Sunday, October 31, 2010

Beware of the Kabbalah

It is a perplexing world this Magical Land of Kabbalah, with its myriad of divinely created beings that flitter in and out of men’s lives as if we have all journeyed into Neverland, only to find that those that wish to control these sprites and fairies is not the infamous Captain Hook but these self-emulating masters of the Kabbalah.  In their language of double-speak they will say things such as, “All the names we call Him do not refer to His Self, but only to His Lights, expanding from Him to the lower ones. Even the holy name, Ein Sof (Infinity), presented in the Kabbalah books, is also regarded as Light that expands from His Essence,” which besides being totally baffling to anyone assessing their beliefs, in its most sinister of innuendos it is implying that there are these ‘lower ones’ all capable of superhuman feats, and that their books are themselves divinely inspired and magical as they contain a spark from God.  There is an obvious obsession with implying that in some way their books, written by their hands, human hands and subject to human vices are beyond question, filled with magic and secrets that only they have attained and therefore only they have any perception of God. After all, they write, “However, it is a great Mitzva to examine and research in His illuminations, which expand from Him, which are all the holy names and appellations brought in the books. It is an utter must for any person from Israel to study and understand the secrets of Torah and all the ways of His bestowal upon the lower ones, which are the gist of the wisdom of truth and the future reward of the souls at the end of correction.”  Simply put they are suggesting that only those that are followers of their secrets, their esoteric wisdom that they have gleaned have any reward in this world, either now or in the future.  Did I not say in my last article that the goal of any cult is to make their followers believe that only they have the answers, that everything else is a lie, and by condemning all other beliefs and systems, they tether their adherents to their own doctrines through various means of mind manipulation so that they can see no other hope but to hang on to that tether as much as they can for fear of losing everything.  Remember, true religion tells you that no matter how many times you fail, there is always the opportunity to pick yourself up, do the right thing and redeem yourself.   

The Worthless Shepherds

It is not only myself as a Karaite that has seen this threat of the Kabbalah and its obvious attempts at manipulating the minds of the susceptible.  Even the Rabbanites from time to time have seen the threat of this movement within their own followesrs.  One such group known as Dardaim, were adherents of the Dor Deah movement in rabbinical Judaism.. It was founded in Yemen during the nineteenth century  by Rabbi Qafih, and had its own network of synagogues and schools. Its stated objectives were as follows:
  1. to combat the influence of the Zohar and subsequent developments in modern Kabbalah, which were then pervasive in Yemenite Jewish life, and which the Dor Daim believed to be irrational and idolatrous;
  2. to restore (what they believed to be) a rational approach to Judaism rooted in authentic sources;
  3. to safeguard the older (Baladi) tradition of Yemenite Jewish observance, which they believed to be based on this approach.
But if looking at Yemenite teachings is too foreign for most Ashkenazi, then let me provide a reference closer to home such as  the works of Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh of Modena  who was an Italian rabbi  and  intellectual figure of the 16th and 17th centuries.  In his writings he was a very harsh critic of Kabbalah , suggesting if Jews were to accept the Kabbalah, then the Christian trinity would indeed become compatible with Judaism, as the Trinity closely resembles the Kabbalistic doctrine of sefirot. He was a major critic of the practice where Jews were addressing individual sefirot by name in their prayers, the practice of commanding spiritual beings taught in the Kabbalah. 
I can continue with a seemingly endless list of Rabbis that condemn the practice of Kabbalah and yet we have this modern phenomena growing exponentially with movie stars and celebrities flocking to it in droves.  It should not be too surprising because this occurrence is actually well documented in Zechariah 11:15-17.  For these are the days of the worthless shepherds that corrupt our teaching with the design of leading us astray.  They have come not to abandon us but through their negligence, purposeful falsifications and corruption of the Torah, they will destroy us.

Exposing the Truth

The Kabbalah was designed to lead the follower astray.  By disguising its intent in pretty words and poetic ambience it conceals it’s true intent.  For example, “It is written in the words of our sages, in The Zohar, and the Tikkunim that all the Upper Worlds and all the Holy Sefirot of the five worlds AK and ABYA have been prepared ahead of time in quantity and quality to complement the children of Israel. This is so because the soul of one from Israel is a part of God Above and “The end of an act is in the preliminary thought.”  When examined this paragraph is having its followers acknowledge five worlds of different spiritual beings and that the followers of Kabbalah will be raised into these five worlds as their souls are on a level with God.  They are promised that this will be their end because this is how they choose to believe in their own self; the manifestation of god-like attributes because they choose to believe themselves so. 
So let me comment on these god-like beings that teach the Kaballah. Philip S. Berg is the charismatic founder and leader of one such Jewis-Kabbalah cult functioning under the name of "Research Centre for Kabbalah." Along with his power, his wealth has also grown dramatically with branches in New York City, Los Angeles, Toronto, London, just to name a few cities. In an article regarding his research centre the following was written: Berg claims to be an orthodox rabbi and proclaims his "Kabbalah Centre" to be a Jewish orthodox institution, which by definition of one studies under orthodox tutors then by old traditions once can call themselves a rabbi but Berg also claims to have a doctorate (all his books go under the name "Dr. Philip S. Berg but some of his books say this doctorate is in "comparative religion," while others claim it to be in "jurisprudence in biblical law." When challenged about these discrepancies by a reporter during an interview, Berg admitted that t -he has no academic degree at all and that his supposed "doctorate" is "part of his smichah (ordination)"  Smichah Doctorates? 

Although Berg advertises himself as "the greatest Kabbalist in the world and the world's foremost authority on the Kabbalah" it would appear that outside of his congregation very few religious academic authorities have heard about him. The word charlatan is what is commonly uttered from their lips.  I will reprint an article here from the Canadian Jewish News dated March 18, 1993, pp. 2, 6-7 and 9. It discusses Rabbi Dr. Berg and his Kabbalah Centre giving it all the attention it deserves.:
  • In the autumn of 1990, a Marilyn McLeod was dying of cancer. She was visited by a "Rabbi" Yardeni of the Kabbalah Centre who persuaded her to purchase a complete hard cover set of the Zohar, as well as a few other books about Jewish mysticism, for hundreds of dollars. Marilyn was also told to change a mezuzah and her Hebrew name. For $250, they changed her mezuzah, gave her about a dozen audio tapes from the centre, and changed her name altogether. Though Marilyn couldn't read any Hebrew, she was told to simply scan the Zohar for its healing properties. Shortly thereafter (January 1991) she dies.
  • Other cases are cited of people unable to read Hebrew (let alone Aramaic - the language of most of the Zohar), and who could ill afford the high prices charged, who were persuaded to purchase the Zohar and other works, who were told that mere scanning of the books would help them in their quest for spiritual fulfillment.
  • Young people drawn into the centre were persuaded to help with maintenance of the building and other jobs.
  • When thoroughly questioned, Berg "readily concedes that 'most' of the students as well as the teachers at the centre would likely not be able to read or interpret a page from the Hebrew Zohar." But Berg paraphrases Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai" that :you can learn from someone who doesn't know" to explain why his students and teachers did not have to be able to read or interpret.
  • Both in the interview as well as in their promotions, Berg calls his centre "Yeshiva Kol Yehuda," alleging affiliation and association with (as the continuation or successor to) the Yeshivah Kol Yehuda in Jerusalem, originally founded in 1922 by the late Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag and later headed by the late Rabbi Yehudah Tzvi Brandwien. Berg calls himself as "Rabbi Brandwein's chief student."  There is no affiliation.

The Red String Conspiracy

But as if that wasn’t enough to condemn these schools of Kabbalistic thought for being nothing more than money generating, naïve proliferating, cultic rip-offs, let’s look at what has become one of their more common means of religious thievery, one especially practice by Rabbi Berg but not limited to his organisation alone:
·         There is a laughable but unfortunately corrupt practice of selling "kabbalistic" red strings that have been wound around Rachel's Tomb and then cut into bracelet size strings and sold to the unsuspecting public to ward off the evil eye.  The Kabblalist will not precisely say that he or she was commanded to wear this string but provide you with a dissertation on the positive and negative energies of which one negative energy is jealousy or envy and that these emanate through the eyes, hence the reference to ‘the Evil Eye.’  They claim that the Evil Eye has been and always will be part of the history of mankind and will quote sources such as Socrates (pagan), Plato (pagan), and Aristotle (another  Hellene pagan).   The kabbalist will then tell you how it was accorded fear and respect by kings, queens, and conquerors throughout the ages (more Saxon, Goth and Gaulic pagans). They’ll point out how ancient Greek seafarers painted eyes on the prows of their ships as protection against this evil (A pantheon of Pagans). The Romans they claim called it oculus malus (Latin Pagans). To the Scots it was droch shuil (Celtic Pagans).  And then they sum it up by saying that as Kabbalists they refer to it as ayin horeh.  Need I say it, but I will (Kabbalic Pagans).
·         They tell me that it has become quite the latest Hollywood fashion worn by the stars and therefore copycatted extensively by their equally gullible fans.  These strings actually sell for $26 apiece from Rabbi Berg’s operation.   As I mentioned laughable until such time someone accuses those of us that practice true Judaism of being thieves and gypsies because of these dubious practices by fringe Jews, selling magical trinkets at exorbitant prices while making victims of innocent worshippers that had no way of knowing better.  And that’s when the persecutions, accusations and pogroms begin all over again.
·         Although I condemn Kabbalah in its entirety, in its defence I will say that  there is no source in all its writing that makes a claim that wearing a red thread around one's left wrist will ward off the "evil eye." Of course the implication that there are people that have ‘special powers’ that can cast an evil eye would suggest that there is a source of power other than God in this universe and that is contrary to the basic tenet of Judaism and is contemptible.
·         I will mention though that there is a statement in the Talmud about the practice of tying a bundle of herbs or gems and wearing them in order to ward off the "evil eye" but this makes no reference to colour, Rachel’s tomb or any such nonsense. This helps justify the practice of Rabbanites wearing mezuzahs, chai jewellery, stars of David and the likes.
·         But coincidentally there is one reference to a red string to ward off the evil eye in the Tosefta of the  Talmud (Shabbat, ch. 7-8) and it clearly states that tying a red string around one’s wrist is prohibited.  More than that it is characterized as "Darchei Emori," a superstitious practice, close to idol-worship.  So how is it that these Kabbalistic masters can perpetrate this fraud against their gullible followers knowing full well it is in violation of their Talmudic beliefs?  The answer is simple, it’s not about the worship of God, it’s about the Almighty Dollar.
Now as a well respected scientist working within the world vaccination programme, from a purely academic perspective I take offense to any implication that in some way sorcery, magical spells, etc. can take the place of medicine.  And that is exactly what these spurious Kabbalists do when they write their advertisement for their ‘red string’ sales in the sense of being a medical technology. As described in this advertisement which follows:

Applying the Red String Technology
Worn around the left wrist, the Red String works in the same way as the vaccines of modern medicine. When we receive a vaccination against a disease, a weakened strain of the illness is integrated into the vaccine. Spiritual immunizations are based on a similar principle. Kabbalah teaches that colors have specific frequencies and energies. Red, for example, is the color of danger. By binding a Red String to ourselves in a very specific manner, we shield ourselves against the dangerous negativity that might be directed our way—a spiritual vaccine against the destructive forces of the Evil Eye.   Negative forces enter the body through the left side. By wearing the Red String on the left wrist, negative energies are intercepted at the precise point of entry. The string is tied in a carefully prescribed sequence of seven knots, each of which symbolizes a separate spiritual dimension that infuses our reality. It’s important that someone who loves us—someone we deeply trust—ties the string around our wrist. As they do, we should ask for the power to radiate kindness, compassion, appreciation, and absence of the Evil Eye to everyone around us.

The use of terminologies such as vaccines, medicine, illness and immunization are all intended to construct a sense of protection against anything we consider evil, and this would include viruses, infections and sickness through implied correlation of the two trains of thought.  Unfortunately there are people that will come to believe that they can preserve their health not through the miracles of modern medicine but from this absurd ‘Red String Technology’.  To even infer that there is a technology behind this sorcerous practice is a deliberate attempt to deceive the wearer into thinking that something scientific supports their false claims.  If people should die as a result of the delusions and misconceptions created by these Kabbalistic deceivers then the truth is that it is no longer an unfortunate incident but murder.

Before It's Too Late

I fear that  the  majority of the Judeo-Christian world will not come to the same opinion that I have of the Kabbalah, seeing it clearly as a plague upon us that heralds our demise.  It has become too ingrained into the present practices of Rabbanites for it to disappear easily.  People like Madonna have elevated it to a world-wide phenomenon.  As I mentioned in a previous article, even some of my distant relatives have taken to practicing Kabbalah and that is worrisome.  It is an insult to our ancestors, besmirches the name of Kahana and Goldenthal but then those practicing it aren’t even aware of our long history, having become assimilated into the modern world of the ‘western’ Jew.    But as a Karaite I do know that whenever one seeks to add to the words that God has given us then it is wrong.  When men claim to understand God’s secrets and have mastered his codes then they are liars.  And as history has always proven, when those same self-adulating men  proclaim that all we have to do is follow them and they will show us the way to God, then they have forgotten the one lesson that was made apparent in the Torah by God, Himself and that is when God wants us to follow a certain path then he will send us his prophets and as they had done time after time, they will not encourage us to follow a new path but they will tell us very succinctly, either return to the one true path instead of following these strange gods of human idolatry or suffer the consequences.   Time for those that have gone astray to read Zechariah as I have pointed out and see these wicked men for who truly are and condemn them for their sins before it is too late!

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Evil That Men Do

There is far more that I wish to say about the Kabbalah and those that pursue its mysteries thinking that it will unlock unworldly rewards and unlimited pleasures. Such is the pursuit of fools and magi, which by most other historical societies were classified as alchemists and esoterics, although during various periods of history the references were far worse and punishments far more severe. Those that choose to ignore my warnings may do so at their own peril, but let me provide you with a better perspective of those that you herald as great Kabbalists and loved by God. For not all the righteousness in the universe will mask the one great evil performed by a man and the evil I speak of is no less than a man portraying himself as a god. I’ve already pointed out how it is that the Kabbalah tries to teach its followers to learn the language and key words to command both angels and other divine creatures but it is guilty of far worse. A crime committed by someone no less prestigious in their own eyes than Rabbi Judah ben Loew, who they consider one of their great masters and teachers.

The Maharal

Who was Rabbi Loew, referred to by many as the Maharal and what did he have to do with the Kabbalah? He certainly is not the man that has been currently portrayed and recently celebrated back in the Prague festivities of September 2009 celebrating the 400th anniversary of his death. And contrary to the publicized claim that Loew was the chief rabbi of Prague after he had served for 20 years as a chief rabbi of Moravia which is now a region of the Czech Republic he never actually held that distinction. Twice turned down for the position of Chief Rabbi of Prague the community actually feared the power grabbing attitude and mystical bent of the man therefore denying him the honour which is now falsely claimed for him. Just so his supporters and false biographers can’t pretend any longer that this was true, I’ll provide you with the two men that the community deemed worthier than Rabbi Loew for the position. The first time the position became available the community and council elected Rabbi Isaac Melling and the second time when he put his name up for election in 1604 with the hope that he’d come out of exile in Poland and return to Prague, the community unanimously selected Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim. The Jews of Prague didn’t want the Maharal anywhere near their city. “Exile?” you ask. Exactly what happened to him as he packed his bags and left the city just weeks after his private meeting with the Emperor Rudolf II in February 1592. After all, if he was as great as his followers claimed, he would hardly have left the city after being praised as they claimed by the Emperor and asked to tutor this monarch in the ways of the Kabbalah.
The truth is that he was a man constantly in conflict with his own community and who committed specific forbidden acts under the guise of religious mysticism or the Kabbalah as these Rabbis wish to call their esoteric and forbidden arts. What exactly was this black art that he performed to cause his expulsion from Bohemia and earn the antagonism of his own community? Like Dr. Frankenstein in Mary Shelly’s book, he allegedly created a monster that terrorized the city and caused the death of a dozen people. Commonly referred to as the Golem, as much as we’d like to discuss this creation of animate matter as utter nonsense we as Karaites cannot because this ‘nonsense’ infests our Rabbanite brethren to the point of blackening Judaism with its heresy and affront to the Almighty. To ignore it is to watch the demise of Judaism as the spread of these Kabbalistic teachings which are in vogue in today’s society, take both heart and mind of the confused, desperate and dissatisfied that are constantly searching for God but don’t know where to find Him

The Golem

Both Singer and Rosenberg based their books on the original legend of the Golem of Prague and Rabbi Loew as it was passed down by Katz who just happened to be the Maharal's son-in-law. Obvious distortions occurred as a result of their reliance on a relative that owed his position and income to the Maharal but the flatteries and claims of greatness were more so out of necessity to cover up the truth than by an intention of bias. Yes, just as both their versions testify, there was a banker involved, as was the mayor and several other prominent people from the Prague Jewish community just as these mythological tales reveal but what they overlooked to tell their readership was that the Emperor did have very good reasons to lay charges and as historical documents point out, to not only take possession of the mayor of Josefov’s fortune as well as his property, but even to have his two nephews arrested. Points of law which Emperor Rudolf did do after Meisel's death but for which the authors accuse one of the most benign and tolerant monarchs of his time as being both criminal and anti-Semitic. The latter accusation which is entirely incongruous with Katz’s claim that Rudolf was enthralled by the Maharal and couldn’t praise him enough with the hope that he would become his teacher in the Kabbalah. The story as presented by Singer, although quaint and enchanting, does not provide the history behind the actual events. The crimes committed by the banker, the printing house and the Golem were more than legend but reality evident in historical facts but buried in fables. And since the art of fables is well mastered by the rabbis as proven in their Talmud it should not be to anyone’s surprise that they have created something of such magnitude that it defies the imagination though concealing the perpetration of the crime quite effectively.
Challenging God

But in their efforts to mix myth and alchemy into the true practice of Judaism they have willingly overstepped the bounds of mortal men until they have proclaimed themselves as superior and in their own minds as being gods themselves. For they have said as much in the Talmud and made no effort to hide their perfidy though the size of their egos would have made that virtually impossible. For it is written in their Talmud that Rava said, “If the righteous wished, they could create a world, as it is written [Isaiah 59:2]: "it is your iniquities that have separated you from your God" (i.e., made a distinction between you and God). Rava created a man and sent him to Rabbi Zera. Rabbi Zera spoke to him but he [the man] did not answer. Then he [Rabbi Zera] said to him: You are from the companions (i.e., a creature created by the rabbis). Return to your dust.” Here we have proof of their efforts to practice the black arts, to create living beings that they could command, and in so doing openly declaring that they have the right to play God because it was their dues for being righteous as promised in Isaiah. For any man to see himself as a god is the establishment of a false image, a graven statue to one owns glory, and in thinking themselves lofty and having the power of gods, they have condemned themselves to the greatest heresy possible. Their fate is no different from that of Nimrod as he built his tower into the heavens in order to challenge God. When men who are thought of us the spiritual leaders of Judaism have chosen a path into darkness then it can be no wonder that the world has come to see the Children of Israel as being abandoned by the Lord. Let us look no further than the Babylonian Talmud, in Sanhedrin 65B where it states, “Rabbi Hanina and Rabbi Oshaia spent every Sabbath eve studying the Book of Creation (Sefer Yezirah); a third-grown calf was created for them, and they ate it.” Remember carefully what I said in my article in regards to what is banned and not banned on the Sabbath and that which is referred to as melakha. If it has to do with creation then it certainly is banned work and by God’s own words ‘the creation’ is punishable by death. When we examine that ruling we realize that God was not talking about people doing simple tasks but instead exactly what these two fools were doing. Using the Sabbath to create a living creature, practicing black arts on the Sabbath and then sacrificing the animal not to God as would have been the Sabbath sacrificial right but eating it themselves as if they themselves were accepting the burnt offering. Not only was the entire act sacrilegious, it is obviously praised by their rabbinic colleagues that have incorporated it into the Talmud. This one act alone renders the Talmud a thing of evil, the antithesis of Judasim, and a blasphemy before God.

Telling It Like It is

But returning to the matter at hand, the reality was that in the year of 1588, the city of Prague was held in the grip of terror, victim to the murderous rampage of an inhuman monster created from the seeds of hatred and sown through religious intolerance and mortal greed. Not 1580 as the legend presented by Singer and Roseberg would have you believe based on Katz’s notes. Rabbi Loew was still in Morovia in that year and didn't travel to Prague until 1586, the same time the Roman Catholic priest Taddeush was leading the mobs against the Jewish community. Therefore the legend of the Golem must be viewed from this perspective to appreciate it fully. Persecutions and murders of Jewish citizenry were taking place and in defence a creature or something even more sinister was let loose on the city but in so doing, not only those guilty of the murder of Jews were in turn killed but innocents as well. And therein lies the dilemma, for at what point do we as God’s light to the world end up as corrupt and evil as the rest of the world? When have we become no different from them? I’m not saying I have the answer but it certainly wasn’t the one these Kabbalists including Rabbi Judah Loew arrived at. According to Prague’s Chabad rabbi, Manis Barash, he claims the Maharal was one of the first rabbis to popularize Kabbalah, If this is what the Kabbalah was intended to achieve, then a curse upon all of them. Sherwin, the director of doctoral studies at Chicago's Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, says Rabbi Loew achieved fame as the golem’s creator because of his greatness but there were many other rabbis of his era who are also well documented as trying to animate golems. Greatness? Since when is evil and the practice of black arts deemed greatness? How misguided have these Kabbalists and their Jewish followers have become to see what they are doing as greatness and no longer view it as the great sin it truly is.

There is another story about the events in Prague, a more accurate and definitive story that portrays what occurred in the light in which it should be properly viewed. Yes, it is a Karaite perspective but it is my ancestor’s perspective and he more than anyone had a right to say what really happened. To read his story and understand the dark path that the Kabbalah will lead you down then I recommend reading Shadows of Trinity released by Eloquent Books (Also available from Amazon Books at and Barnes and Noble at )in order to compare the legend against the historical documentation. I will not state that I did not take some creative leniency in telling of the story but only doing so to make the story flow more easily as historical facts are reeled off one after the other for all to see. For the most part the story preserves each historical fact as it was recorded in the Austrian Royal Archives, familial traditions passed down orally, and details recorded in the legends by both Singer and Rosenberg, revealing a series of strange and shattering events that occurred during the years 1588 and 1589 in Prague as supposedly good men turned evil.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Karaite Sabbath

Amongst Karaites the commandment to keep Shabbat as a day of rest is imperative and although it is repeated many times in the Tanach, its vital importance is probably no better stressed than in Exodus 31:12-17:

And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 'Verily ye shall keep My sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that ye may know that I am the LORD who sanctify you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore, for it is holy unto you; every one that profaneth it shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work (melakha—מְלָאכָה) therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done; but on the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD; whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and rested.'

So the question that must be asked is how is it that the Shabbat restrictions can be so varied and so different between both Karaites and Rabbanites. Even more so between the various branches of Karaism where some may still observe the Ananite tradition of sitting in darkness an entire evening though others have taken a more reasonable and practical approach. The issue revolves around a single word. Where the interpretations have struggled is when it comes to understanding the word (מְלָאכָה) melakha. Traditionally it has been translated as "work" but it was never intended in my opinion to mean work as we know it. It is very different from the common use of (עבודה) avodah that is associated with physical type labour. Instead we can look to Genesis 2:1-3 for its true meaning. That paragraph reads as follows:

Heaven and earth, and all their components, were completed. With the seventh day, God finished all the work (melakha) that He had done. He ceased on the seventh day from all the work (melakha) that he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day, and he declared it to be holy, for it was on this day that God ceased from all the work (melakha) that he had been creating to function.

Therefore it can be seen that melakha was not a term for work but a word that was in reference to the physical act of creating or the making of something new and unique. Perhaps we can extend and extrapolate its meaning to cover starting something new as well but it is clear that it was not a reference to doing work that was already started or established. The term is also used in Exodus 31:1-11 when God is instructing Moses about the construction of the Tabernacle and even though this was a work in progress, it would appear that He is clearly telling Moses that the work on the Tabernacle must cease on the Sabbath since all the manufacturing done by Bezalel is referred to as being melakha. From this we can further deduce an understanding to the term melakha that it was a reference to work especially pertaining to that having a religious connotation or spiritual significance. It may never have been intended for everyday activities.

Rabbinical Folly

It is no coincidence that the 39 lashes for transgressions has taken on a mystical significance for the Rabbanites as they list their 39 concepts of melakha. By relating the traditional punishment to an exact number of prohibitions the Rabbis have used a very old technique of association to reinforce their policing of their own statutes. A case of merging A and B in order to form C and give it a religious stature as if God had provided them. Demanding that the people do not transgress in any manner their edicts the rabbis have extended their prohibition to practically everything and no longer confining it to that which is creative and which might change the environment. Their use of the biblical threat of lashes created the impression amongst the minds of their followers that it must be the law. But in so doing they created a fallacy of hardship that in some essences is even cruel when extended to the prohibition of saving lives as I will point out later. Even matters which can be rectified and thereby provide a greater level of safety are banned such as the removal of small bones from fish, or the filtering of water. Are we foolish enough or gullible enough to think that God would want our health and safety placed in jeopardy so that we would not be able to worship Him? The Rabbanites obviously think so and therefore I take exception to their regulations though I have to admit there are many Karaites that still adhere to these rules because they have not fully understood and interpreted the meaning of melakha for themselves. Those wishing to see the exact working of the thirty-nine forbidden activities of the Rabbanites, I direct your attention to the Mishna Shabbat 7:2.

Horticultural Prohibitions

These activities include 1. Planting, 2. Plowing ,3. Reaping, 4. Binding Sheaves, 5. Threshing , 6. Winnowing , 7. Selecting, 8. Grinding, 9. Sifting, 10. Kneading, and 11. Baking. Although it is obvious that one could not bake bread if there was no wheat planted, the question of creating as implied from the word melakha would really only extend to activities 1 and 2, since everything that follows is material that has already been generated. But since many of these other activities would distract the individual from finding time to worship God on the Sabbath as the day was intended, then perhaps activities that would involve extended lengths of time should not be engaged in. What would be the rabbinical ruling if the threat of flooding could be avoided by opening a sluice gate or closing a damn if it fell on the Sabbath, thereby preventing the loss of crops? The answer is that they would forbid it but in so doing they have placed the lives of the people in jeopardy which is forbidden even on the Sabbath. Clearly it is evident that the rabbis have not given the act of forethought to this matter and by extending their prohibitions beyond the restrictions of creating and altering the environment they have failed to appreciate the full meaning of the Sabbath Laws.

Wool Prohibitions

Their list continues with 12. Shearing, 13. Scouring 14. Beating 15. Dyeing 16. Spinning 17. Weaving 18. Tying two loops 19. Weaving two threads 20. Separating two threads 21. Tying and Untying, 22. Sewing two stitches 23. Tearing for the purpose of sewing. It is clear that God did not want Bezalel working on the curtains and fabrics of the Tabernacle during the Sabbath but did this prohibition truly extend to the day to day work of shepherds and wool scourers? Once again, if this work prevented the worker from observing the Sabbath properly and praying to God then it was not to be permitted but it should not be restricted under the context that shearing and scouring were thought of as creative acts whereas the production of coloured wool through dyeing could be. Similarly, the knotting of the wools, the subsequent looping to make a design or fabric were creative acts. But if I tie up my horse with more than two loops, that must be considered a completely different activity than one would use when making macramé or knitting. The first is practical, the second is creative. The fact is that there is a distinct line between what might term as ‘creating’ and the rabbis failed to appreciate this but still enforced their regulations upon their congregations. How fortunate for Karaites that we are entitled to use independent thought and interpret the Tanach in a practical manner. In the early days of Karaism when it first broke away from the Rabbanites there was the matter of indoctrination by the rabbinical sabbatical laws and some thought that by making them even more stringent they could show that they were better followers of Judaism but fortunately cooler heads prevailed and over the next few hundred years Karaites began to interpret the laws more clearly and with better intent.

Livestock and Animal Prohibitions

The Mishna then moves on to prohibition 24 about trapping which the rabbis use as a reference to hunting but they are quick to say that this does not apply to domestic animals. So if I put my cattle and sheep in a pen, or my dog in a kennel, then that is not considered work but if I snare a deer then that is work. It gets even more ludicrous when the rabbis try to explain their inconsistencies in the Meno Netziv which says that an animal that is not normally trapped (e.g. a fly, a bee, or a lizard) is not covered under the Torah prohibition of trapping. But the rabbis themselves prohibit it, so they instruct not to trap the animal unless one is afraid of the animal. In that situation one may trap it. That being the case, if I’m afraid of deer and do not normally trap them, then for my own security I could ensnare them. The fact was simply that hunting was not an activity practiced by the rabbis. It was an activity of the common man, living off nature in order to provide for himself and his family. Something unfamiliar to the rabbis since it involved hard work, rather than living off the gifts and offerings of the community. So it was very easy for them to pass edicts and make rules that never affected themselves directly.

Prohibitions 25. Slaughtering, 26. Flaying, 27. Salting, 28. Curing, 29. Scraping and 30. Cutting. These are a mixed bag of activities, the first three having nothing to do with creating an object, especially one that might have religious significance since there are only in preparation for a meal, but the next three have to do with making leather goods and therefore are about creating an object that didn’t exist before. Since the offerings on the Sabbath did involve parts of the burn offerings that could be eaten by the priests, then would that not be considered to be similar to parts of the normal cooking process and therefore not prohibited? Once again common sense should have prevailed and the question was not which activity was prohibited but which ones would prohibit sufficient time to worship properly on the Sabbath.

Lettering Prohibitions

We next move on to prohibitions 31. Against the writing of two or more letters and 32. Regarding the erasing in order to write two or more letters. That being the case I must assume that the rabbis didn’t think very carefully about coded messages with perhaps symbols instead of letters, or else code consisting of one letter that meant far more. Let us take a more sensible approach or should I say a more Karaite approach. The Sabbath was about praising and worshipping God. If in doing so I chose to write a prayer, or my thanks or a psalm to God then I am fulfilling the Sabbath obligation. It never should have been a prohibition about letters or writing but an assurance that if writing one is not doing their customary business but the business of God. Because if writing more than two letters was seen as an evil act on the Sabbath by the rabbis then so too would have been reading two or more letters. And that being the case then reading a prayer book in the synagogue, especially since so many read the words without the meaning, in an act to get through the service as quickly as possible is more of a contravention of the Sabbath requirements than any writing of letters.

Construction Prohibitions

Then there is the matter of 33. Building and 34. Tearing down. Though the first would definitely be creating an object and very time consuming the second is not a creative accomplishment but in fact a destructive one. But again, the matter should not be which activities are prohibited in this case but what will involve copious amounts of time that prevent the proper keeping of the Sabbath.

Fire Prohibitions

Two of the key prohibitions that I will take exception to as a Karaite will be 35. Extinguishing a fire and 36. Igniting a fire. In the early days of Karaism the Rabbanites taunted us and accused us of being ‘Sitters in the Dark,’ a reflection of some of Anan’s early laws in which he would not permit a fire to be lit before the Sabbath so that there would be light in the home during the Sabbath evening. Perhaps a little too zealous in his interpretation and preserved for a long time by those that were part of the Ananite sect, at least common sense prevailed and by the time of Kirkisani the acceptance of candles lit before the Sabbath was reinstated. So let’s put the first prohibition into its proper perspective since the restriction should have been about lighting fires not putting them out. If a fire has the potential to cause serious destructive damage, then it also by implication has the potential to be life threatening. The failure to extinguish any unsafe, uncontrolled or monitored fire is by itself a failure to perform an act that ultimately would result in great environmental change. And since it was the rabbis themselves that said environmental change on the Sabbath was forbidden, then their ruling in this case is in error simply because it violates their own restriction. Exodus Chapter 35 שְׁמוֹת clearly states the following:

א וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה, אֶת-כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם: אֵלֶּה, הַדְּבָרִים, אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּה יְהוָה, לַעֲשֹׂת אֹתָם.

1 And Moses assembled all the congregation of the children of Israel, and said unto them: 'These are the words which the LORD hath commanded, that ye should do them.

ב שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים, תֵּעָשֶׂה מְלָאכָה, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי יִהְיֶה לָכֶם קֹדֶשׁ שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן, לַיהוָה; כָּל-הָעֹשֶׂה בוֹ מְלָאכָה, יוּמָת.

2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of solemn rest to the LORD; whosoever doeth any work therein shall be put to death.

ג הַשַּׁבָּת. לֹא-תְבַעֲרוּ אֵשׁ, בְּכֹל מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם, בְּיוֹם,

3 Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.

Once again as in Chapter 31 the word for work used is melakha and this was not intended to be interpreted as every day type work otherwise there would have been a tremendous number of people being executed for meaningless tasks in those days. And in the third sentence it was explicitly forbidden to ‘kindle’ a fire in the home on the Sabbath. The act of kindling meant that it did not apply to having a fire already lit in the home, only of starting a new one. Obviously it was the igniting a flame which was strictly prohibited in the Torah and there are no ifs, ands or buts. The kindling of a fire in the home was given a specific ordinance because of its use in other religions as not only part of their temple worship but what would have been their house sanctuary as well . This especially was true for Moloch worship and later in Zoroastrianism. It was probably also true for Aster or Ishtar worship with fire seen as part of the purification rites. We know from the Greeks and Romans they two had their little home sanctuaries in which they would light numerous candles and incense as part of the ancestor worship ceremonies. In prohibiting such a practice it would become immediately evident if someone was practicing these rites from other religions and that is why they would be put to death.

The rabbis failed to understand and appreciate this restriction and have distorted it even further with their prohibition of flicking a light switch in our modern age. But let’s be perfectly clear, fire and electricity are two entirely different processes. So when the rabbis extended the prohibition to electricity they in fact were in error because they lacked the knowledge of appreciating these differences. We know now that fire is a chemical reaction involving the release of energy through the consumption of oxygen but electricity is the flow of an electric current, movement of electrons and is therefore a physical reaction. Rather than admit their error the rabbis have insisted that electricity is still forbidden as it involves construction or building (i.e., the building and completion of an electric circuit). No this is not true, the circuit already exists, it’s just a matter of whether it is open or closed and therefore is not a case of creative work.
The Finishing Touches Prohibition

If one wishes to split hairs, then they can look at Prohibition 37 which involves applying finishing touches, or bringing something into a state of final use. Yes, one can say this is an act of creating and therefore the ban applies. But again, more importantly is not the act of making finishing touches but the fact that to do so the individual is not praying to God, is not giving the day its proper religious respect and is not putting aside his own personal interests to appreciate what God has given him.

The Travel Prohibition

Prohibition 38 is the transferring between two domains which can be one of the most confusing of all the rabbinical prohibitions. In Chapters 1 and 11 of the Talmud tractate Shabbat it deals with what the rabbis called the melakha of transferring from one domain to another. Let’s put this into more practical language and refer to it as it actually was or what we would commonly refer to as carrying an object even if that object is yourself. The tractate distinguishes four domains: private, public, semi-public and an exempt area. It holds that the transfer of an article from a private to a public domain is Biblically forbidden; transferring an article between a semi-public to a private or public domain is Rabbinically prohibited; transferring of an article between an exempt area and any other domain is permissible; and carrying an article about 1.7 miles may be forbidden in a public or semi-public domain and permitted in a private domain or exempt area; but carrying inside a private domain or between private domains may be permissible. For these purposes "transferring" means "removing and depositing", so that carrying an article out of a domain and returning to the same domain with it does not constitute transferring. This may fall into the category of "wearing". But the rabbinical definition of public and private domain is related to the number of enclosures and has nothing to do with actual ownership of the tract of land. If you’re already confused by this list of restrictions then imagine those that tried to live by them. Of course these very confusing restrictions are all related to the commandment of Exodus 16:29, which states, "Let no man leave his place on the seventh day." How one interprets this commandment may certainly differ but what the rabbis have done with it in regards to the prior restrictions is sheer nonsense and spin doctoring to the point of massive confusion. How I interpret it is at its most simplistic of meanings and I think the way God intended it to be interpreted. God was referring to someone starting a trip on the Sabbath. Placing their own desires or needs, whether it be business or pleasure before that of attending to worshipping God on that day. So ‘his place’ as it is referred to had a much broader concept as indicating that no man should set himself upon the highway or a ship, and thereby making it impossible for himself or his family to tend to their keeping of the Sabbath day. There was no restriction on distance as long as the individual could provide the time to worship properly. Common sense was all that God wanted to prevail, something which is clearly lacking in the last prohibition by the rabbis that I will now discuss.
Saving of Certain Lives Prohibition

Finally but definitely not least is the 39th prohibition the one which I take the greatest exception with as it is a clear display of not only the failure of the rabbis to interpret properly but of their prejudice and improper advice that has led to the persecution and death of our people for almost two thousand years by those this prohibition actually affects. This final prohibition involved the saving of human life of which more information can be found in the Pikuach Nefesh of the Talmud. If there is a human life in danger on the Sabbath then it is not a violation of the Sabbath to save that life, an interpretation which is not only correct but inviolate, but the rabbis could not help themselves but to turn this one infallible statement into a controversy. They had the audacity to speak for all of us and say that it only pertained to Jews and was not applicable to the saving of a Gentile’s life on the Sabbath. In the writings of Maimonides (1137-1204), he said, “As for the gentiles, the basic Talmudic principle is that their lives must not be saved, although it is also forbidden to murder them outright.” This is further emphasized by the writings of Rabbi Samuel Eliezer Eidels (1555-1631), who said in regards that the release from the prohibition only applies to Jews, "That any man who saves one soul in Israel, and it is intentionally specified 'one soul in Israel', in the singular form, as this is the image of God, the Singular one of the world, and Jacob's [Israel's] form is His likeness ... but Kuttim [non-Jews] do not have the form of man, only the form of other creatures, and whoever brings about the loss of a soul among them does not lose the world, and whoever saves a soul among them neither adds nor diminishes anything in this world." Rabbi Eidels comments were in regard to many of the sayingsin the Talmud including the one that says non-Jews are neither to be lifted out of a well nor hauled down into it if found on the Sabbath. If leaving them in the well is not being complicit to murder, I do not know what is. Sadly this flawed thinking was taken to Israel’s Chief Rabbi Untermann in 1966 and although he said that it would be acceptable to violate the Sabbath to save the life of a non-Jew it was only made so under the codicil expressed by the orthodox religious authorities that it was not based on democratic ideals, but instead only to protect the Jewish religion (and the life-saver) from possible retaliation and therefore in essence had nothing to do with the Gentile at risk but the fact that it could ultimately save Jewish lives if the act was performed.

In Conclusion

Obviously, I am greatly saddened by what these rabbis had to say and their subsequent malicious interpretations. They certainly are not my interpretations as I have clearly made evident and although my own personal interpretations may differ from my fellow Karaites, they are mine and they are as God intended; for each of us to find our own path to his words. But what these 39 prohibitions are, when we closely examine them, are certainly not the way of Judaism and they certainly are not the voice and words of God as He intended. These men had neither the right to speak on behalf of the Jewish people nor propagate this evil intent as a manifestation of the Torah. One of my Karaite colleagues has recently opened up a forum on Facebook calling for debate with the Rabbanites. Yes, debate should be encouraged, but how do you argue with men that are so deficient in their thinking? How do you rationalize with men that think there are Jews created in the image of God and all the rest that are creatures not worthy of saving? How do you reconcile what God has given to Moses and what men of their own volition perverted to their own cause? Perhaps there is no debate only condemnation and the warning that those that have pronounced themselves as the upholders of Judaism are nothing more than the most vile of men that have ever betrayed Judaism. Let us look to our next Sabbath not only as the day to give God praise but as the day we take back the Sabbath from these rabbis and their prohibitions that were never God’s intended message to us. Let us make the world aware that 'yes' we have been relatively silent for the past six centuries but we will be quiet no longer.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Hero Within

Today I had an epiphany, a revelation, a rebirth so to speak. So often we reach a point in our lives where we say there's nothing more, no hope and we accept the defeat of both time and relationships, waiting until that moment when we take that long, deep step descending into the cold, damp ground. We watch zombie movies knowing full well that we have become no different, unfeeling, unloved, carrying on daily through routine motions without any hope of redemption. We never fully understand how or why we let it happen, and we can't even recall exactly when it did happen, but somewhere in the past, life silently slipped away leaving us with nothing but the shadows of its depression. We are drained, physically and emotionally unable to move either forward or backward, frozen in our hopelessness. At this point many of us have succumbed to the medical reflief in little plastic bottles or the excesses of vitners in much larger glass bottles but either way we have merely admitted defeat and have relegated the person we may have once been to an irretrievable past. So many willingly releasing who and what they were into the realm of shades, creating a living death from the chaff of failed dreams. We have become beings without substance, lacking purpose, barren of focus and lost to everything and everyone we once held important.
I freely admit that at times I felt myself slipping away into the abyss of failed nightmares and shattered dreams, praying, hoping that someone would toss a lifeline into the spiralling milieu that had become my life. The spark had been extinguished long ago and the few times the kindling burst into flames it was shortlived and barely enough to fuel the passions that stirred within my soul.
But today as I said was an awakening. A beginning to forgotten memories and times long buried from a life I once had. The complacency and passiveness that had become the rotting deacay of my spiritual essence had overwhelmed me, robbing form me years of my life. And then today I bore witness to a different decay that has affected our society. The loss of connection from our fellow human beings. We are a people that have become obsessed with being humane in order to conceal our flaws but in the process have lost our humanity. We are unable to feel or care for those we consider strangers; afraid to rush to their aid lest we forfeit our anonymity and the shallowness that we have filled our hearts with. As I sat and ate a meal today I stared outside the window to see a young woman in distress. An argument with a boyfriend, or ex, or what may or may not have been turned ugly. He turned to violence intent on hurting her and even though specatators looked on and others passed pretending not see at all, that spark that within me that I had long ago considered lost ignited into a roaring flame. Before I even realized what I had done, I was outside and between the victim and her attacker. My sudden appearance brushed him backwards with enough force and rage in my voice that he knew that had he even attempted to lay another hand upon her, he may have found it separated from her body. A man in his fifties against the youth and arrogance of twenties. The fury and chivalry that I once had, suddenly returned as if the clock had turned back three decades within the blink of an eye. The feeling of being there for a perfect stranger, willing to risk all because it was the right thing to do, a feeling that personally I never dreamed still existed within me. I had kept it trapped, imprisoned beneath chains of responsibilities and political correctness imposed upon me by an insensitive world that will never shed a tear when I pass on. But today I made a difference and as I heard one person whisper the word 'hero', I have the courage to make every day from now on make a difference.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Good Samaritans

I find it truly amazing that no matter how many centuries may pass in the blink of an eye, there is always one issue of permanence that is a guaranteed constant in this universe and that is that amongst Jews, regardless of which sect I might be referring to, we will argue to the point of death, with no other rewarding purpose it would seem than the sheer enjoyment of the argument itself, the revelling in the sheer pettiness we can exhibit, and the thrill of the irrational behaviour we can exemplify. And what is even more amazing is that the underlying principle behinds most of these confrontations is the assertion by one of the participants that they are a 'better Jew' than the other. I'm not certain what a 'better Jew' actually means in the true scales of our lives. If it's reference to superior mastery of the Torah, then I'm afraid we're all merely students when it comes to that assertion. It will take longer than a lifetime to even consider oneself qualified in practicing Torah let alone mastering it. Perhaps it'a a reference to being somehow closer to God than the other person but I don't know where they would find the yardstick to make that assertion either. In history, very few have ever approached God and in all likelihood there will be just as few in our future. Then again, it might be an issue with birthright, but as I've explained in several other articles, carrying the Hebraic genes does not necessarily mean you're of a decent character and we must remember we are judged on our actions, not on our line of descent. God made no distinction between the natural born Jew and the one that coverted to Judaism. David as a descendant of Ruth was proof enough of that. Even the product of a convert could become King of Israel which should end that argument quickly. And finally I heard it said that it is a matter of which Torah you read and in which language, a clear reference to the slight variations that exist amongst the various sects. As Karaites, depending upon which community we originated from there are Torahs in different langauges such as Arabic, Tartaric, English, and of course Hebrew. We may wish to believe that the Hebraic version is a 100% reproduction of the original handed down by Moses to the elders but with human involvement that essentially would be an improbability if not an impossibility. Therefore, for anyone wishing to establish the superiority of one version of the Torah over another, in truth it cannot be done since all of our various versions in their multitude of languages are based on the original document which no longer exists. Fortunately Karaism has always promoted a policy of supporting the Torah to be written in whichever language was primary in the town or city where Karaites were domiciled. As a result, you have Karaite Torahs in all the languages mentioned previously and these are all based on the Masoretic Text (MT). But this raises another interesting issue; what if a Torah was based on the Samartian Text. Would that make those following it any less Jewish than their MT counterparts? I think not, for as we examine the commonalities between Karaism and Samaritanism, we see that to do so would only be condeming ourselves.

Samaritan History

Embattled, surrounded, practically forced to the point of extinction, the Samaritan community has hung on its efforts to survive against insurmountable odds. And survive they have for 2700 continuous years even though doing so meant they bore the wrath and animosity of their Judaic brethren. That is not to say that it was without justification. The attempt on their part to convince Alexander the Great to attack Jerusalem so that they could seize the city and raze it to the ground was not an act that could be easily overlooked or forgiven. Once more, it would appear that the bitter rivalry as to "Who's a Better Jew," syndrome that I spoke of previously had its roots long ago in our development. Even in 330 BCE it would still seem to have been a major component and flaw of our character whether Samaritan or Judean. Why such intense hatred between brothers can only be consigned to the bitter feud that evolved from the splitting into the two kingdoms during the reign of Reheboam. We may think of the northern kingdom being accursed by God, but when you take into consideration the sheer number of prophets that were based in the north you realize that God had not abandoned them, so what right had we to do so?

And after the fall of Israel in the north, did those of us in the south try to rescue the remnant? Did we offer them shelter against the onslaught of assimilation? Did we give them aid to remain vigilant against the introduction of the foreign religions into their services? Did we offer them priests from the overflowing numbers that filled the upper city of Jerusalem? The answer was no to all of these. The decision was made to let the remnant of the northern kingdom perish because the seeds of animosity had been sown too deep to harvest anything but a foul crop. But the north didn't evaporate as had been expected. Two new families filled the void left behind by the fall of kings, these were the Tobiads and the Sanballets. Together they re-established a working government and economy, preserving the religious practices in the gathering place on Mount Gerzim and therbey presenting a true challenge to the south.

With the return of the socially elite accompanying Ezra the high priest from Babylon, the opportunity existed to heal the rift once and for all. Under the guize of religion the offer of the Samaritans to help build the Temple and reunite with their southern brethren was rejected but the reality is that the politics was a more significant factor in this decision. During the time of their absence, the aristocracy of the south had lost much of their wealth and now the real power in the region were these two northern families. Even Ezra would have been challenged by the fact that the services in the north still were under the direction of descendants of the High Priest Hilkiah, equal if not superior to his own standing. As such, jealousies would have fuelled the ancient hatreds as much or more than any rational justification.

Samaritans and Karaite Beliefs

It must be remembered that once rejected, the Samaritans would have dug in their heels and clung tenaciously to the ancient laws and customs in an effort to demonstrate that they performed the services and practices of the religion to a superior degree than their southern neighbours who were busy reforming the religion upon their return from exile. Not unlike the Sadducees in the south, the Samaritans would have centred their religious structures and performance around the priestly perogatives, maintaining a centralized religious cult as had been the way of the past. We know from the experience in the south that as soon as the Jerusalem Temple had been destroyed the Pharisees asserted their control over the day to day life of the people, removing the exclusive rights of the priests and then going on to rewrite the entire body of the law to conform to their own interpretations and beliefs, which they later called the Talmud. How can we be so certain? From the work of Geiger on the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan which served as a depository for the remnants of the ancient Sadducean-Samaritan-Karaite traces of the ancient halakah. The ancient and therefore presented by God through Moses Halakah that was suppressed by the Pharisees and intentionally concealed from the Jewish population. So it can be assumed that the model of Samaritan practice and law closely resembled the pre-Pharisaic period which would then suggest that it would have been very Karaite in its conduct just as Geiger concluded. Written around the time that the Talmud and its new laws or halakah were being introduced, Pseudo-Jonathan was written by someone determined to preserve the old ways and much of its content reflects the ante-Pharisaic traditions. Geiger demonstrated that these 'anti-traditional' laws are both common to Karaites and Samaritans. As an example, the interpretation of Leviticus 19:24 by the rabbis regarding the the fruit of the tree in its fourth year is said to be like the second tithe, to be transported and consumed by the owner within the walls of Jerusalem. But in Pseudo-Jonathan it translates 'kodesh helolim' to mean that it is to be given to the priests or redeemed by its owner, exactly as both the Samaritans and Karaites interpret it.

Another point of agreement between Karaites and Samaritans regards the observation of the fiftieth day after the waving of the sheaf (omer) that it is to be offered on the morrow after the sabbath. The rabbanites interpret it to mean on 'the day after the holy convocation' which to them means the 16th of Nisan but the Sadducees saw it to mean the day after the weekly sabbath that occurs during the feast of unleavened bread so that the Feast of Weeks is celebrated always on the first day of the week. This Sadducean interpretation is the same as that used by the Samaritans and Karaites.

The list of similarities is quite extensive and it only demosntrates that both the Karaites and Samaritans practice and interpret the Torah identically in many circumstsnces. To do so can only mean that the interpretations of both sects is based on the Sadducean interpretation which was the origianl halakah of Judaism. Therefore to reject Samaritanism as a recognized path of Judaism by a Karaite would be in a sense like rejecting ourselves.

Neither Add Nor Subtract

Moses prohibited us from adding or subtracting from the Torah. Since the Samaritans we can assume were strict in their observance of this prohibition since their history has always been one of trying to prove themselves 'holier' than their southern brethren, then it becomes difficult to explain why there exist what Rabbanites have labelled as Samaritan additions to the Masoretic Text which forms the Samaritan Torah. But to rely on the Rabbinical statement that there were additions would be not dissimilar to believing Abraham Ibn Daud, the Rabbanite author of the Sefer ha-Kabbalah written in 1161 when he states that only rabbinical Judaism can be validated by its claim of being an uninterrupted tradition and all the rest such as Islam, Christianity, Karaism and Samaritanism are heresies. According to Ibn Daud, all heresy stems from Samaritianism and as a result of their errors there is a continued presence of unreformed idolatry exisiting in the world. In fact, Ibn Daud claims that the high priests Zadok and Boethus, the two major influences upon Karaism prior to Anan ben David both took refuge amongst the Samaritans and assumed the leadership of their temple on Mount Gerzim. Though Ibn Daud is erroneous in his claims, he does provide one kernel of truth and that is there are connections and similarities between Karaism and Samaritanism.

Firstly, it should be established that the Samaritan Torah is longer than the Masoretic Text. It is written in the Samaritan alphabet which is different from the Hebrew alphabet which didn't get widely used until the exiles in the south returned from Babylon. There alone should be the first clue that the Masoretic Text in its Hebrew alphabet was a rewriting from the older alphabet which provided the first incidence of change. Following the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which often were in agreement witht the Samaritan version of the Torah, it became somewhat more evident that the Masoretic text may have been the one that changed, primarily through deletions. Of the approximately six thousand instances in which the Samaritan and the texts Masoretic Texts differ, the Septuagint (LXX) version agrees with the Samaritan in two thousand of those cases. We can see an example of this from Exodus 12:40 where both the Samaritan and the LXX state, "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel and of their fathers which they had dwelt in the land of Canaan and in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years." This differs from the Masoretic Text which only reads that the soujourning of the Children of Israel who dwelt in Egypt was 430 years. Historically, the Samaritan version would be more accurate as we know from the transition of the 17th to 18th dynasties in Egypt, there probably was only about a two hundred year period where the enslavement would have taken place, and probably another hundred years where the descendants of Joseph became established in positions of power prior to the changeover. Clearly the Masoretic text experienced a loss, most likely through scribal error, of this vital information providing an inaccurate history of the duration of the slavery. But that is not the only difference in Exodus that is quite noticeable. In Chapter 6 in the Samaritan version, the people are quoted complaining to Moses that he should leave them alone to stay in Egypt and serve the Egyptians whereas that line doesn't occur until Exodus 14:12 in the Masoretic text, when the Children of Israel were already marching in the desert. When examined, it actually makes sense that they did say this when Moses first appeared to them, refusing to accept his leadership rather than recount it much later as an afterthought.

Gramatically there are also differences between the two texts. Those improper gender differences that exist in the Masoretic text are not present in the Samaritan version which has appropriate gender agreement. This again suggests that the translation into Hebrew was being performed when the language was still young and being adjusted to, as in the post exilic period when it came out of Babylon.

One of the more interesting differences between the two texts is the use of the name Benjamim in the Samaritan Torah versus Benjamin in the Masoretic Text. At first one would point to the failure of the Samaritans to accurately record the name of one of Jacob's sons, but when one reads Genesis 44:20 in which his brothers explain to Joseph that their father has a son of his old age, that their brother is called בן ימים or 'the son of many days referring to his fathers old age at the time of his birth it makes more sense than being the 'son of the right hand'.

In Exodus 15:3 the Masoretic text says that "the Lord is a Man of War" whereas the Samaritan version reads as, "the Lord is mighty in War". It is surprising that the Lord would have been represented as a man, giving fuel to later Christian doctrines that claimed God could appear as a man. To do so was a lessening of God's stature, reducing him to an inferior creature like ourselves. Once again I have to think the Samaritan version may be more accurate and the Masoretic Text was a scribal error.

Therefore I think it is necessary that we examine the accusation of heresy on the part of the Samaritans and think that perhaps the heresy was on the part of the Rabbanites who have actually subtracted from the original Torah. That being the case, then how can we actually fight over the superiority of one text over another, of one Jew being preferred over another. These are things we do not know and because of our separation through our arguments and our fighting amongst ourselves for countless centuries as a result may never know. Let us practice instead what Anan ben David has encouraged us to do all along, read everything and make a decision based on rational, educated decision making processes and avoid the hystrionics that have done nothing but divide and weaken us as a people. I recall the words of Abraham Lincoln that "A house divided cannot stand," and I look at our house with it's shakey framework and fear that we will bring it crashing down through our own devices. As Karaites it is our duty to seek the truth. We must look beyond the deceptions, the distortions and the inaccuracies and find the true essence of God's words, whether it lies in the Masoretic Text, the Samaritan Torah, or even scrolls still to be found in the desert that we do not yet know.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Misreading Isaiah

Some of the most interestings remarks I receive regarding my articles are from Rabbanites. They are also in many ways some of the most ludicrous. For example, one such protagonist wanted to argue that Karaites have offered little in comparison to the great achievements in Jewish literature by the Rabbis who were writing and compiling material (the Talmud) from the second century AD onwards. He then goes on to say that Karaites didn't write anything of renown until the eighth century AD, thereby supporting his argument that there were six centuries of Rabbinical literary achievements and even some Karaite writers suggested that their followers should read some of this Rabbinical documentation. That was the sum total of his argument for the superiority of Rabbinical Judaism. That it had six centuries of writing in advance of Karaism and that Karaites were urged to read that material. Whoah! I don't know if I can debate against such an advanced and credible argument (dripping sarcasm). First of all, the greatest of all Karaite scripture is the Torah. Yes, I will call that Karaite since it is the heart of Boethian and Zadokite teachings which were the forerunners of Karaism. And since Karaism relies only on the Tanach (original 24 books which include the Torah) unlike Rabbinic Judaism which relies more heavily on the Talmud which in many instances negates what is written in the Torah (as some of my articles have pointed out), then by all rights it can be claimed and supported that the original Karaite scriptures are from the twelfth century BC and therefore are far oldelr than these much later Rabbinic writings. As for Karaites reading Rabbinic documents, how fortunate that we practice a religion that is tolerant of other sects, and as Anan ben David, our spiritual founder encouraged us to do in the eight century, to read everything and then make our own personal decisions based on the Torah. My protagonist missed to point of how enlightened we Karaites are as contrasted to the narrow scope of the Rabbanites, whom still in their daily prayer of reciting the Amidah, curse the names of Boethus and Zakok and pray for the demise and destruction of their followers. Since Karaism was the natural evolution of the religious doctrines established by these two second century BC priests, it only naturally follows that these Rabbanites are also praying for our demise and destruction as Karaites. How enlightened is that?

But todays article is not about Rabbinical Jewish followers and their inability to see and comprehend that they are the anomoly that resulted within Judaism, not Karaites. What I'll be discussing today is again from the works of one of the great Karaite scholars and writers, Isaac ben Abraham of Troki, whom the Rabbanites would like to pretend was one of theirs but sadly for them, he was not and he openly declared himself a Karaite so that there would be no mistake when referring to his works. Just one more point to make for those Rabbanites that still think the weightiness of Rabbinical writing is justification for its superiority; it was never a matter of how much is written but a case of how well it was written. And in that regard, Troki's Hazuk Emunah is one of the great books of Jewish wisdom.
The Misunderstood Virgin

Much is made of Isaiah 7:14 by Christian scholars when they read, "Therefore the Lord shall give unto you a sign; behold the young woman is with child and she will bear a son and she will call his name Emanuel.(God is with us)" For most Christians this one verse is the evidence they claims supports their entire faith. They proclaim that this son born to a young virgin was none other than Jesus and that the prophet Isaiah had predicted his arrival six centuries earlier.

The first evidence of something not right should be the reference to 'the young woman' by the prophet. He used the word Almah which does not in any manner refer to a young woman that has not had sexual relations with a man. We find the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 24:14 when Eleazar is sent back east to find a wife for Isaac and is instructed that "there shall be a young woman who cometh out to draw water." There certainly was no reference to the girl's virginity, only her youthfulness. And just to emphasize the point further, we would hardly refer to a young man as being a virgin, so in 1 Samuel 17:58, when the prophet asks, "Whose son is this lad," he uses the word Alem which is the masculine form of the word Almah. And we would hardly suggest that when in Isaiah 54:4 the prophet says, "And thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth," that he was acutally saying, "And thou shalt forget the shame of they virginity," because he used the word Alumim to indicate youth. So as it should be obvious to my Messianic and Christian readers, the reference to a virgin giving birth was a total distortion of what was actually written.

That being the case, then what is 7:14 actually about? To provide that answer, it is necessary that one reads what precedes this statement. It wasn never intended to be taken out of context and only when read in conjuction with the earlier sentences of the chapter does it start to make sense. The chapter is about King Ahaz, the king of Judah, and what decisions he needed to make concerning the alliance by Pekah, King of Israel and Rezin, King of Syria who were preparing to attack Jerusalem. Isaiah went to Ahaz in order to tell him not to fear, God would be on his side. A sign would be given to Ahaz to show him that God would not abandon him and it was this child that would prove to be this sign. Ahaz, who saw the immediate danger on his borders would hardly care about a sign that only manifested itself six centuries later. The urgent danger was then and there and Ahaz needed to know that his kingdom was going to survive. So who was this young woman with child? It was none other than Isaiah's young wife. And when she gave birth he named the child Emmanuel and later also called his son, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (Speed the plunder and hasten the spoil). Why the second name or title? Because Isaiah wanted to reassure the king that not only would his kingdom be saved but in turn both the Kingdoms of Israel and Syria would be crushed. As far as prophecies go, this one may have been self-fulfilling because at the same time Ahaz was being reassured by the prophet he was also being counselled to ally himself with Tiglath-Pilezar, King of Assyria. And as we know from Kings 16:9, Tiglath-Pilezar hearkened unto him and went up against Damascus and took it and slew Rezin. We also know form verse 30 that Hosea led a coup against Pekah shortly afterward, putting the king to death and reigning in his stead.

So now that you have a better historical perspective, read the prophecy again in Isaiah 7:14 and recognize what was actually being prophesized. When you appreciate that it had nothing to do with Jesus, you then have to reconcile all the other misunderstood concepts related to the virgin birth. Of course, there will be those that refuse to accept this interpretation even though it is crystal clear, arguing that we never have a reference from Isaiah that he first called his son Emmanuel. The only reference to naming the son is in the next chapter and then he is called by the Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz name and no other. The fact that he was called Emmanuel is implied from Isaiah 7:16, "for before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that thou abhorest shall be forsaken of both the kings." It is obvious which two kings the prophet is referring to and there can be no question that the significance of naming him, "God is With Us," was to provide Ahaz with the confidence that he would withstand their assault. In the next chapter when describing the events around Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, he uses the same references of the child being too young to know what's happening, a clear indication that he's talking about one and the same child in both accounts.

For those that still wish to believe that Isaiah 7:14 was still in reference to Jesus, then let's examine why the name Emmanuel was never applied to the son of Joseph and Mary. Firstly, the significance of God is With Us is entirely different from the meaning of Yeshua, or Saviour. In fact the indication of God's presence is not necessarily equivalent to his being a saviour in that capacity. In fact in Luke 2:21 we find at the naming ceremony following his circumcision, the baby was named Jesus because that was the name given to him by the angel while he was still in the womb. It is strange that had he been fulfilling the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah, that it did not say that he was named Emmanuel by the angel while he was in the womb. In that way they could have easily explained his being named Jesus after his birth without negating the possibility he was called differently at time of conception. But they didn't and in so doing they did negate any such possibility.

So with this in mind, let us reflect on whether it was ever intended by the early Christian followers that Jesus was to be seen as a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. It would appear that any linkage to Emmanuel was a much later development. And if there was no linkage intended then the entire concept of the virgin birth was not intentional either and merely something that was contrived at a much later date when certain individuals decided to take Christianity in an entirely different direction from its early leaders.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Arian Heresy

“Whenever we are witness to the great assemblies of self appointed learned and great men we can expect the world to shake and quake in fear.

One doesn’t have to dig deep into the history of mankind to see that the quotation is as valid today as it was sixteen hundred years ago. Whether it is an assembly for political change, religious institution, a war council or even a modern day assembly like the United Nations, the truth is that the outcome more than often results in the inevitable destruction and devastation that only mankind can unleash upon his own species. We are guilty of the most heinous crimes yet we appear doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past.

What is it that drives us to unequalled levels of cruelty against our fellow man in order to exercise our narrow minded pursuit to exercise our will over that of others, to both the detriment and neglect of others, as long as it satisfies our own selfish needs? How is it that we can cloak are misguided intents beneath a shroud of liberalism or humanitarianism even though from the outcome it is obvious that our imposition of our myopic view only causes greater suffering to the many while the few we have protested to protect are minor in significance and very often worth.

It today's PC, mixed up world, it would appear that in our efforts to appear humanitarian, we have forgotten the meaning of a word which implied the ‘taking care of the human race’ not the interests of an individual or a small group that are opposed to the good of society. To safeguard a minority bent on evil, destructive and anti-social programs is to be anything but humanitarian. From criminals to activists, they are still simply people that feel they have the right to exercise their rights illegally and often violently. We must reexamine the misguided concepts that have pervaded our legal, political and religious structures. We must protect the majority as long as that majority does not persecute or harass the minority. And most importantly we must act in the public good if we are to survive as a species. These last few points are easily forgotten when minorities obtain power and a voice well beyond their proportion and measure and a majority remains both passive and silent. Such was the case with Christianity as it moved towards being granted state recognition. But rather than learn from the mistake of Church development, the error has been perpetrated and perpetuated for countless centuries into modern times and these new minorities, vocal well beyond their numbers, have inherited the legacy of enforcing their will upon the majority simply because they have gained the support of high ranking officials, political pawns, acceptable violence and a legal system that has abandoned the Mosaic Laws with no sentence or sensibility behind its enforcement.

The Arian Church

This setting of an impossible goal led many to fall into the ever widening net of heresy. One of its victims that it ensnared was a questioning priest in Alexandria by the name of Arius. Arius could not understand how God, being so pure and good have any direct contact with the real world. To do so would mean that the Lord would willingly allow himself t be contaminated by impurity and imperfection and that was unacceptable. How could he or his followers believe in a God anything less than perfect? Therefore he concluded, Jesus could not be a version of the same being. He would have had to have been something completely different; an intermediary with a divine spark but not then or ever a manifestation of God himself. That being the case, Arius continued to teach his followers that Jesus was a being completely separate from the Father and therefore should not be worshipped as such. Immediately, the Bishop of Alexandria called for the excommunication of Arius before he could do irreparable harm.

Concerned that this Arian heresy would tear apart the Church that he had so neatly stitched together, the Emperor Constantine summoned the great council in 325 AD, the Council of Nicaea. With close to two hundred bishops from all over the empire, Constantine insisted by the end of the assembly they must have a unified decision on the direction of Christianity, a document we have come to know as the Nicene Creed.

The Attainment of Power

Following Constantine’s Edict of Toleration written 311 AD, the power of religious authority was concentrated in the hands of one church and one church alone, that being the Catholics, then regarded as the official Church of Rome. The word ‘Toleration’ in the title was a misnomer since it was obvious the Catholic Church was proposed as the universal church and all others were discluded from the equation. With the balance of power to determine the future direction of Christianity, the Catholic Church immediately switch its policy from safeguarding the traditions from misinterpretation to that of eliminating deniers of the Truth. What this meant to the early adherents of Judeo-Christian traditions that they could no longer deny the divinity of Christ. To do so would be to refuse the Trinity and accept the Unity of God. Those churches that believed Yeshua was a man in whom the spirit of God dwelt had to adopt the belief that Jesus was a divine spirit that assumed human flesh. And in so doing the belief in Jesus as the Son of God had to be upheld otherwise you could not belong to this new Orthodox Church. The difficulty in accepting the ideology that the Father and Son were actually different designations of the same being was overcome in one of two ways. Either you accepted it at face value, never to question it again, or you were to be branded a heretic and either killed or banished. Doubt, disbelief, endless questioning were all silenced rapidly.

Enforcement of these beliefs to the elimination of all others could only be met by growing resistance. A Yeshua without humanity became an unattainable goal. Why worship a being that couldn’t possibly be a role model for other human beings, since as God he was incapable of performing or contemplating a sin. Perfection couldn’t be tainted and therefore any relevance as a role model was negated. The Jesus of this old-new church was out of touch with the common people.

The Final Solution

Homoousios was the word that became doctrine at the assembly in Nicaea. Translated it meant ‘of one substance.’ That was their final decision that the Father and Son were from one substance and Yeshua’s divinity was never to be questioned again. In reality, the decision failed to decide anything. Those that still believed as Arius taught refused to accept the final decision and publicly stated so. As for Arius, he was publicly humiliated, excommunicated and exiled but that resolved little. Even though the majority stood against Arius, he challenged them on their creation of a terminology ‘homoousios’ which was nowhere to be found in either the Old or New Testaments. Therefore, similar to Karaites like myself whom accuse the Rabbanites of constantly inventing religious doctrine to suit their own needs, Arius did likewise to his Catholic brethren. In their defense the Bishops passed a ruling that they too could be divinely inspired and therefore they were permitted to create new doctrine. Now legally backed by their newly established power they were confident they could mold Christianity any way they so desired and in feeling thus, they introduced the dogma of immaculate conception which had no religious foundation in any of the sacred books but they no longer required sacred writings to establish the rules.

Constantine found himself sitting in a quagmire. By initially agreeing with the Council’s doctrine he had given them powers far in excess of any they held previously. By instilling within them the ability to create religious doctrine and dogma based entirely on their own feelings at the time, he had turned them into rivals rather than subordinates. The Nicaean Creed was received well in the West but the Eastern Bishoprics struggled with its introduction since they had the greatest concentration of adherents from the early Judeo-Christian Churches and those members refused to accept the incorporation of absolute power into the hands of the clergy.

Fearing what he had done, Constantine in 328 AD recalled Arius from exile and supported the Arian policies or anti-Nicene party but it was too late.

Absolute Confusion

For the next four hundred years Arianism survived but wherever it raised its head it was hunted down, tortured and eradicated. The Catholic Church was determined to eliminate this threat no matter how long that might take fearing that the policies of Arius called into question their power and the divine nature of Yeshua. As soon as the populace began to question those doctrines then it would spell the end of the control over the minds and bodies of men. Arianism served a purpose; it reinforced the establishment of Orthodox doctrine. Each and every time that the threat of Arianism arose, the Chatholic Church felt compelled to hold a council and introduce even more legislation to safeguard their empire. Most aren’t even aware of the next Nicene Creed, the one that took place in 381 AD. From that the Church obtained, “For us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was made man.” There was also the new swearing of allegiance to the “Holy Ghost, the Lord and the Giver of Life.” But that didn’t succeed in being taken on very well by the congregations and eventually became replaced by the “Father, Son and Holy Ghost,” much easier for most to recite. The concept of the Holy Ghost had to be introduced because Arius refused to believe that the Spirit that infused Jesus was a part of God, insisting that it was no higher in its creation than that of an angel. In this way, the Church ensured that no part of their Trinity could be questioned as being anything less than God.

But by creating this new omnipotence and infallibility of Jesus, God and the Holy Ghost a new threat was created. These were referred to as the “divine mysteries”, unanswerable questions that were beyond man’s comprehension and therefore not required to be answered by the clergy. If God actually manifested Himself on earth, then why had nothing actually improved? If God gave forgave man all his sins, then why did he sin more than ever with each passing year? If had tasted the suffering of mankind during his experience in human flesh then why did he permit man to suffer so? All these divine mysteries and yet so few divine answers, for no other reason that anything divine had been totally eradicated from this new Christianity which claimed to be Orthodox yet had by the end of the fifth century as I have elucidated in these articles removed anything that may perchance have been the original Christian beliefs based on its Jewish heritage. What was left was a hollow shell filled with only the whims and desires a handful of sacrilegious men. What was also clear by the end of the fifth century was that the man in charge was the Bishop of Rome, a position as history has shown could be bought, stolen, killed for and above all, abused. And from that point in time was when the questions should have been asked. Was there ever an original Christian teaching that an institutional Church was the true path? Hardly, the use of the Greek word ‘ecclesia’ in Jerusalem actually translated as an assembly, suggesting leadership would only be via elders, not by something called a church which the Greek now is translated as. Was a single man ever destined to be considered the voice of God? Though James had assumed the mantle of leadership following his brother’s death, at no time did he claim his words to be infallible as the Pontiff of Rome now claimed. Error compounded upon error and every time a spiritual leader appeared that attempted to turn back the clock, he was branded as a heretic and his followers persecuted to death. And therein lies the root cause of so much which has gone wrong with our institutions of today. When the guiding light that a quarter of the world looks towards was based on principles that barely represented the original directives then it follows that all subsequent institutions wallow in their own ineptitude having nothing upon which to define their morality. Like a pendulum, they will swing wildly from end to end seeking the balance but never able to find that point of equilibrium since they are constantly out of sync with every other organization and institution. Without harmony there can be no balance. Without a return to the original beliefs there is no chance to find the guiding light. Without knowledge and understanding of whence we came there can be no comprehension of what we were destined for. And without Karaism there is no way of recognizing what it is we have all lost so long ago.