Why Karaism: David and Goliath
It's an interesting experience being on the net while away in China. Although I'm able to receive practically all information, the Chinese have enough blocks on the ISPs that sending information outbound can be quite a tasking enterprise. It forces me to read and wait until the opportunity arises that once again I can respond to the events occurring in the outside world. One such event this month was the AJS conference. And once more there was a female speaker expressing her concerns regarding the vicious and vitrolic attacks that are being delivered by Karaites against poor rabbinic Judaism. Funny how a small, barely audible voice, confined to the deepest, darkest corner of the Judaic tapestry can suddenly be seen as a threat that has to be addressed and silenced. Perhaps those like myself are making an impact far greater than we are aware. When a conference representing 21 million people suddenly has to quake in its boots because of a whisper made by no more than 30,000 people, then it truly is a David and Goliath story. And just like Goliath, who believed being bigger, stronger and roaring like a lion made him invincible against the boy with his sling and pouch filled with stones, there is always a chink in the armour that can be exploited. She focused on Yaphet ibn Eli and how he demonized the misunderstood Saadiah Gaon, a man that has also been the centre of my attention for all the wrong doing he committed against the Karaites of his time. Poor Saadiah, so righteous and noble as he brought the swords down upon the bare necks of Karaite men and women, not by his own hand but by the words of condemnation which he used to brand us as heretics and animals fit for slaughter. Perhaps she knew that like Goliath, the chink in their rabbanite armour is a weakness that can never be repaired or covered completely; the sin that must be borne eternally until such time that it is fully exposed and retribution made to those that suffered its consequences. Then the speaker wailed against the terrible injustice of Yaphet ben Eli's condemantion of Rabbanites. "Why" she questioned her audience, "Why didn't he find the time to equally condemn Islam or Christianity for its sins against his people?" A fair question from anyone that was not a Jew. But as a Jew she should have understood immediately. For a stranger to strike me down, it will not rend my heart in the same manner than when it is my brother that strikes the blow. And this was a case of brother against brother. Rabbanites exacting their revenge through persecution, prejudice and violence merely because their Karaite brethren said simply, "we disagree." That is the injustice, that is the unforgivable crime committed. A crime that rivals the first of mankind when Cain slew Abel. So why would Yaphet ben Eli waste his time writing condemnations of virtual strangers when the dagger placed through his heart was from that of his very own brother. And now once again Goliath has raised the alarm bells that David is preparing to release the pebble in his sling. Yes, that is the case for the time has come for Karaites to raise their voices and say we will no longer be silent. We will no longer tread softly to avoid the disgusted and condemning looks of our brethren. We will take our place back on the podium of religious significance and no amount of portraying us as bullies that are needlessly and recklessly assailing the walls of Judaism will disguise the truth. That truth being in fact that we Karaites are the 'wall of Judaism.'
Exposing The Truth
It is not as if it is only Karaites that see the wrongs that have surrounded rabbinic Judaism. As can be seen from the letter below from Salomon Rapporport in the 19th century, even some of the pinnacles of the Rabbanites realized that there was something inherently wrong with this sect of Judaism. Simply, it had developed in a manner, not to preserve the faith and maintain the belief systems that had been established at Sinai but had become nothing more than a means for a select few to install themselves in positions of religious authority and thereby benefit financially from the structures and doctrines they produced that were not only self-serving but instigated dissension amongst the ranks. Long ago, leaders knew that in order to control large populations one must first divide the masses they rule over in order to keep them from focussing on what was truly happening at the top levels of power. As Salomon Rapporport accuses, this is exactly what the rabbinical leaders were doing:
Letter from Salomon Jehuda Leib Rappoport 1845
From Tokhahat Megulah (Frankfurt am Main 1845)
…Under what circumstances did Luther seek to renew the foundations of his religion? Luther initiated his Reformation as a result of his dispute with Christian hierarchy over several serious matters regarding the abuse of power. But what have the rabbis, the religious leaders of Israel done at present? What harm have they done and to whom have they sought to do evil? Are there still to be found in their houses ram’s horns to pronounce excommunication or whips to flog transgressors? Were they even to have such authority would they desire to make use of it? What has led them to rise up suddenly against congregation and community? Nothing but malice. They are instigating strife and contention in Israel and stirring up immense hatred and animosity, of the kind we have seen with growth of sects in the Second Temple period and later in the rift with the Karaites and followers of Shabbetai Zevi.
…He who says that some small benefit will nonetheless sprout from the actions of these men of destruction is wrong; even where there to be some benefit it would be nothing compared to the great damage they have caused. But in truth there is not the smallest trace of benefit.
If one of their own community leaders can recognize the grievous injury that the pursuit of rabbinical Judaism has done to the people in general, then who can blame Karaites for pointing a finger at what we have known all along?
Denying The Guilt
One may try to argue that the accusations are false, that these esteemed rabbis could not possibly be in the positions they are if they were guilty of intrigue, lying and the pursuit of personal gain. What should actually be challenged is the misguided belief that for some inexplicable reason these Jewish religious leaders should be any more righteous, any more honourable or sanctimonious than those at the pinnacles of power within other religions! Human behaviour is universal and the real question should be why would anyone assume that only Christian televangelists or fanatical Imams are guilty of committing every imaginable crime. Salomon Rappoport understood this basic principle and he pointed his finger of incrimination directly at the heart of Rabbinic Judaism in 1845. What he failed to reveal is that there was an implicit acceptance of the corruption and those he accused felt they had committed no sin at all, especially since they had redefined the definition of sin. This acceptance was instilled into the minds of every rabbanite through the Talmud and to fully explain this statement I will use the Talmud itself to expose the 'acceptance of the lie'. The following passages discuss the punishment of the false witness, or in these particular cases how to avoid the punishment of the false witness. It would appear that even the proven liar according to the Rabbis should be allowed to get away with his/her crime.
The Rabbis taught: Four observations were made in reference to zomemim-witnesses, they [a] are not stigmatized as born of [a priest and] a woman who had been a divorcee or a haluzah; [b] do not go into banishment to the cities of refuge; [c] are not made to pay ransom; and [d] are not sold as slaves. In the name of R. Akiba it was stated that they are also not made to pay [compensation] on their own admission.
‘They are not made to pay ransom’ — because ransom is held to be [a form of]
atonement and these fellows stand in no need of that. Who could be the Tanna who considers ransom as [a form of] atonement? — Said R. Hisda: It is R. Ishmael, son of R. Johanan b. Berokah, as it has been taught: It is written, then he shall give for the redemption of his life [whatever is laid upon him], that is, compensation for the [life of] the person injured [dead]. R. Ishmael, son of R. Johanan b. Berokah, says: It is compensation for [his own life], the one responsible for the injury. Is it not right to assume that [ultimately] they differ in the interpretation of the import of kofer [ransom]; one Master considering the ransom merely as pecuniary satisfaction, whilst the other Master interprets it as [a form of] expiation [of guilt]? Said R. Papa: Not [necessarily] so! Both may be taken to consider ransom as a form of expiation [of guilt], only here they differ on this, that one Master considers the assessment should be based on the value of the injured [dead] person, while the other Master considers that it should be based on the value of the person responsible for the injury. What is the reason underlying the view held by our Rabbis? — They argue that as the same expression for assessment is used in two proximate instances in the same chapter, therefore just as in the former instance the assessment is based on the injured [dead child], the assessment in the second instance is likewise to be based on the [dead] person [injured by the ox]. And what is R. Ishmael's [reason]? — He argues that the text states [explicitly the compensation to be] for the redemption of his life [soul].
And [what is the reply of] the Rabbis [to this interpretation]? — Yes indeed, the text has it for the redemption of his life [soul]; nevertheless, in regard to the amount to be paid assessed according to the value of the injured.
ALTHOUGH THE ABOVE IS LONG-WINDED, TYPICAL OF MOST RABBINIC DISCUSSIONS IN THE TALMUD, IT IS BASICALLY STATING THAT THE MAN THAT HAS BORNE FALSE WITNESS, EVEN IF HIS TESTIMONY RESULTED IN THE DEATH OF AN INNOCENT MAN NEED NOT ADMIT TO HIS GUILT OF HAVING LIED BEFORE THE COURTS. IN THEIR DEFENSE, THERE WERE SOME THAT DISAGREED, SAYING THAT COMPENSATION MUST BE PAID, BUT EVEN THAT ENDED IN A MAJOR DISPUTE WITH SOME SAYING THE COMPENSATION SHOULD BE THE VALUE OF THE PERSON INNOCENTLY KILLED WHILE OTHERS SAY IT SHOULD BE THE VALUE OF THE PERSON WHO'S LIES CAUSED THE DEATH. SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY, THESE SELF APPOINTED MEN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS HAVE FORGOTTEN THE SUPREME COMMANDMENT, 'THOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE-WITNESS.' IT WASN'T A MAYBE OR A PERHAPS, IT WAS 'NOT', PERIOD. FOR MEN TO SIT AROUND AND TRY TO PLACE A VALUE ON HOW ONE CAN BUY THEMSELVES OUT OF THIS COMMANDMENT FROM GOD JUST PROVES THAT THEY ARE MEN WITHOUT CONSCIENCE. AND THERE IS MORE...
‘And they are not sold as slaves’ — R. Hamnuna was inclined to argue that this exemption would be granted only where the accused had the means to pay his threatened fine; for, inasmuch as he would then not have been sold, they [the zomemim] should likewise not be sold; but where he himself had no means, the zomemim, even though they have the means, should be sold. [Said Raba to him:] Let the zomemim say to him, ‘If you had the means, would you have been sold? Therefore, we likewise should not be sold.’ But what R. Hamnuna did propose to argue was that this exemption should be granted only where either he or they have the means; but where neither he nor they have means they should be sold. Said Raba to him: The Divine Law prescribes, If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft, which directs that he be sold for theft, but not for insidious scheming. ‘In the name of R. Akiba it was stated that they do not pay on their own admission.’ What is R. Akiba's reason [for this exemption]? — He considers this compensation as kenas and kenas is not payable on one's own admission. Rabbah [commenting on this] said: You may recognise it as such, because, you see, these [schemers] have actually done nothing [tangible], yet they are put to death or made to pay damages. R. Nahman [commenting] said: You may recognise it as kenas, as the money remains [undisturbed] in the possession of the owner, yet those fellows are made to pay.
LET ME UNDERSTAND THIS; THE FALSELY ACCUSED HAD NO MONEY AND THEREFORE WOULD HAVE BEEN SOLD INTO SLAVERY, BUT IF HE HAD THE MONEY HE WOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO PAY THE FINE, BUT SINCE HIS FALSE ACCUSERS DON'T HAVE THE MONEY, THEN THEY SHOULDN'T BE SOLD SINCE THE ONE THEY ACCUSED HAD THE MONEY. THEIR JUSTIFICATION BEING THAT THE FALSE WITNESSES WEREN'T GUILTY OF THEFT, ONLY INSIDIOUS SCHEMING AND THEREFORE THE DIVINE LAW SHOULDN'T APPLY TO THEM. IN FACT, INSIDIOUS SCHEMING SHOULDN'T BE PUNISHED HARSHLY AT ALL. ONE MUST ASK, WHO WERE THEY PROTECTING IF NOT THEMSELVES. SINCE THEY RAN THE COURTS, THEY WERE THE ONE'S RESPONSIBLE FOR FALSE TESTIMONY AND IMPROPER SENTENCING. WHAT THEY HAD DONE IS DECLARE THEMSELVES ABOVE THE LAW. AND JUST TO REINFORCE THEIR THINkING THEY SAID THE FOLLOWING IN THE MISHNAH:
Witnesses are not condemned as zomemim until they themselves are [directly] incriminated; how for instance? If they had declared that "we testisfy that he killed that peron and other witnesses said to them, "How could you testify to that, as that murdered person or that [alleged] murderer was with us on that very day, at such and such a place, then those witnesses are not thereon condemned as zomemim. But if these other witnesses said, "How could you testify to that as on that very day you were with us at such and such a place, " then the from are condemned as zomemim if those other wintesses came and charged them [with perfidy]. Then if others came and they carged them, even to a hundred, they are all to be executed, Reb Judah says that this is seemingly a conspiracy and the first set alone is to be executed.
EFFECTIVELY THE RABBIS HAVE INSURED THAT THERE WON'T BE TOO MANY PEOPLE COMING FORWARD TO TESTIFY AGAINST FALSE WITNESSES SINCE IT COULD RESULT IN THE DEMISE OF THOSE WITNESSES COMING FORWARD IF THERE WAS THE THREAT OF POSSIBILTIY THAT A NEW WITNESS COULD COME FORWARD AND FOR WHATEVER REASON CLAIM THE SECOND SET ARE NOW THE LIARS. WHO'S BEING PROTECTED HERE? CERTAINLY NOT THE INNOCENT BUT THOSE THAT WERE THE ORIGINAL FALSE WITNESSES. UNLESS THEY'RE ACCUSED DIRECTLY, THEN IT'S TO BE ASSUMED THEY WERE MERELY MISTAKEN, BUT IF YOU WERE TO ACCUSE THEM OF PURPOSELY BEING FALSE WITNESSES THEN YOU PLACE YOUR OWN LIFE IN JEOPARDY. ALL IT WOULD TAKE IS THIS THIRD SET (POSSIBLY PAID FOR OR VINDICTIVE OR EVEN THE RABBIS THEMSELVES TO SAY THAT YOU ARE THE ACTUAL LIAR AND YOU END UP LOSING YOUR LIFE). VERY CLEVER THESE RABBIS WHO WERE OFTEN THE ONE'S MAKING THE INITIAL ACCUSATIONS IN THE FIRST PLACE WHETHER THEY WERE TRUE OR NOT. TO FURTHER EMPHASIZE THIS ABOMINATION OF THE LAW, LET'S LOOK AT THE GEMARA:
What is the [Scriptural] warrant for this? — Said R. Adda: The text says, and behold, if the witness be a witness-of-falsehood etc. [he is not to be considered a false witness] until the lie is given to the body of the evidence. In the School of R. Ishmael it was taught: to testify against him a wanton perversion conveys [that he is] not [a zomem] until the body of the evidence is controversed. Raba stated that if two came and declared that [the accused] had killed that person on the eastward side of the citadel, and two others came and said [to the former witnesses]: ‘But were you not [then] with us at the westward side of the citadel?’ we have to consider. If while standing on the westward side of the citadel, it is possible to see that [indicated] spot on the eastward side of the citadel, they are not condemned as zomemim; otherwise, they are [condemned] as zomemim. But that is quite obvious! — No; you might say that we [should not convict but] consider the possibility of [the first witnesses having] a stronger eye-sight.
THE ONLY 20/20 VISION ONE NEEDS HERE IS TO SEE HOW THE RABBIS CAN FIND WAYS OF EXCUSING THEMSELVES OR ACCOMPLICES OF WRONG DOING. DENIAL OF GUILT IS SOMETHING THEY HAVE ALWAYS DONE VERY WELL. SO AS IN THE CONCEPT OF DAVID AND GOLIATH MENTIONED EARLIER, HOW EASY TO PLEAD INNOCENCE AND A FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND WHY WE KARAITES ARE SUCH TERRIBLE PEOPLE FOR CONSTANTLY ACCUSING THEM OF DISTORTING THE TORAH. WE MAKE OUR COMPLAINTS NOT BECAUSE WE WISH TO BE FALSE WITNESSES AGAINST RABBANITE BUT TO SHOW THE ERROR OF THEIR WAYS. YOU CANNOT CONTINUE TO PERPETRATE A LIE WITHOUT SOMEONE FINALLY STANDING UP AND STATING ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. THERE COMES A TIME WHEN THE SMALL LAD MUST PLACE HIS STONE IN HIS SLING AND TAKE DOWN THE GIANT. THAT TIME IS NOW!