the bread of affliction, should be made of barley (Nos. 129, 133). Shabu'ot must always be observed on the day after Sabbath, as the Sadducces and Samaritans interpret the Biblical "the morrow of the Sabbath" (Lev. xxiii. 16). The "Sukkah" should be made of the plants mentioned in Lev. xxiii. 40 and Neh. viii. 15. The 1st of Tishri is a day of "contrition," not of the blowing of the shofar; the beginning of the year is the 1st of Nisan; and a second Shebaṭ (not Adar) is the intercalary month in a leap-year. Ḥanukkah is not celebrated; Purim is a two days' fast; and there is a seventy days' fast in remembrance of the Haman persecution, and a fast on the seventh day of every month (Nos. 130, 149; the source is unknown as yet). Instead of the 9th, the 10th of Ab is the fast-day in memory of the destruction of Jerusalem. The New-Moon is fixed by observation.Marriage and Dietary Laws.
The levirate marriage is extended to the wife or rather the betrothed of any deceased relative (Nos. 106-112); the refusal to marry her entails "nezifah" (seven days' confinement). Both man and woman must be willing, as in any other marriage (No. 113). The number of incestuous marriages in Lev. xviii.-xx. (to which popular or Soferic rule added "secondary incests"; "sheniyyot"; Yeb. ii. 4; Tosef., Yeb. iii. 1; Yeb. 21a, b) Karaism extended upon the principle of equal relationship of the agnates and cognates in the ascending and descending scales ("rikkub"), so that later authorities opposed the prohibitive system as unbearable; in regard to a niece, however, Anan was less rigorous (Nos. 90-106, 129). Priestly sanctity is attached to the rite of slaughtering (No. 57; but see No. 144); none but a perfectly healthy animal is permitted; defiling contact with the carcass must be avoided. Among fowls, for which the sacrificial "meliḳah" (the pinching off of the head with the nails) is prescribed, only the dove and the turtledove should be eaten; the male bird is forbidden (Nos. 141, 144, 155, 159, 164, 188). The prohibition against the eating of the ischiatic sinew (Gen. xxxii. 33; Ibn Ezra, ad loc.) or of meat with milk is not recognized as Biblical (Ex. xxiii. 19; No. 151; see Ibn Ezra, ad loc.); all the more importance is attached to the prohibition against mixing together wool and linen and other stuffs ("shaaṭnez" and "kila'im"; Nos. 5, 195).Liturgy.
Tithes should be given from everything the soil offers, including metals (No. 131). God alone should be sought as physician, and no human medicine should be resorted to (No. 148). Before and after reading from the Law, as well as before and after eating and drinking, benedictions are recited, but always with reference to Zion (Nos. 12-19). Instead of the traditional liturgy, the Psalms of David and other portions of the Bible should be used for prayer and song, and the Law should be read each day (Nos. 20, 158, 200). Simple Hebrew formulas for divorce (No. 119) and for the marriage ceremony are prescribed (No. 112).
In the course of time the innovations of Anan have been greatly altered and modified, and later Karaism adopted many rabbinical customs. The liturgy especially, originally based more or less upon the Temple "Ma'amadot," was greatly augmented and enriched by compositions made after the pattern of the Rabbinite liturgy. On the whole, Karaism lacks the element of poetry and inspiration, and is merely imitative when it is not in opposition. Instead of the thirteen Maimonidean "articles of faith," Karaism, since Judah Hadassi, has had only ten. See Articles of Faith.