Sunday, July 10, 2011

Three Rabbis who Encouraged the Study of Karaite Literature.

Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (known as 'the Netziv'), Yashar of Candia (Yosef Shlomo Rofeh Delmedigo) and Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook all encouraged the study of Karaite works.

Netziv in his commentary עמק הנצי"ב on
Shoftim, vol. iii, pg 189:​Vdo9I44/SGTnaKkkjsI/AAAAAAAAAQ​U/ELqfj8mRods/s1600-h/emek.jpg

Quoting the enigmatic S. from onthemainline: "As you can see, he directs the reader to the introduction of the grammatical work אשכול הכופר by the Karaite scholar Yehuda Ha-dassi, which obviously was on his reading list. The commentary contains references to other works...."
The only problem with that is, that Eshkol Hakopher is not a grammatical book. It is a work on history and Halakhah

Hakham Rahamim Qanai (a Karaite Hakham and scholar) cleared up this confusion for me by pointing out that in the
introduction to אשכול הכופר Kalev Afendopolo shows where Hadasi discusses grammar as being indispensible for understanding the text of the TaNaKh. The highlighted section of the text of הנצי"ב translates as “in the introduction to Eshkol HaKofer, on [the subject of] grammar”

Yashar of Candia:
from here
Delmedigo was attracted to the Karaites by their love for secular learning and it is also possible that the hostility of Orthodox Jews caused him to turn occasionally to the Karaite sectaries for company. He was delighted to find in Egypt several works on Maimonides' Guide, as well as certain writings of Abraham ibn Ezra, whom he greatly admired. From Cairo, Delmedigo went to Constantinople, then a prominent center of learning. Here, again, he befriended several Karaite leaders, including Moses Mezordi, from whom he acquired many Karaite works.
Delmedigo (about whose descendants I blogged about before here), in his epistle to the Karaite Hakham Zerah ben Natan of Trakai, entitled מכתב אחוז writes:

בין כך בני, אל תטוש תורת אמך ללמוד בספרי הקראים כלם ובס' המצוות והאדרת [הכוונה לאדרת אליהו של החכם אליהו בשייצי] והיית לכל רואיך לשם ולתפארת. בני, אם תקח אמרי, אלו הספרים מספיקים לך לדעת כל למוד יקיר מן הארץ אשר בלבנון עד האזוב אשר יוצא בקיר

מ ש פ ט ה נ ע ר ומעשהו הוא אחר שיתחיל להבין בלשון
ה ק דש בתורה ובנביאים וזה על פי פירושי הקראים
כפי פשטם האמתי

וירגיל עצמו בפיוטים שחברו חכמי הקראים כי כל תפלותיהכם מדברי

See more on Delmedigo and the Karaites here
Rabbi Abraham Kook in one of his letters, outlines the proper way to study:

בכלל דרך העבודה צריך להיות: להשוות על כל ענין את הבבלי לעומת הירושלמי וחיפוש בכל המקורים השייכים לו, מהקדמונים: התרגומים, המסורות, תשובות הגאונים וכו', עד דברי האחרונים: בעלי ההלכה, הפוסקים, המבקרים וכו', לחקור גם על העבודה החיצונה, כשל הנכרים, הקראים ולברר את המקום שהלכו בו לפי תומם בדרך ישרה ומקום המעדת רגליהם. ובכלל להרבות בחיפוש, בחקירה של ישוב הדעת, ולמעט בהשערות ודמיונות. וכשירחיב ד' גבולנו נוכל לשוטט גם על פני כל היסוד המשפטי בכללות האנושיות, להראות עד כמה גדלה השפעת הקודש על החול, להעלותו, ונתחבר בזה עם חכמי לב יודעי ד' המבינים בספרויות עמים שונים,
Free translation:

In general, the way of learning should be: compare on every matter the Babylonian Talmud versus the Jerusalem Talmud and search through all the relevant sources, the targumum, traditions, geonic responsa, etc., until the writings of the 'aharonim': the halakahic deicisors. Also investigate the work done by the those 'on the outside', such as gentiles, Karaites and see where they went straight and where they deviated. In general one should use reason and common sense when learning and minimize speculations and assumptions

אגרות הראי"ה ב (לעיל הערה 6), עמ' קפב


At Sunday, July 10, 2011 3:07:00 PM, Anonymous S. said...

I mis-wrote, but you can see that the Netziv only meant the Nachal Eshkol introduction. In my defense, in 2008 I don't think Eskol Hakofer was yet online and I really didn't have an easy way of seeing the book.

At Thursday, September 15, 2011 1:58:00 PM, Blogger ישבב הסופר said...

I am truly unsure as to Yashar's intention, being that the excerpt here is out of its context. I don't own a copy of Iggeres Achuz.
The way it is written here, he seems to be actually warning NOT to read Karaiite works. [I understand how this improbable, knowing his general attitude to Karaite scholars.]

At Thursday, September 15, 2011 4:05:00 PM, Blogger Joels W. said...

I understand why you would think so, but I think there needs to be a comma between אל תטוש תורת אמך and what follows. Based on the information we have on Yashar and his connection with Karaites, it would be highly improbable to assert that he is actually warning his son against studying Karaite works.

I will try to get a copy of sefer haachuz and see this passage in context.

At Thursday, September 15, 2011 4:06:00 PM, Blogger Joels W. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At Thursday, September 15, 2011 5:06:00 PM, Blogger Joels W. said...

In his "Mikhtav Achuz" rather.

At Thursday, September 15, 2011 7:12:00 PM, Blogger Joels W. said...

You can read the entire epistle on HebrewBooks.
Here is the relevant passage:

Having read all the preceding pages, I am certain that he is in fact encouraging the study of Karaite works (the passage in question is the third positive reference to Karaite work thus far).

Another thing to keep in mind however is that there exists two versions of Mikhtav Ahuz. Whether this passage is also in the alternate version I don't know but i'd be surprised if the other positive references to Karaite works were missing from that version. Also this epistle is not actually addressed to his son, notwithstanding the words "my son", but rather to his friend and colleague, the Karaite Zerach ben Natan of Trakai.
See Yoseph Shlomo Delmedigo, Yashar of Candia: his life, works and times
By Isaac Barzilay. p. 99

At Friday, September 16, 2011 12:50:00 AM, Blogger ישבב הסופר said...

ok you are right about his כוונה, but being that it is addressed to his good friend Zerach, the loshon תורת אמך makes much more sense.
[part of the reason behind my reluctance to accept the passage in Michtav Achuz as being pro-karaiite, was because of the lashon תורת אמך, something even a pro karaite rabbani scholar wouldn't write when referring to karaiite works.]
Again, he does seem to be encouraging studying Karaite seforim, but to a Karaite.


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