Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I think we're all Karaites on this bus

I thought cholent was just the Yiddish word for "leftovers." I didn't realize it was a religious fault line.

According to an article in today's JPost the Shulchan Aruch instructs us to eat cholent on Shabbat lest we be taken for Karaites, who apparently don't believe in ... cholent.

But my best takeaway was that Karaites reject the divinity of the oral law and, most interestingly, believe we should read the Torah and decide for ourselves what it means. Karaites are apparently encouraged to "consult with as many people as possible where there is a question of uncertainty. One can take the advice of a hacham (an especially learned member of the community), but that advice is not binding and the hacham has to be able to prove his view from the Torah."

Isn't this what Jews mostly do anyway? When rabbis (to our stunned amazement) disagree on interpretation, don't we just go with whom/whatever makes most sense to us?

The article quotes one learned Karaite as saying: "Rabbinic Judaism has taken the responsibility away from the individual and given it to the rabbis. But you can't say on Judgment Day that the rabbi told me this or that - the responsibility is on the individual. Every person's decisions are on his head and that's why each person should read and try to understand the Torah."

Isn't this what all Jews are supposed to do? We all live, more than less, by the Karaite motto "search well in the scripture and do not rely on anyone else's opinion."

To me the Karaites are just another bunch of Jews proving Rabbi Friedheim's adage, 'There is only one kind of Judaism, Orthodox. There's only one kind of Jew, Reform."


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