- Religion and Philosophy
Wisdom of Solomon: Karaite Perspectives
I have often said that in order to learn about ourselves and the future we should look to the past. It is not because of some unique insight but because that is what is expected from all Karaites and all that believe in the Torah. If we want answers then we should seek it from those which have already been given to us from God. This is not a unique perspective but what would be unique is if we actually listened to this advice. Instead of relying on our past, we continually try to re-invent the future. And in so doing, we often abolish the rules that have been tried and tested and proven to be successful. We are an undisciplined species, enforcing are own hegemony and legislations that serve no other purpose but to create havoc and chaos, but do so under the guise of humanity, liberalism, etc. But in actuality, when the rights of the majority become superseded by those of a minority, who's soul purpose is to act contrary and in opposition to the wishes of the majority then we have permitted the evil of which we were prewarned in Torah to manifest itself. There are no external forces of 'Evil' that force us to behave in a manner that is both antisocial and destructive. Evil is an inbuilt characteristic that is hard-wired into mankind since the dawn of time. And to badly paraphrase Edmund Burke, "Evil will take hold when good men remain silent." Sadly, the majority that are filled with good intent, and moral aptitude do remain silent in times of conflict and when persuasive minorities demonstrate a determination to perform acts with evil intent.
But all this began with a single event, one so catastrophic that it was virtually ignored and overlooked as the end result was adopted as the norm and the truth was relegated to nothing more than a 'Book of Wisdom' to be ignored. We have all heard it said that Solomon, King of Israel was a wise king. The rabbis tell parables of his wisdom, foolish nonsense of his talking with animals and raising demons to construct his Temple. They have a reason for doing so, one that is designed to betray the truth and steer their flock far from that which the Tanach had tried to teach us. And when supposedly good men change the course of history, the path of Judaism, for their own self-fulfilling reasons then how can we, who were selected to be 'A Light to The World' expect that this would not impact the rest of the world to perform in ways that are the antithesis of those taught in the Torah?
It is obvious from Solomon's sayings in Ecclesiastes that he would not have been a friend of either the Pharisees or the rabbis had they existed in his time. In fact his sayings actually confirm the basic tenets of Karaism. As Karaite Jews, we have always adhered to the Torahitic law that nothing was to be added nor subtracted from the Torah. Yet, it would appear that even in Solomon's time there were those that would willingly bend this edict. This is obvious from the comments he makes.
When he said the following:
לְבַד רְאֵה-זֶה מָצָאתִי, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם יָשָׁר; וְהֵמָּה בִקְשׁוּ, חִשְּׁבֹנוֹת רַבִּים.
Behold, this only have I found, that God made man upright (honest); but in their desires they have sought out their numerous devices.
It is obvious what Solomon is saying. He knew that man was prone to taking advantage of certain situations even if the underlying motivation was righteous. But something changes in the makeup of the man. Initially he begins in the pursuit of the upright but his own desires will overwhelm any good intent. Until all that remains is something twisted, a perverse copy of the original.
Solomon confirms this interpretation when he says:
כִּי אָדָם, אֵין צַדִּיק בָּאָרֶץ--אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה-טּוֹב
For there is not a righteous man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
Very profound when you think about it because it includes all of us as well. We may think we're righteous, honourable, etc., but in reality we
still sin. We don't just sin a little, we sin a lot. And yet we will try to convince ourselves that it was a sin with purpose. A sin in order to achieve good. The so-called "end justifies the means" philosophy. His general statement included all the redactors and editors of the Tanach but what is unknown and therefore the most dangerous part of all, to what extent or the actual identity of their sin. But Solomon had knowledge of their sins for he then said the following:
יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי כָּל-אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה הָאֱלֹהִים הוּא יִהְיֶה לְעוֹלָם--עָלָיו אֵין לְהוֹסִיף, וּמִמֶּנּוּ אֵין לִגְרֹעַ
וְהָאֱלֹהִים עָשָׂה, שֶׁיִּרְאוּ מִלְּפָנָיו
I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever; nothing can be added to it, nor any thing taken from it; and God made it they should fear so before Him.
The King was afraid that these assumed to be righteous men were already altering the immutable words of God, reminding them that it was forbidden to add, alter, or delete a single word and if they did so then they would be answerable to God. But unfortunately the damage would be done for whatever changes they made would be passed down through succeeding generations. That being the case, Solomon was concerned that there would be different versions, commentaries, additions, etc. that would only serve to confuse the true essence of Judaism. For that reason he says:
הֵמָּה, בְּנִי הִזָּהֵר: עֲשׂוֹת סְפָרִים הַרְבֵּה אֵין קֵץ, וְלַהַג הַרְבֵּה יְגִעַת בָּשָׂר וְיֹתֵר. And furthermore, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
There lies the crux of the matter and essentially the profound difference between Karaites and Rabbanites. We think we have based our beliefs on the teachings of Anan in the eighth century but the reality is that almost eighteen hundred years before that, Solomon was telling us to have no part of the Talmud, a book that didn't even exist in his time but one he feared would ultimately prevail since stories and verse contrary to the Torah were already in circulation. The weariness of the flesh is more than the physical exhaustion of the man trying to study these man-made laws, it is a metaphor for Judaism itself. The flesh being the body of our religion will be made weary, tired, shriveled and eventually die if we were to pursue these "many books of no end."
As the rabbanites will try to explain their authority rested in these oral traditions, these unwritten laws that were handed down from the past, it is clear that Solomon already foresaw the threat those that insisted that these additions, these fabrications had merit. He foresaw the division of Judaism and ultimately how this would bring down the wrath of God upon us for betraying His trust in us. He saw that ultimately evil would prevail unless we stood steadfastly to the past, the Torah and all that it had to say.. And he probably foresaw our doom when we allow the corruptions of the Torah to become common place. We live in a time when the Torah is considered nothing more than just one more religious fable, just one of many from a multitude of religious doctrines. We have permitted it to become torn, burnt, altered, and a myriad of other insults heaped upon it because we failed to execute the ultimate command to bring it to the world as God instructed. We can't even cooperate and do that amongst ourselves, so delivering it to the world was hardly an option. But it's not too late to find the wisdom in Solomon's argument. If he truly was the wisest man of all, then perhaps it's time we listened to him!
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana