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In Defence of the Oral Tradition.
by Yair Davidiy

Practical Truths

The Karaites and Rejection of Oral law

The Samaritans.
The Sadducees.
Anan ben David.
The Karaite Samaritan and Ishmaelite Connection.
Similar Points exist between the Samaritans and Karaites.
Egyptian Elephantine, Ethiopian Jews, and the Karaites.
The Gentile Attraction to Karaite Doctrines.
Judaized Pagans and Samaritan Sects.
European Karaites and their Claimed non-Existence!
Karaites Today.
The Karaite Korney Korner.
Karaite Belief.
The Pseudo-Karaite Seduction.
The Choice is between an Ancient Oral Tradition and a New One Derived from Base Motives!
Recognizing the Karaites means Denial of Judah!
The Brit-Am Issue with the Karaites.



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The Karaites were a break-away movement from Judaism. Karaism may have begun with its putative founder, Anan ben David in ca. 780 CE, or it may have existed earlier. Karaites reject the Oral tradition of Judaism and the Authority of the Sages. In principle they claim that anyone and everyone is free to interpret Scripture however they like: One opinion is as valid and good as another. That at least is what they themselves now claim. In practice it may not always have been so clear-cut.
Recently an attempt has been made to re-invent the Karaite Religion and Doctrine or ideaological lack of it. These new Pseudo-Karaites enjoy some popularity amongst Messianic Christians and their offshoots.

It may be claimed that they have nothing to do with us and we should not be bothered with them.
Our own organization, the "Brit-Am, Movement of the Lost Ten Tribes", is concerned with tracing the present-day whereabouts (Research) of the Exiled Northern Israelites, propagating our findings (Recognition), and seeking the Reconciliation of the Jews (Judah) with the Ten Tribes headed by Joseph.
The antics of Karaites and Pseudo-Karaites, and other such entities should not overduly concern us.
For all we know it could be a blessing in disguise?
The Karaites however are also making inroads amongst the "Ephraimite" Movement. "Ephraimites" are Christians who also believe that they are descended from the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel and who adopt some Hebraic practices. In the past "Ephraimites" were amongst our major supporters but today the situation is not clear. They now seem to deliberatedly distance themselves from Brit-Am.
This is fair enough.
In the eyes of the Jewish and non-Jewish public however Brit-Am type beliefs are still associated with Ephraimites.
Ephraimite attempts to Missionize Jews and Ephraimite association with the Karaite Movement interferes with Brit-Am endeavors towards Recognition of our Research Findings and the Reconciliation of Judah and Joseph.
Apart from that the Karaite Movement presents a picture of the Bible and its Interpretation that is not correct. They also cast a slur (that is not warranted) on Orthodox Judaism.
The article below is intended to help clarify some of the issues at hand.

The Samaritans.
The Karaite Movement may have originated with the Samaritans. At all events it was influenced by the Samaritans and has similiarites to the Samaritan Faith and Practice.
The Samaritans were non-Israelite pagans who had been settled in Samaria by the Assyrians in place of the Ten Tribes who had been exiled. They suffered from attacks by bands of lions. It was understand that was happening since they did not live according to the requirements of the God of the Land meaning the Almighty of Israel. Consequently the King of Assyria sent an Israelite Priest to teach them the Israelite Religion. They however retained their pagan practices while adding on to them some of the Israelite practices.

2-Kings 17:
24 Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon,
Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities. 25 And it was so, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they did not fear the LORD; therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which killed some of them. ... 27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, 'Send there one of the priests whom you brought from there; let him go and dwell there, and let him teach them the rituals of the God of the land.' 28 Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD.
29 However every nation continued to make gods of its own, and put them in the shrines on the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities where they dwelt. ...33 They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods, according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away.

Meanwhile the Jews of Judah were exiled by the Babylonians but after seventy years returned under Ezra and Nehemiah and rebuilt the Second Temple. The Jews refused to allow the Samaritans to participate with them in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple (Ezra 4:3). Two to three centuries later the Jewish Sages attempted to convert the Samaritans and to make them full-fledged Jews. At first this enterprise met with some success and the Samaritans adopted many of the Biblical Laws. They however rejected the Oral Law meaning the authority of the Sages. It was also revealed that a group amongst the Samaritans secretly still worshiped an idol in the shape of a dove. Henceforth it was decreed that all the Samaritans should be considered non-Israelite and non-Jewish. There had however apparently existed a relatively short window of time in which the Samaritans had been considered as legitimate. It may have been during this period that some of the Samaritan ruling class intermarried with the Priestly (Cohen) Caste in Judah. The Samaritans claimed to be descended from the Tribes of Ephraim and the Lost Ten Tribes and their priests claimed to be Cohens. The Samaritans themselves once numbered millions of followers with an overseas Diaspora of their own. Nowadays they number only a few hundred.
It could be however that various native peoples who here and there have some Hebraic or Jewish customs received them via Samaritan contact.
[The Samaritan connection to Israel and the Ten Tribes is reviewed in
"Ephraim. The Gentile Children of Israel"].
See also:
Do traditions of British and French Kinship Reflect Ancestral Connections

The Samaritans may have influenced the Jewish Sadducess and later the Karaites.

The Sadducees
In Jewish History at the time of the second Temple there existed the Sadducee (Tsadokim) heretics who included some of the Priests (Cohens) from the Tribe of Levi. There may have been some resentment of the Sages of Judah.
The Sadducees attempted to do away as much as possible with the decisions of the Sages and the Oral Tradition. The founders of the Sadducee movement (says Maimonides) had atheistical tendencies. The Sadducess were associated with the ruling class. They were also Hellenizers i.e. they wanted the Jews to become more like the "enlightened" Greeks. The Sadducee heresy more or less faded from history after the destruction of the Second Temple but a similar movement known as the Karaites later arose. This movement was allegedly began by Anan ben David.

Anan ben David
Anan ben David was from the family of King David and belonged to the nobility of the Jewish People. At that time (ca. 780 CE) the Jews of Mesopotamia were ruled by Moslems who allowed them a degree of autonomy under their own ruler (known as "Raish Galuta" or in Latin, "Exilarch") descended from David. When one Exilarch passed away his successor was chosen from amongst his nearest of kin. Anan ben David was in line for the succession. Anan however was passed over by the Jewish Sages in favor of his half-brother. The appointment was confirmed by the Moslem Caliph. Anan did not accept the decision and was charged with treason. Whilst in jail awaiting trial Anan met a Moslem theologian who advised him to create his own religion and present it as more in line with Islam. Anan took this advice. He saved himself from execution and was treated favorably by the Moslem authorities. This was the beginning of Karaism as commonly accepted. Karaism often undertook to interpret the Bible wherever possible in a contrary way to that of the Sages. Other opinions say that originally there had existed different Jewish heritical sects who merged together with the followers of Anan. At all events, the Karaite religion grew and at one stage was quite significant with numerous adherents in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and southern Russia from which it spread to Lithuania and other parts of Eastern Europe.

The Karaite Ishmaelite and Samaritan Connections.
The Karaites had connections with Arab theologians and with the Dosithean (Messianic-type) sect of Samaritans.
The Muslims had developed their own version of Oral Tradition. [Inspired by Jewish prototype, they copied the Mishna and later Maimonides.] There were Arab purists who advocated a returned to the simple literal message of the Koran. The intellectual and ideaological climate that resulted influenced the Karaites. The Karaites themselves attempted to curry favor with their Ishmaelite rulers and their Arab-speaking neighbors by pointing to similarities between their own beliefs and Islam.
Not only Arabs but also the Samaritans influenced the Karaite movement.

Similar Points exist between the Samaritans and Karaites:
# Both rejected the authority of the Sages and the Oral Tradition.
# The Dosithean Samaritans recognized (to some degree) both Jesus and Mohamed. So did the European Karaites of southern Russia.
# The Samaritans had a tradition of dissimulation i.e. pretending to be other than what they were. Josephus says that when things went well with the Jews the Samaritans would claim to be their kin. If however the Jews were suffering antagonism from their neighbors the Samaritans would claim to be of Tyrian (Phoenician-Canaanite) origin. Dissimulation was also a characteristic of European Karaites though it was an abhorence to Orthodox Jews.
# The Samaritans had a basic hostility sometimes verging on hatred towards the Jews.
The Karaites also at times could be virulently anti-Jewish.
# The Samaritans claimed to be descended from Joseph and the Ten Tribes.
The Karaites of Europe in the time of Abraham Firkovitch (1786-1874 CE) also claimed to be from the Ten Tribes:

# During the 18th century, Russian Karaites spread many myths externally which freed them from various anti-Semitic laws that affected other Jews. Avraham Firkovitch helped establish these ideas by forging tombstones in Crimea which bear inscriptions stating that those buried were of the "lost tribes" of Israel. #
Science Fair Project Encyclopedia: Karaite Judaism.

In both cases the claims to be descended from the Lost Ten Tribes were basically false.
The Samaritans were not Israelites.
The Karaites of southern Russia (unblike the Khazars) did not derive from the Ten Tribes.
The Khazars of Southern Russia were however indeed descended from the Ten Tribes. So too, a very small minorty from the Tribes had remained in the Land of Israel and some of these were assimilated amongst the Samaritans.


There was an Ancient Israelite or Judaean or mixed Hebrew-Samaritan colony at Elephantine (Aswan) in Southern Egypt near the border with Sudan.

Elephantine, Ethiopian Jews, and the Karaites.
Elephantine (Yeb, Aswan) is in southern Egypt near the border with Sudan. In the 500s BCE a colony of Jewish mercenaries in the employ of the Persians was situated there. These Jews worshipped the God of Israel but also paid homage to Egyptain deities and corresponded with Sanballat, the Samaritan High Priest in Samaria. There may have been Samaritans amongst them. They claimed to have been in Egypt since ancient times, from long before the Persian occupation.
The Jews of Elephantine disappeared but some trace them (or their influence) southward, to Ethiopia! Hebraic influence in Ethiopia had probably existed from the time of King Solomon.


The Jews of Ethiopia may be the descendants of converts who were influenced from several directions. One of the sources of Judaic inspiration may have been via the Jews of Elephantine. At all events, the Ethiopian Jews also lacked the Oral Law though on the whole they now accept it. Parallels have been noted between Ethiopian Jews and Karaite practice.

The Gentile Attraction to Karaite Doctrines.
Whether or not there is a direct connection between the Karaites and Ethiopian Jews the similarities are illustrative. Karaite doctrines are popular amongst the ignorant, amongst proselytes, and Gentiles who are attracted to Biblical Doctrines but know little about it.

Judaized Pagans and Samaritan Sects.
It is worth remembering that in ancient times the situation was different. There were numerous groups of Jews who were not under Rabbinic supervision and who often borrowed ideas and practices from their pagan neighbors. There were also pagans who adopted Jewish customs and drew close to the Jews without formally converting. [This phenomenon in part helps explain Jewish practices in Afghanistan.]
Along came the Christians and Muslims and began missionizing and persecuting everyone else. All the little Judaized sects and pseudo-Samaritan groups that existed either disappeared amongst the Gentiles or returned to main-stream Judaism. On the whole there was no middle ground but the Karaites may have been an exception.
Maimonides said that the Karaites in his region (Egypt) should be accepted as Jews who had been mislead by their forefathers. They should be encouraged to return to righteous pathways.

European Karaites and their Claimed non-Existence!
The Karaites in Europe derived from a Middle Eastern population who intermarried with Tartar (Turkish-type) tribes. They adopted a Tartar dialect. In effect they ceased to be Jewish. They are sometimes mistakenly attributed Khazar ancestry. This is discussed in our articles on the Khazars.
The Karaites of Europe are not descended from the Khazars but some of the peoples whom the Khazars ruled over may have adopted Karaite doctrines.

The Karaites were at times anti-Semitic:
"In 1939 the Nazi authorities stipulated that Karaites were to be categorized as non-Jews, and there were some cases of Karaite collaboration with the Germans".
Nehemiah Gordon ("Karaites in the Holocaust? A Case of Mistaken Identity") presents a modern "Karaite" discussion of European Karaite co-operation with the Nazis. Gordon, a self-proclaimed "Karaite" author, claims that the European Karaites of recent times were neither really Karaites nor really Jewish.
The Gordon Assertion that the Karaites of Europe were not really Karaites would be considered as News to them and everybody else!
European Karaites have their own web-sites. Karaite individuals may be corresponded with via their Facebook entries. Karaites is what they say they are and what they are recognized as being!

Karaites Today
The Karaites in the Middle East supposedly remained Jewish. At one stage they produced a few scholars and had some importance but soon degenerated and dwindled in numbers. In Modern Times, their descendants mostly migrated to Israel.

"There are estimated to be 1500 in the USA, about 100 families in Istanbul, and about 12,000 in Israel, most of them living near the town of Ramleh".
These numbers appear to be grossly exagerrated. We doubt that the number of Karaites who actually practise their relgion is greater than a few hundred at the most.
In effect Karaites today are descendants of people who once adhered to the Karaite religion.
For centuries thay have not accepted Gentile converts. They do not (or did not?) accept the offspring of Orthodox Jews amongst themselves. Many of them in our time leave the Karaite community, marry Jews, and become technically Orthodox after appearing before a Committee of Acceptance.

The Karaite Korney Korner
Recently an attempt has been made to revitalize the Karaite Religion. Nehemiah Gordon has proclaimed himself a Karaite and claims to have been accepted by the Karaite authorities.
Gordon is very active amongst Christians.
Gordon says he is the son of an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi in the USA. In the recent past the Karaites ruled that it was forbidden to accept other Jews into their ranks. For centuries non-Jewish conversion to Karaitism was also not accepted though in 2007 exceptions were made for 10 converts to the Karaite Persuasion in California. The California decision appears to have been a one-time event and may have been unauthorized?
In the State of Israel a Karaite is considered someone who is a member of the Karaite community i.e. a descendant of Karaites. The popular conception is that one cannot simply become a Karaite and nobody would want to. Karaites keep a very low profile and their existence is seldom noticed.
There are however exceptions.

[Yair Davidiy in January 2005,spoke to a meeting hosted by Gordon in a Karaite-owned building. Our impression was that Nehemiah Gordon is hostile to Brit-Am beliefs concerning the Identity of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. See:
"Brit-Am Now"-512 #4. Karaite Clarification.

Karaite Belief.
It is important to realize that the Karaites claim to have no set doctrine.
Wikipedia: Karaite Judaism.
Karaite Judaism holds every interpretation of the Tanakh to the same scrutiny regardless of its source, and teaches that it is the personal responsibility of every individual Jew to study the Torah, and ultimately decide for themselves its correct meaning. This is reflected in the Karaite saying "Study the Torah diligently, and do not be dependent on my opinion".

In other words they claim that when God gave the Torah HE did not care how it was interpreted. The Divine Commandment to listen to the Council and Counsel of the Sages (Deuteronomy 17) when in doubt is ignored by them!
Though Moses was commanded to appoint seventy elders (Numbers 7:16) as well as local judges to advice the people the Karaites imply that their decisions were not binding!

cf. Deuteronomy 16:
18 You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the LORD your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.

The real agenda of the Pseudo-Karaites and their backers is like that of the Ancient Sadducees who were motivated by Atheistic Inclinations!

The Pseudo-Karaite Seduction.
The pseudo-Karaite Nehemiah Gordon has his own website and attracts a lot of attention from Messianic Christians and from some "Ephraimites".
The Messianic Christians are Christians who adopt Jewish customs.
"Ephraimites" may be defined as a branch of Messianic Christians who also believe they descend from the Lost Ten Tribes.
Since Brit-Am advocates belief in the Lost Ten Tribes being in the west then an overlap of interest results even though Brit-Am is not a Christian organization.
The Messianics and Ephraimites say they follow Jesus of Nazareth who is recorded as instructing his followers to obey the Pharisees (Rabbinical Authorities) "who sit in the seat of Moses" in matters of Law. Some Messianics however have decided that in this case the one they follow did not know what he was talking about! They have adopted some Karaite practices especially in regard to Calendar Computations. The reason for doing this appears to be a reluctance to accept Jewish Rabbinical Authority in any form.

One recently-founded Church (New Moon Sightings of Joseph F. Dumond) made the Doctrines of Gordon a central feature of their own religion! They even had the gumption to threaten Brit-Am with retribution after we had published the first draft of this present article!
[Nehemiah Gordon seems to have significant funding behind him?
Who would be interested in promoting this doctrine? ]

In Jewish tradition someone who does not accept the Oral Law may be of suspicious ancestry.
Since some Messianic Christians are probably physically of Lost Ten Tribes stock then they are repeating the transgression of their forefathers and creating yet another barrier between themselves and Judah. They are also placing an obstacle in the path of their followers but these are matters for their own consideration.
Perhaps this is what they want?
Is such an attitiude a motivating force behind Christianity in general?
A person may do as he pleases as long as he does not cause unnecessary offence but one should be honest concerning the intention.

Brit-Am stands for Research, Recognition, Reconciliation.
Attacks against the Rabbis by so-called Ephraimites undermines the Brit-Am striving for Recognition and Reconciliation.

The Choice is between an Ancient Oral Tradition and a New One Derived from Base Motives!
In practice the Karaites also adopted Oral Traditions of their own. They also copied those of the Rabbinicial Jews but introduced changes to distinguish themselves. They still do this.
In effect in order to understand the Bible and keep Biblical laws as the Bible intended one needs to accept the Rabbinical Oral Traditions. In some cases it can be proven that these practices existed in Biblical Times!
The Red Heifer. The Oral Tradition: Shedding Light on the Secrets of the Bible.

The Indispensable Oral Law.

The Oral Tradition by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan.

If one does not want to go according to how the Rabbinical Jews teach but rather to follow Karaite Practice then in effect you may well (perhaps unconsciously) be adopting another Oral Tradition but one whose foundations are from less sanctified a source.

Recognizing the Karaites means Denial of Judah!
Each Tribe had its own individual qualities. The Twelve Tribes as a whole were divided into two. One section was headed by Joseph; the other by Judah. "Joseph" became the Ten Tribes.
The Task of Joseph was to civilize and uplift humanity and to rule the earth. The Blessings that "Joseph" received were concomitant with his task. They were needed in order to do what had to be done.
The Blessings and Tasks of Joseph.
On the other hand the task and blessing of Judah involved Keeping the Law.
It was prophesied that Judah would keep the Law and observe the fasts.
This was the blessing to Judah.

Judah was blessed that he would keep the Law and be enabled to decide how the Law should be kept.
Accepting the Karaites and denying the Rabbis in effect means acknowledging something that is non-existent in place of the Jewish People and the Bible.
The present-day so-called "Karaites" are not Karaites but renegade Jews or Christians who have adopted an historical identity that does not belong to them. This might be acceptable if there was something behind it but there is not.

Adopting the identity of others if one identifies with them might in some cases be understandable.
For example,
In Ancient Britain there existed the Doctrine of Pelagius.
Pelagius considered both Judaism and Christianity as equally valid pathways. Pelagianism no longer exists but someone could revive it and name it once again as "Pelagianism".

On the other hand, an Irishman who has never been out of Dublin could claim to be the last of the Mohicans or the rightful King of Mongolia.
Where does one draw the line?

In the eyes of the Jewish people the Karaite Practice is not Judaism but a denial of it.
Karaitism is a rejection of Scripture under the guise of elevating it. The Karaites of history were in effect saying that the Bible has no Divine Authority and may be legitimately interpreted in different ways according to arbitrary decision. There was a stage when no two Karaite authorities could be found to agree with each other!
This is a denial of Divine Providence and a rejection of the Principle that God is with HIS people and reveals Himself through the Tanach!
It also transgresses the commandment to follow the opinion of the Sages when in doubt as to how to apply Torah injunctions (Deuteronomy ch.17).

We repeat it is a free country and one may do as one pleases but at least be conscious of what the choice is.

The Brit-Am Issue with the Karaites.
Brit-Am is dedicated to issues concerning the present-day whereabouts of the Ten Tribes.
We try to avoid theological discussions and inter-faith dialogue.
We do however teach Biblical Studies and encourage Biblical learning.
We work for reconciliation with Judah and recognition of Brit-Am findings. We also believe in the future Coming of the Messiah Son of David!
If it were not for the equivalent of Rabbinical Rulings in Biblical Times then David would have been considered illegitimate!
King David and the Oral Law.
The Ten Tribes of Israel split apart from Judah and the ruling House of David and set up their own Kingdom.
 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day [1-Kings 12:19].
This was the beginning of Division and Exile and Loss of Identity. This is something that the Brit-Am Movement of the Ten Tribes seeks to recify.

So too, Brit-Am has consulted with Rabbis, learns from them, and often quotes from Rabbinicial Sources.
We have written on these matters in the past. We once published (as an Appendix to the first edition of "Joseph. The Israelite Destiny of America") an extensive composition on the Oral Law:
"Little Sister. The Oral Law" by Rabbi Avraham Feld.

The founder and head of Brit-Am at present is Yair Davidiy. Yair learns from Jewish sources and tries to apply his findings to Brit-Am. Yair considers himself an Orthodox Jew and endeavors to lead an appropriate life-style. Yair studies Rabbinical Commentaries and Laws and daily finds evidence of their Biblical Associations and Scriptural Justification.
Yair is recognized as an Orthodox Jew and has Rabbinical Scholars amongst his offspring.
This is to the advantage of Brit-Am.
The mother of Yair was Jewish but his father was not.
Yair Davidiy is only considered Jewish due to a Ruling of the SAGES!
The History of Brit-Am

"Brit-Am Now"- 493
#4. Born of a Jewish Mother
This ruling of the Sages is justified by the Bible.
In the opinion of Yair only the Sages and those who learn according to them understood the Bible.

See Also:
Jewish Virtual Library: KARAITES.

Brit-Am Polemics:
The Karaite Allies Threat to Brit-Am and the Brit-Am Answer

Brit-Am Now no. 1576
#5. Brit-Am is Different!
Physical descent is what needs to be proven and emphasized.
Be open to Judah instead of subconsciously hostile!

"Brit-Am Now"-511 #1. Karaites.