The Karaite Jews of America. As a result, many Jewish sects appeared, preaching their beliefs and hoping to carry out the changes they felt were necessary. Of all the Jewish sects that appeared during the long history of Judaism and they were many — none was able to have as serious an effect on the Jewish mainstream as the sect of Karaism. Karaism, whose adherents are called Karaites, strongly challenged the mainstream and, to some extent, threatened its existence, and was able at times to attract 40 percent of the whole Jewish population.
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Several weeks ago, I was out to dinner with a friend and we were discussing the state of the Karaite movement. Because the historical Karaite calendar was based on empirical observations of the new moon and the ripeness of the barley , devout Karaites especially those in the Diaspora often disagreed as to when the true biblical holidays should be celebrated.
This past month, Karaites throughout the world observed their holidays according to any of three systems: 1 the Calculated Rabbinic Calendar; 2 the Calculated Karaite Calendar; and 3 the Sighting of the New Moon. Karaites seemingly are obsessed with when to observe the holidays , because Karaites recognize that the calculated Rabbinic Calendar does not in fact correspond to new moon sightings in Israel. Most interesting to me are examples of ketubot from Karaite-Rabbanite marriages from the middle ages — especially where a Rabbanite man is marrying a Karaite woman.
By way of background, in the Rabbinic tradition a woman generally takes the halakhic practices of her husband. So it is telling when a Rabbanite man adopts the calendar-based halacha of his Karaite wife. My general view is that if Karaites today had more internal strength and external credibility, the calendar issue today would not lead to a rift. And even some Rabbanites would join in celebrating the holidays on the proper dates. In fact, Karaite authors from years ago tell us that some Rabbanites even after the Rabbanite calendar dispute was considered settled observed the holidays according to the Karaite dates while some Karaites observed the holidays according to the Rabbanite dates.
As I see it, Karaites need to focus on re-invigorating the movement in all respects, keeping in mind that Jews are at different places in their journey. And these committed Jews should encourage in a positive manner all Karaites to return to the proper observations — and should be patient during that process.
If we can all do that, the calendar may be actually be a source of education, dialog, and perhaps even strength. This might make a good blog topic. Shaun On the subject of sighting the new moon…what should you do if the cloudy skys dont permit a person to see the new moon…and it goes on for days on end…what would you doe then. Most people use modern calculations to determine when the moon would have been seen without the clouds. Shaun, The sighting of the new moon in Yisrael is well documented now, and is easy to follow.
This is our Halacha. Rabbinites have another. So what! I wish things were different, but we must not find things to seperate us, but to unite us. Thank you for your note, but the point of the post was not mainly about a Karaite Rabbanite divide, but how the Karaites themselves are divided on this issue.
I am a member of an unaffiliated Synagogue and personally follow the calendar according to New Moon sighting and Aviv. The Rabba here has always showed interest in the differences of observance and has never made me feel left out or unwelcome. The Calculated Karaite Calendar uses the longitudinal potential visibility. This means if the new moon could be sighted in the southern hemisphere not not in Israel it is counted and is seen as a middle ground between the rabbinical calculated calendar and the Sighted New Moon calendar.
Even the sighted calendar uses potential visibility but it must be sightable in Israel. The main reason for using the rabbinical calendar I have been told is convenience that we not be different from the rabbinate.
I could be mistaken but that is what I have heard. Hi Yohanan, I am actually surprised to hear that this is the method of calculation. I understood that the calculated Karaite calendar was based purely on local sighting. I hope to interview some of the Karaites who do the calendar. When I was employed I had to supply my employer every December with a list of my required religious days off for the coming year.
So I consulted astronomical tables to calculate when the new moons would be 24 hours old by sunset in my locality. This is because the farther west you are, the earlier the night the moon can be sighted. The observances would roll from west to east.
I find that concept elegant, and it gives a whole new perspective on what our Creator sees. I agree. I go by local sighting myself as much as possible.
This keeps festivals going basically year round somewhere in the world. Also, we felt that if we keep the holy days by Israeli time we would need to keep Shabbat by Israeli time also. Correction: When I say LOCAL sighting I really mean what calculates by astronomical tables for my locality, only because I also have to turn in dates to my employer before each new year.
Also, still studying the equinox issue. I tend to begin the year with the new moon after spring begins, as this ensures the Feast of Booths starts after the crops are gathered instead of before.
Scripture says crops must be gathered and brought to the feast. When we started the year with the new moon before the spring equinox sometimes we would see the harvest first being reaped on our way home from the Feast of Tabernacles. Shawn, First of all, kudos to you for yet another remarkable post! You have a way of approaching controversial topics that is both gentle and unbiased. However, I sometimes wonder what the advantage would be of using a pre-calculated calendar that is different from Hillel II.
I fail to see the point of that. For example, this month the Hillel II calendar was off by three days and the current Karaite Calculated calendar was only off by 1 day and there was at least one — potentially UNreliable- possible sighting of the new moon in accordance with the predicted Karaite date. My view on this is that aside from Yom Teruah which is a holiday that falls on the first of the month , there really is no need to predict when the new moon might be.
The only real issue for people who want to follow the new moon is Yom Teruah. One day off is still off. But, like I said, I respect different views on the subject. I would, however, like to contest one conclusion. If we need to negotiate a time off at our jobs, we can ask for two days, just like a Rabbanite would. We prepare ourselves for the 6th month having either 29 or 30 days. Then when the time comes, we can either tell our bosses we no longer require to take one of such days off, or we can take the opportunity to do other things, such as going to the mall or catching up on the lastest post abluethread.
Still easier than being a Rabbanite, since they have no other choice but to keep two days for every single moed except for Yom haKipurim. So… ding, ding, ding! Karaites win this round, even if they are moon-sighters! The rabbanite calendar has its own problems. Fo example, independently of the new moon, the rabbanite Rosh Hashana cannot fall on Sunday, Wednesday, or Saturday. A similar rule applies to Pesah.
But, as others have pointed out, it is a sign of our disunity that there is no agreement on holiday dates. Karaism certainly can offer both. But with only one Karaite synagogue in the U. What I think is more important than the calendar is the establishment of Karaite havurot led by KFBs, i. Karaites from birth in our major cities. The need is to show other Jews that there is another, and, in my opinion, better path to Judaism.
Howard, you are certainly correct. Karaites need to do better Kiruv and better outreach. And you are also right it needs to start with KFBs and also very educated persons who adopted Karaite Judaism. Sean, I think that Karaites have a tremendous kiruv opportunity with all the rabbinite Jewish men who have married non-Jewish women.
As you know most rabbinite Jewish men who marry non-Jewish women are usually conflicted. However their kids will be Jewish by Karaite definition. What do you think? Regards, Dave. Hi Dave, thank you for the note. You are correct that Karaites and Rabbanites differed on issues of descent, with Karaites holding by patrilineal descent and Rabbanites holding by matrilineal descent. Despite this difference, though, both movements agree that marrying other Jews or at the very lease people committed to having a Jewish household is important — even if only because it makes having a Jewish household easier.
BTW, I recently spoke to a young 21 years old Karaite Hazan in Israel and asked how he would approach teaching non-Jews and interfaith couples. I pray that all synagogues and Jewish institutions are warm and welcoming to all couples seeking a meaningful Jewish experience. After several years of presenting the data and facts we were successful and the calendar according to the sighting of the crescent new moon was accepted. Our next step was for them to accept the Aviv.
About ten years ago the decision to go according to the sighting of the crescent new moon was reversed, this was due to various powerful secular elements within the community in Israel who were not too comfortable with their Karaite Judaism but still wanted to remain within the community.
There are Karaites in Israel that still go according to the sighting of the crescent new moon as visible over the skies of Israel; this has become a point of contention within the community. If the majority — or a very large minority — revert back to the sighting of the crescent new moon in Israel then this will become the calendar ipso facto. In truth movements of change are channelled from the foundations to the top — a house is built from the foundations to the roof not visa versa; change the hearts of the people and then true change will come about.
In order that they may walk in My laws, and My judgements they shall keep and do them; and they shall be to Me for a people, and I will be for them for a God. Back then there was only a very few of us who actually went out and looked for the first sighting of the Crescent new Moon. There was no one who would be able to contact me form Yisrael and inform me about the sighting of the Crescent New Moon, Nehemia and Devora Gordon had only just arrived in Yisrael a few months before.
The Karaites of the Byzantine Empire a century or so later on the other hand did not have a reliable line of communication with Eres Yisrael due to Pirates in the Eastern Mediterranean and the International Politics of the time.
I decided to put myself in the position of a Karaite living in the Byzantine Empire in the 12th Century. Because it was almost impossible for the Karaites of the Byzantine Empire during this period to receive reliable information about the first sighting of the Crescent New Moon they went according to local observation.
This they did this out of necessity rather than choice, and in fact, various Karaite communities on Byzantine soil would celebrate the Haggim a day apart from each other due to local observation. I discussed this matter with Hakham Mordecai Al-fandari PBUH and he agreed with me that under such circumstances there was nothing else that I could do.
Therefore, when we arrived in England we went according to local sighting and this continued for a while.
THE KARAITE CALENDAR: SANCTIFICATION OF THE NEW MOON BY SIGHTING
Several weeks ago, I was out to dinner with a friend and we were discussing the state of the Karaite movement. Because the historical Karaite calendar was based on empirical observations of the new moon and the ripeness of the barley , devout Karaites especially those in the Diaspora often disagreed as to when the true biblical holidays should be celebrated. This past month, Karaites throughout the world observed their holidays according to any of three systems: 1 the Calculated Rabbinic Calendar; 2 the Calculated Karaite Calendar; and 3 the Sighting of the New Moon. Karaites seemingly are obsessed with when to observe the holidays , because Karaites recognize that the calculated Rabbinic Calendar does not in fact correspond to new moon sightings in Israel. Most interesting to me are examples of ketubot from Karaite-Rabbanite marriages from the middle ages — especially where a Rabbanite man is marrying a Karaite woman. By way of background, in the Rabbinic tradition a woman generally takes the halakhic practices of her husband. So it is telling when a Rabbanite man adopts the calendar-based halacha of his Karaite wife.