Thursday, June 11, 2009

We Were Warriors

Once upon a time there was a people that despite their small numbers would not hesitate to fight for what they believed in; for what they considered right. It doesn't necessarily follow that they won each time because they didn't, but they knew that for every loss there would be a victory some time, some place in the future. For a thousand years that belief was consistent and unfaltering. We fought the Egyptians, though halfheartedly I must admit when Shishank stormed Jerusalem and lost. But Solomon made up with his father-in-law and the Egyptians withdrew. We fought the Assyrians and lost the northern kingdom but more so through the assimilation that followed. We fought the Babylonians and lost but fortunately they in turn lost to the Persians and we were given back our institution to self govern. We fought the Greeks and actually won, but then gave away that freedom immediately afterwards through alliances with Antiochus, the same ruler we fought against so that we could become a self-governing vassal state. No one said it had to make sense. And then we fought the Romans and lost. Sixty years afterwards we fought them again, and lost again. Three hundred years later we tried it again but we didn't fare any better that time. But by the fourth century AD something had drastically changed in our makeup and our mindset. We no longer saw ourselves as warriors, definitely not as victors, and we certainly lost the aptitude to keep challenging the powers that be.
There were singular moments when individuals did rise to the occassion and for the span of a few years there were even hazy reflections of the ancestral warriors and the sweet taste of victory but then that same insidious change that occurred in the fourth century would pervade our thinking and we would sacrifice all that we had gained. The story of Mar Zutra is such an episode where our freedom had been re-established only to have it sold out from under us.

For anyone that knows my belief system and is familiar with my thinking they may already know what I'm alluding to. Where I feel the blame is to be laid and how I see us once again as a people faltering and failing to embrace that warrior heritage that is the core of our existence.
After the wars against Rome, notice I say wars because most are of the beleif that there was only a singular war which is completely incorrect, we abandoned that which was the essential elements of our existence. Not our stalwart belief in God, but the tools that he handed us to ensure our continued survival through the ages. I'm referring to the Rod and the Sceptre. There came amongst us a group of relgious philosphers (hasidim) that felt the two institutions were archaic and irrelevant. They dismissed them as the flotsom of an outlived aristocracy, no longer essential. They presumed that without a Temple, without a base or kingdom to rule, there was no longer a need for either priests or kings. And in their haste to bury both castes they forgot that it was not their decision to make as God had forbade any man to wrest these from between his knees (this is a biblical expression, not mine). Yes, I blame Rabbinical Judaism for our downfall through the ages.

Now before everyone gets in an uproar and starts proclaiming what the Rabbis have always insisted that if not for them we never would have survived as a distinct people amongst all the other nations, let me say this; 'CRAP'. The Talmud, is the work and interpretation of men and if anything, it has caused more confrontational arguments than agreements. Long after it was written you still had the Rashis and Maiomondes, and the hundreds and thousands of Rabbis that followed still trying enforce their interpretation as the correct one. How ridiculous. Because as any knowledgable Karaite can tell you, Anan ben David had summed up everything that had to be known in a singular revision; "If what you read seems good to you, then it is correct." It was a powerful statement. So powerful in fact that by the tenth century, the Rabbinical sage, Saadiah grew very concerned that the rabbinical Judaism he and his colleagues professed would actully become subordiante to the Karaite beliefs that he made it his life's ambition to destroy all that was Karaite. Though you may find it hard to uncover this edict I'm about to reveal, since an effort has been made to erase it from Jewish History, Saadiah, once enshrined as the Gaon, or chief Rabbi, pronounced, "To Kill a Karaite is no Different Than Killing a Dog." What did this actually mean? It meant that you could kill a Karaite without being charged with murder. And they did; literally in the thousands.
It is inconceivable that we who were once warriors would turn upon our own brethren, simply because one group decided that somehow it became their right to rule the hearts and minds of the people. And that same group would preach whenever as a people we would become oppressed by other nations that we should put our trust in God and that he will deliver us. That it is not up to us to deliver ourselves. How many holocausts have we suffered because of such faulty logic? How many more must we endure before it is finally questioned, who are these people that claim the authority to speak for God?

We are at a crossroads now. As Karaite, I'm only one of thirty thousand remaining in the world. Even most of my family following the death of Yakov Kahana (see Shadows of Trinity) abandoned Karism and adopted what was then mainstream rabbinical Judaism. But in case you have not noticed, there is a tide turning in the world. A tide that suddenly looks at today's Israel with its six million people and says, "How dare you exert your beligerance over 500 million Arabs. How dare you declare yourself a Jewish Homeland but WE acknowledge the right for a Palestinian state to exclude any Jews from living within its borders. How dare you pronouce Judaism as your State religion, even though you let millions of Muslims and Christians live freely within your country to practice their religion, while those of non-Muslim faiths are not allowed to publicly practice their religions in a large number of Muslim countries. How dare you claim an entitlement to the land on which you have been a presence on for three thousand years continuously, have fought and died over for an equal length of time as mentioned at the start of this article, and try to use that to refute OUR claim that you are merely the creation of post world war European guilt." You can hear it now. It's whispered in the streets, it's shouted behind closed doors, it's rising in its tenor and rhetoric from the lips of presidents that are willing to deny the truth. As a Karaite I can see the winds of change. We have seen it many times over our existence. We have not abandoned either the Staff nor the Sceptre. And though our numbers are diminished we still recall that once We Were Warriors.

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