The Qaraites

This is the rabbinic side of the story (similar in spirit to the church fathers' view of the 'Evyonim). But some important facts come through. Anan attracts "remnants" of the addqm ("Sadduccees"). This tells us that there were still addqm to be found in the eighth century, and that their rejection of "Pharisee" (becoming the later rabbinic Judaism) Oral Law tradition was still an issue. There was a continuity between the first Qaraites and the earlier addqm. Today it is realized that there were more than one group of addqm, one Herodian collaborators with Rome who were represented by the Temple hierarchy in the earlier first century and during Roman occupation of Palestine, and another branch represented by "true sons of Tsadoq" described in the documents from Qumran. Even the mention of two founders of the addqm reflects this state of affairs. (The 'Evyonim also at least partially find their origin in ideas prevalent in the Qumran documents, including the term "'Evyonim.")

According to the story, Anan is arrested because of the Jews and his rebellious words and is to be hanged. But he gets advice from a Muslim scholar to claim the Jews have no authority because he is starting a new religion. He bribes the Muslim authority, and deceives his followers claiming inspiration from 'Eliyahu the prophet in a night vision.

As the same report above continues, two more items of belief surface: an admiration for 'Eliyah and also the fact that Qaraites determine the calendar based on a visible new moon and intercalations according to the ripening of green (barley) ears (as do we) by the biblical method.

Because of the rigidity of Qaraite observance, and their poor circumstances, they attracted not many especially among those who were poor already. But here is a tie to holy poverty /humility ('evyon), taken as a title by the 'Evyonim, and employed in Qumran documents to describe members of the Community. Avraham ibn Da`ud, a rabbinic writer (in 1162) claims that Anan was of the House of Dawid.

Some more similarities between the addqm and Qaraites are the literal interpretation of the lex talionis ("eye for eye, etc."); Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) always falls on the first day of the week (Sunday); and Qaraite writers of the tenth century claimed they had addqm writings in their possession---and indeed the Genizah at the Ezra Synagogue, where the Damascus Document (CD) describing a sect of the "sons of Tsadoq" was found half a century before discoveries at Qumran, is believed to have been a Qaraite synagogue at one time.

The Qaraites have always been greatly outnumbered by the adherents of rabbinic Judaism, and today there are small communities spread over Eastern Europe, and a fairly large community at Ramla near Tel Aviv, Yisrael.

Some Aspects of Qaraism

Annotated Excerpts from Qaraite Writings.


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