Monday, October 10, 2011

What is חנוכה Doing in a Karaite Siddur?


In the Karaite version of a יזכור/מי שברך prayer for important personages in Karaite history (it is found in the section of the Sabbath Torah reading) we find:

אלהינו ואלהי אבותינו ירחם את מתינו ואת מתיכם ואת מתי כלל כל עמו בית ישראל: בראש ובתחלה לרבנו ענן הנשיא איש האלהים ראש הגולה אשר פתח את דרך התורה והאיר עיני בני מקרא ורבים השיב מעוון ומעבירה...ילנהו במלון טוב...ועם שבע כתות הצדיקים הנוחלים בגן עדן ויקים עליו מקרא שכתוב והיה ביום ההוא שורש ישי אשר עמד כו' והיתה מנוחתו כבוד...ויתן עז למלכו וירם קרן משיחו...ועוד יקים עליו מקרא שכתוב...ותעמוד לרגלך לקץ הימין

זכר צדיקים לברכה וזכר ישרים ונבונים וטהורים וקדושים לברכה: וכן זכר כלל משכילנו משכילי הגלות זכרונם לברכה ולתחיה: וכן זכר שלשת הצדיקים הנוחלים בגן עדן: כבוד הרב ר אפרים וכבוד הרב ר אלישע וכבוד הרב רבי חנכה זכרונם לברכה ולתחיה...ועם שבע כתות הנוחלים....

Later there are references to Saul, Nahawendi, Salmon b. Yeroham, Al- kirkisani, Yefet b, Eli and his son Levi, David Hanassi (a descendant of Anan), Yoseph Ha-roeh, Nissi ben Noah, Sahl b. Mazliah, Yeshua b. Yehuda, Yehuda Hadassi, and others.

It continues:

זכרון טוב חן וחסד ורחמים..על כל מתי קהילנו..ישראלים כהנים לויים וגרי הצדק והאמת שעברו מן העולם הזה יזכרם ברצון עמו ויפקדם בישועתו ....

ימהר קיצתם ויפתח קברם במהרה וינערם מעפרם וישמחם בבנין בית מקדשו....

2).
I was told by a member of the Egyptian Karaite community in Israel that Rabbis Elisha, Efraim and Hannukah, who merited a separate berkaha in this prayer, were converts to Karaite Judaism. Whether these were gentile converts or former Rabbanites is unclear. Perhaps a search for other instances where the unusual name of the latter appears, may provide some valuable clues.
The Khazars and the Karaites
An alleged Karaite-Khazar connection is a subject that still arouses passionate debate among scholars and laymen

The standard Karaite position has been that the Khazars initially converted to Karaite Judaism under the tutelage of a Karaite Hakham Isaac Sangari. Firkovitch claimed to have found the grave of Sangari and his wife in Chufut Qale. Other scholars dispute that and claim Sangari is a fictitious character.

The latter claim is ludicrous since he is mentioned by quite a few Rabbanite medieval sage (such as Raabad). Whether Sangari was a Karaite, converted the Khazars to Karaite Judaism, and was buried in Chufut Qale is open to debate.

I don't reject out of hand the possibility the Khazars were originally converted to Karaism, but I am fairly certain that they Rabbanized pretty rapidly. My proof is in the very names the Royal family chose for themselves, namely the personal name 'hanukkah', a holiday that is completely foreign to Karaites (although I have come across a claim that I have been unable to verify thus far, that the Karaites of Istanbul did celebrate it). 3)
I would add that it is possible that the Khazar Khagan, Obadia who is referred to in the "Khazar Correspondence" as a major reformer may have introduced Rabbanism to his people. It is also possible (I am not sure if anyone ever put forth this theory before) that there were some Khazars who rejected these reforms and chose to stay Karaite. As a result the latter split off and relocated to Crimea (where they either founded the first Karaite community there or joined an already existing one).

Hannukah, this unusual given Jewish name (still common among Bukharian and Kavkazi Jews-- see here ,here , here, and here) may indicate that the Khazars followed Rabbinic rather than Karaite Judaism 4). Perhaps the name was a a loud endorsement of the 'reforms' undertaken by his father Obadiah; the latter is described in the correspondence of King Joseph to Hasdai Ibn Shaprut (circa 967) as "a reformer who built study houses for Torah, invited scholars and taught the people tanach, Mishna and Talmud".
The version of the correspondence reproduced in the Ben Yehuda Project, however gives the king's name as 'hanina' and not hannukah and mentions nothing about mishna and Talmud:

אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה עָמַד מֶלֶךְ מִבְּנֵי בָנָיו וּשְׁמוֹ עוֹבַדְיָה. צַדִּיק וְיָשָׁר, הוּא חִדֵּשׁ אֶת הַמַּמְלָכָה וְהֶעֱמִיד אֶת הַדִּין כַּדִּין וְכַהֲלָכָה, וְהוּא בָּנָה בָתֵּי כְנֵסִיּוֹת וּבָתֵּי מִדְרָשׁוֹת וְקִבֵּץ לָרֹב מֵחַכְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. וַיִּתֵּן לָהֶם כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב לָרֹב וַיְפָרְשׁוּ לוֹ אַרְבָּעָה וְעֶשְׂרִים סְפָרִים וּמִשְׁנָה וְתַלְמוּד וּמַחֲזוֹרוֹת שֶׁל חַזָּנִים וְהָיָה יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים וְאוֹהֵב הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְווֹת, עֶבֶד מֵעַבְדֵי ה', רוּחַ ה' תְּנִיחֶנּוּ. וְאַחֲרָיו עָמַד חִזְקִיָּה בְּנוֹ וְאַחֲרָיו מְנַשֶׁה בְּנוֹ וְאַחֲרָיו עָמַד חֲנִינָא אֲחִי עוֹבַדְיָה וְיִצְחָק בְּנוֹ


Looks to me like an error but it is possible that it is based on a variant text of the MS. Most printed versions have 'hanukkah' (and -I think- the 'mishna and talmud' reference), like the following one

Notes:

1). עמוד שג -חלק א' ,סדר תפלות הקראים Published in Vienna, 1854

*Interesting to note that in the latest reprinting of the Karaite Siddur edited by Nehemia Gordon in Jerusalem 2001 (based on the Abraham Firkowitz Edition which was originally published in Vilna 1870--pictured), none of these blessings were reproduced.

2.) Fred Macdowell would have been delighted to find a bona fide Rabbinite name not in subscription lists but in the Karaite siddur, and in a very prominent section at that.

3). Someone by the name Kazimer Huberz posted the following: "
A unique tradition among those descended from the Istanbul tradition of Qaraim is that we represent the remnant of HaLakhah Beth Shammai which opposed the Rabbinical Halakhah Beth Hillel. Observation of Hanukah is one such evidence for this tradition being true, as is standing during the shema..."

The above is a strange proposition, to be sure, but the theory that Karaites were sympathetic to the "shammaists"or even the remnants of that school, is reflected in several Karaite works.


4). See The Jews of Khazaria By Kevin Alan Brook p. 230
see also this book in Russian.

6 Comments:

At Monday, October 10, 2011 4:15:00 PM, Anonymous S. said...

>The standard Karaite position has been that the Khazars initially converted to Karaite Judaism under the tutelage of a Karaite Hakham Isaac Sangari. Firkovitch claimed to have found the grave of Sangari and his wife in Chufut Qale. Other scholars dispute that and claim Sangari is a fictitious character.

>The latter claim is ludicrous since he is mentioned by quite a few Rabbanite medieval sage (such as Raabad). Whether Sangari was a Karaite, converted the Khazars to Karaite Judaism, and was buried in Chufut Qale is open to debate.

It's not ludicrous, in my opinion. First of all, Yitzchak Sangri became regarded, according to lore, as the name of the Chaver in the Kuzari. Indeed, his name appears on the title page of many editions of the Kuzari (link. Supposedly the Ramban mentions this for the first time, but it is obvious that he is repeating something he'd heard, rather than making it up. Incidentally, the superscription added to his name (אשר קדש שם שמים בויכוחו) seems to indicate that he was martyred, or least that's a plausible interpretation (whether he existed or was fictional). Because of this, I'd like to propose that the name, which is usually understand in terms of his being a סנגור, an advocate for Judaism, should perhaps be seen as Spanish, meaning "blood," and referring to his maryrdom. Again, whether or not he existed,

In my opinion this is why Firkowich "found" his grave. If not for this legend, there'd be no association with the Khazars, and therefore no reason to find or call attention his grave in Khufut Kale.

All that aside, I don't see any reason why there needs to have been some sort of purist version of Judaism, either Karaite or Rabbanite. In our time and others we see many Jews who don't fit neatly into a box, and we also know that the influence of learned scholars can be very great. Thus, for a relatively unlearned populace who professes, or wants to profess, Judaism, it shouldn't be hard to imagine that the presence of learned scholars, no matter the sect, should be able to influence them.

As for the name, like you said, it's common for the region. I don't know if you can hang anything on it for certain, for the reason I mentioned. I mean, there were Karaites named Saadyah. Similarly, the myth that Karaites didn't use the title רבי, and so forth. Chanukah is, after all, still a nice Hebrew term. I had an a-ha! moment a few years ago when I passed that Brooklyn bus service called Hanukov, and I realized that the name means "Ben Hanukah."

Great post!

 
At Saturday, October 15, 2011 10:59:00 PM, Blogger ישבב הסופר said...

הרבנים הללו, ר' אפרים, ר' אלישע, ור' חנוכה, היו שלשה שלוחים מירושלים שנשלחו לקרים. הם הביאו לקרים המון חומר תורני, והתושבים החזיקו להם טובה למאות שנים. בשל כך הם כתובים בברכה שבסידור הקראים.
שנים רבים הוחזקו שלשת הרבנים האלו לקראים, ע"י הן הרבניים והן הקראים, עד שהוכיח פירקוביץ בעצמו [בהכרמל שנה ב' גליון 40] שאין הדבר כן, והם היו חכמים רבניים לכל דבר. ולא עוד אלא שבאו מירושלים בשליחות ללחום בדת הקראות, וצלחה ידם להחזיר מאתיים משפחות לדת הרבנות.
עיין בדברי אב"ג - גאטטלאבער כאן
http://books.google.com/books?id=MCo4AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA139#v=onepage&q=%D7%97%D7%A0%D7%9B%D7%94&f=false

 
At Monday, October 24, 2011 6:27:00 PM, Blogger Joels W. Davidi said...

Thanks to Macdowell and Yoshvav.
I didn't have a chance to look into the new and exhaustive study of the tombstones at chufutqale. If Sangari's grave was indeed found there, it would appear in that book, published by the prestigious Yad Ben Zvi Institute.

Yoshvav, thanks for the link. It seems strange to me though, that they would praise these three Rabbis in their siddur, after they succeeding in wresting 200 families away from them!

 
At Monday, October 24, 2011 7:13:00 PM, Blogger Joels W. Davidi said...

אהה אני רואה שכבר עמד על זה אפרים דיינארד בספרו "משא קרים" והקדיש לזה כמה עמודים.
נראה לי בינתיים שהוא שולל את דברי פירקוביץ (שהיה שנוא נפשו אגב) מכל וכל

 
At Tuesday, October 25, 2011 2:01:00 AM, Blogger Joels W. Davidi said...

עיין כאן
http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=23221&st=&pgnum=101&hilite=

 
At Tuesday, October 25, 2011 5:15:00 PM, Blogger Joels W. Davidi said...

Hakham Mordechai Sultanski's characterization of the three (cited in article linked above and in Deinard) sounds almost new testament like. He says these were three Rabbis who saved his life by advising Anan ben David to tell the Caliph that he had founded a different religion than his brother and that he too, like the Muslims, intercalated the year according to the new moon, in order to find favor in his eyes and spare his life. This is a twist on a similar story which has him getting this advice in prison from a Muslim Theologian...

Of course the fact that these 3 were revered by both Crimea's Karaite and Rabbanite communities puts the lie to this theory (although, according to Firkovich, the Krymchaks-the Crimean Rabbanites were all once Karaites as well).

Looks like I'm gonna have to do a follow-up post on this one.

 

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