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Karaites  Definition

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Karaites - (From the Hebrew - "To read"). The Kara'ites are a sect of Jews who believe that only the Tanach (Old Testament Bible) have divine authority, and that the Mishna and Talmud are not divinely inspired. The sect began in the eighth century in Babylon.

The founder of the Karaites is thought to be. Anan ben David, a Jewish scholar in eighth century Iraq. One version claims that talmudic Judaism was undergoing stagnation at the time, and Ben David thought to revive Judaism  by the stimulus of renewed Biblical and Hebrew research, under the influence of Islamic scholarship. A different version claims that the Karaite sect arose because of competition between ben David and his bother for the post of Ezilarch. His followers were called the Ananites as firsts, and included some of the greatest Jewish personalities of the day. They were renamed Karaites in the next century by Benjamin of Nahavend.

Karaism was opposed successfully by Saadiya Hagaon (882-942). Egypt became the chief center of Karaism until it was weakened by the authority and reputation of Maimonides in the twelfth century. Karaites spread to Byzantium and Asia Minor, and existed for a brief period in eleventh century Spain. From the twelfth century there were Karaites in Russia and Lithuania, where they were often treated more hospitably by the Christian host communities than the orthodox Jews. In Europe a remnant of Karaites apparently intermixed with or got confounded with, a Turkish minority, eventually known as Karaylar Karaites. It is unclear if these are actually descendants of Jewish Karaites or if they simply have the same name - "Karaim." (see here for details) The Karayler-Karaite minority were recognizes as non-Jews by the Nazis and saved from the Holocaust for the most part.

Karaites keep all the major Jewish customs with significant differences that reflect the departure of Judaism from the Torah and additional changes that may made, separate from those of rabbinical Judaism. Thus, for example, they celebrate all holidays according to the original uncorrected lunar calendar, and fast for more than the requisite 24 hours on Yom Kippur.

Most  Karaites now live in Israel. Their center is in a Moshav near Ramleh, which had a large Karaite community in the Middle Ages.  where they have their own religious courts. They cannot intermarry with rabbinic Jews.

Following is a Karaite profession of faith.

The Karaite "Declaration of Faith"

The Karaite Declaration of Faith, called Tuv Ta'am (after the first two words in Hebrew) has been recited in the Karaite Synagogue on High Holidays since at least the 13th Century, with an abridged version being recited twice daily. The Karaite "Declaration of Faith" consists of a series of statements read aloud by the Hazan (cantor). The congregation responds to each statement by emphatically shouting Emet! meaning "Truth!". The Karaite "Declaration of Faith" includes the main principles and practices which give Karaism its unique character including:


  • The uniqueness and oneness of YHWH as God and Creator.
  • The truth of the Torah given to Moses.


  • The perfect nature of the Torah which requires no additions or supplement (i.e. the Rabbanite Oral Law is extraneous).


  • The concept of an ultimate reward for those who keep the Torah.


  • The holiness of the Temple in Jerusalem and its status as a place to turn in prayer.


  • The beginning of months in the Biblical calendar according to the visibility of the Crescent New Moon


  • The beginning of years in the Biblical calendar according to the state of the barley crops (Abib) in the Land of Israel.


  • The truth and prophetic nature of the entire Hebrew Bible.


  • The truth and holiness of the Biblical Holidays and Feasts.


  • The eternal nature of God who rules the universe.


  • The concept of an Eschatological or "Messianic" Era in which all mankind will worship the one true God, YHWH.


A Translation of the Karaite
"Declaration of Faith"
(Tuv Ta'am)

Teach me good judgment and knowledge; for I believe in your commandments. (Ps 119,66)

Believe in YHWH your God and you will be established; believe in His prophets and you will prosper. (2Chr 20,20)

And they believed in YHWH and in Moses His servant. (Ex 14,31)

YHWH is our God, our Creator, our Redeemer, our Maker, our Holy One, he is unique in the Universe: Truth!

And Moses is His servant, His prophet, His messenger, His desired one, His chosen one, His beloved faithful emissary with signs and wonders: Truth!

And His Torah is perfect, sound, pure, right, clear, enlightening to the eyes, gladdening to the heart, soothing to the soul, teaching wisdom to the simple, and it is more pleasant than gold and much fine gold and sweeter than honey and nectar, and beneficial to those who keep it and those who fulfill it get much reward: Truth!

And His Temple is the House of Prayer, the House of Worship, the House of Sacrifice, the House of Pilgrimage-Feasts, the Temple of the King YHWH of Hosts in Jerusalem the Holy City: Truth!

And the moon in its renewal, in its visibility, in its appearance to the eye in the evening at the time of its testimony, after being hidden, is a reliable witness in heaven, Sela, a valid sign and an indication for the beginning of months according to the word of God: Truth!

And the Abib which is found in the Land of Israel in its time, in its manner, in its nature, is a valid sign and an indication for the beginning of years for pilgrimages, feasts, and holidays, according to the word of the God of Hosts: Truth!

And His prophets and His messengers and His emissaries and His seers and His angels which prophesy and which are sent in truth and righteousness: Truth!

And His holidays: Truth!

And Holy Convocations: Truth!

And [insert formula for appropriate Holiday, see below]: Truth!

(the Feast of Unleavened Bread for Seven Days/

the Seventh (Day) of Assembly [last day of Hag HaMatzot]/

the Feast of Weeks and Day of First Fruits/

the Day of Shouting on the First of the Seventh Month/

the Feast of Booths for seven days/

the Eighth (Day) of Assembly [last day of Sukkot])

And His commandments and His statutes and His testimonies and His judgments and all His words: Truth!

And YHWH is a true God; He is the living God and King of the Universe;

At His wrath the earth trembles; and the nations can not stand up to His fury. (Jer 10,10)

And do not entirely remove the true word from my mouth, for I hope for your judgments. (Ps 119,43)

And it will be that YHWH will be King over all the Earth and on that day YHWH will be one and His name will be one. (Zech 14,9)

YHWH lives forever; Your God, Oh Zion, from generation to generation, Praise Yah! (Ps 146, 10)

Your kingdom is an eternal kingdom; and your rule is in every generation. (Ps 145,13)

For the kingdom belongs to YHWH; and he rules the nations. (Ps 22,29 [28])

YHWH is King, YHWH has [always] been king,

YHWH will be king forever and ever. (Ex 15,18)

Blessed be YHWH forever: Amen and Amen. (Ps 89,53 [52])

[Translated from the Hebrew by Nehemia Gordon based on Karaite Siddur, Volume 2, Vienna 1854, p.110 (Hebrew); reprinted in Karaite Siddur, Volume 2, Ramleh 1977, pp.208-209 (Hebrew)]

Source: http://www.karaite-korner.org/declaration_of_faith.shtml

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: Karaites of Americahttp://www.karaite-korner.org/ http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=1460&letter=A

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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