- Religion and Philosophy
Ignorance is Bliss: Why Karaism
Aggodot, or the legends that the Rabbis have chosen to write into the Talmud and Gemorrah are one of the more interesting facets of Rabbinical Judaism. At times, I doubt they even realized these fictional tales actually support Karaism in its claim that the Talmud not only highlights its own weaknesses but actually points towards the followers of Karaism as practicing the true faith of Judaism. It is obvious that the writers and editors of the Talmud never anticipated that the Boethians, Zadokites, Ananites and eventually Karaites would ever gain in popularity amongst the people, so they never had any fear of hanging out their dirty laundry, so to speak. After all, they controlled what the people read and what they learned and if any one ever challenged them on their interpretations, they always had the authority to excommunicate. To a family based society, as Judaism was and is, excommunication was equivalent to a sentence of death. Actually that is also one of their ordinances that the person excommunicated is to be written off by his parents, siblings, relatives and friends as if he had died. It's a cruel and terrifying punishment to one that never had the need to exist on their own in the outside world. By the time the eighteenth century rolled around, the punishment wasn't as harsh as it would have been in earlier days. My third great grandfather Jakob found that he could make a very nice life for himself in the outside world, especially since he had the letter that gained him entry into a German secular university, followed by a government position in Russia and eventually a professorship at the University of Vienna. It probably didn't matter to him at that point that not only had he been cut off from the family and the Community of Brody issued an arrest warrant should he ever return since he believed with all sincerity that he was doing what was right in the eyes of God. It also helped that his brother Julian came to Vienna, ignoring the ban on association. But such audacity to disobey or even disagree with the Rabbinic judges was not even contemplated several centuries earlier. So even if these sages of the Talmud exposed their true nature in their aggodot, it didn't matter. They couldn't be challenged. The story or legend that I'm about to tell you concerns Rabbi Hiyya and Rabbi Yose, two of the esteemed sages of the early days of Rabbinic Judaism. In their defence I will say this. Rabbi Hiyya who was a descendant of the High Priesthood condemned the aggadot. He warned his colleagues to never put them in writing because he feared that they would eventually be used against them. Perhaps he knew that others from the High Priesthood, like myself would one day use these stories against them. As for the other, Rabbi Jose ben Halafta, he was a descendant of bedouin, in particular Joanadab ben Rechab who fought along side Jehu when he finally ousted King Ahab from the throne of Israel and cleansed the Norther Kindgom of the idols and Baal worshippers. These were both men that knew their origins and respected the ancient way of life. So it was not their fault that they became the main characters in some of these stories fabricated by later Rabbinical sages. And especially if these stories should portray these men as ridiculing and affronting God.
For the purpose of telling this story, I will insert my comments in brackets. What's not in brackets is what is actually written in the Rabbinical Aggadot. I have not added nor subtracted. There is an old saying that goes, "By their own lips they will pass sentence upon themselves." You be the judge.
One night Rabbi Hiyya and Rabbi Yose met together at the tower of Tyre and were indeed happy to have each other for companion. Said Rabbi Yose, "How good it is to look upon the face of the Divine Presence! [later Rabbis considered Rabbi Hiyya to be a saint. They even claimed he met and talked with the dead Prophet Elijah. But to suggest that in someway he was the Divine Presence is essentially idolatry, proclaiming him to be greater than a man. This is forbidden in the Torah.] All the time I was on my way here I had to suffer the annoying chatter of the old man who drove the donkey. He bothered me with every kind of foollish question; [As a scholar he should have known there are no foolish questions, only foolish answers. He expresses a lack of tolerance which would suggest he had not the character nor proper attitude to be a teacher of the people.] for example, 'What serpent flies in the air with an ant lying quietly between its teeth? What commences in union and ends of in separation? What eagle has its nest in a tree that does not exist and its yong plundered by creatures not yet created, in a place which is not? What are they who descend when they ascend, and ascend when they descend? What is it of which two are one and one is three? Who is the beautiful virgin who has no eyes upon her and a body concealed,yet revealed -- concealed in the daytime, revealed in the morning? And who is bedecked with ornaments which are not? This is the manner in which he kept pestering me the whole journey. But at last I can enjoy peace and quiet and we can give ourselves to discussion of Torah instead of to time wasted in silly chatter. [Rabbi Yose is portrayed as arrogant, caring only for those he considered to be of equal status to himself. All others were beneath him as talking to them was engaging in silly chatter.]
Rabbi Hiyya said, "Dost thou know the old man at all?"
Rabbi Yose replied, "I know this, that he has nothing in him; if he had he would have dwelled on some words of Scripture and we would not have simply wasted the time on the road."
Rabbi Hiyya then asked, "Is the old man in the house? For it may chance at times that a seemingly hollow vessel holds some grains of gold." [Could this be Rabbi Hiyya suggesting that Rabbi Yose was an idiot and couldn't recognise the Torah even if it was thrown back in his face or was he just upset that his friend could behave in such a derogatory and callous manner?]
Rabbi Yose replied, "Yes, he is here. He is getting fodder ready for the donkey."
Whereupon they summoned him and he came. The old man immediately uttered this, "Now the two have turned into three and the three into one!"
Said Rabbi Yose, "I told you, did I not, that he is forever uttering nonsense? [ Rabbi Yose obviously couldn't recognise God or God's messenger if he hit him in the face either.]
The old man sat down and said, "Sirs, only lately have I taken to driving a donkey. I have a young son who goes to school and I should like to raise him in the study of the Torah; that is why, whenever I spot a scholar along my way I go after him, hoping to learn something new in connection with the Torah but today I have learned nothing new." [Is it only me because I can certainly see the obvious metaphors yet not even the Rabbis elaborate on this. It makes me realize whatever student recorded this aggodot or parable didn't even understand what the teller of the tale was actually saying. So I will take the liberty of telling you what it means almost two thousand years later. God gave Israel his Torah. It should have been enought to take them to their final destination or at least keep them going in the right direction on the correct path. But like the donkey, stubborn and resistant to do as its told, God had to take control of the situation and start driving the donkey in order to return it to the path. As God refers to Israel all along as his child and he the Father, he wants only to raise him in the study of the Torah. But he has been greatly disappointed because every so called scholar of the Torah he encounters (Rabbis) are ignorant of the Torah offering nothing to make God think differently. As I mentioned, this should have been obvious.]
Rabbi Yose spoke, "One thing especially of all that I heard you say amazed me, it showed so great foolishness in a man of your years, unless you did not know what you were talking about." [The Torah instructs us to respect and honour the wisdom that comes with age. Rabbi Yose is not only arrogant but insulting as well.]
The old man siad, "What were you referring to?"
Rabbi Yose replied, "What you said concerning the beautiful virgin and the rest...
At this point in his discourse the old man paused and then the two rabbis fell down before him. [There is obviously a sentence missing from this aggodot. The line is similar to when the angels came to visit Abraham at his tent. When they revealed to him that they were angels of God, Abraham immediately fell down to the ground and bowed before them. It's obvious from the next sentence that this was the revelation that occurred but why you might ask did the writer of this story leave out this line? Probably because he was too embarrassed to admit that even the great Rabbis couldn't recognize God if he stood before them. They were no different from the dumb ass!]
Weeping they said, "Had we entered this world just to be able to listen to those words of yours from your mouth, it would have been enough." [Now they cringe and for lack of a better expression kiss ass.]
Said he," Companions, it was not just to say what I have said up to now that I entered upon this discourse with you for certainly an old man such as I would hardly stop at one utterance, making a sound like a single coin in a jar. [He's referring to them as empty vessels] What a multitude of humans there are who dwell in confusion, failing to perceive the way of truth that abides in the Torah, and the Torah in love summons them day after day to her but woe, they do not so much as turn their heads. [God has now informed them that they don't even realize the beauty of the Torah like the beautiful virgin. The Torah has remained unread and unknown to them because of their arrogance and ignorance] It is just as I have stated, the Torah releases one word and comes forth from her sheath ever so little, and then retreats to concealment again. But this she does only for them who understand her and follow her precepts. [This sounds very much like a confirmation of Karaism.] She may be compared to a beautiful and stately maiden who is secluded in an isolated chamber of a palace and has a lover of whose existence she alone knows. For love of her he passes by her gate unceasingly [can't see the forest for the trees] and turns his eyes in all directions to discover her. [All but the right direction] She is aware that he is forever hovering about the palace and what does she do? [God in this case cannot wait any longer and must interecede since the Rabbis have completely lost the plot and in so doing have misled the Jewish people] She thrusts open a small door in her secret chamber for a moment reveals her face to her lover, then quickly withdraws it. He alone, none else notices it, but he is aware it is from love of him that she revealed herself to him for that moment and his heart and his soul and everything within him are drawn to her. [Though God may have every reason to abandon the Jews he will not. He will keep trying and trying over again to draw them back to him.]
So it is with the Torah which discloses her innermost secrets only to them who love her. She knows whoseover is wise in hear hovers near the gates of her dwelling place day after day. What does she do? From her palace she shows her face to him and gives him a signal of love and forthwith retreats back to her hiding place. [The rabbis in this story are not too swift and God has to fully explain the similarity of the beautiful virgin to the Torah. This continues on for another paragraph. But what is most important is how this tale ends.]
She says to him, "Do you see the sign, the cue, which I gave you in the begining, how many mysteries it holds? He then comes to the realization that not one thing may be added to the words of the Torah, nor taken away from them, not a sign and not a letter. Hence should men pursue the Torah with all their might so as to come to be her lovers as we have shown." [In actuality this is a condemnation of the Talmud, where God has directly informed these early sages not to write anything that tries to add to the Torah. The writer of this story obviously missed the point when the Torah speaking as a woman says, "Do you see the sign, the cue..." which is a reference back to the original riddles asked by the old man. Perhaps these rabbinical sholars couldn't resolve them so they ignored the comment and end the story here. That being the case let me explain it to them. The winged serpent was a reference to Babylon, often used in connection with the Babylonian sun god. God always admonished the children of Israel not to be a lover unto Babylon but Israel would not listen. Like the ant, small and insignificant, it will precariously place itself between the teeth of the serpent, passive and content that it sits on the edge of destruction. What commences in union and ends up in separation? Well easy enough since they were contributing to it. Israel began in union and because of the pettiness, pursuits of power, desire to have kings other than God, just to name a few, Israel has been fractured into many sects. Perhaps God was even aluding to what was about to come with the break of Karaism and Rabbanite Judaism. What eagle has its nest in a tree that does not exist and its young plundered by creatures that don't yet exist, in a place which is not? Come on my Rabbanite scholars, think about it. It's not too difficult that you haven't solved it in two thousand years. Oh, well, let this descendant of the Kahana tell you because I don't have another two thousand years to wait. The eagles of Judaism are the Messiahs. They come to us upon eagle wings, heaven sent (not from a nest), as our salvation to free us from the oppression of other nations. Nations that may not even exist at the time of this tale but will in the future. Because God is saying that is our destiny as long as we continued to live in foreign lands because Israel did not exist. And without Israel as a people, as a land, the Messiah would not come. God was saying to these two rabbis that until we start following the Torah properly, until we restore the land of Israel, until we all return to the Holy Land, we can expect to be plundered, persecuted, and killed. A shame that they were blind and deaf and could not understand. But then, in their grandiose and pompouse manner they puff themselves up to think they have ascended to the pinnacle of power and knowledge but God knows that they have plummeted to the depths, descending into the bowels of decadence and contrary to the ways of the ancients. As God said, when they ascend, they actually descend these Rabbis of whom he challenged. In their ignorance they may have found bliss but they certainly weren't blessed.