Monday, June 11, 2007

One Disclaimer I am willing to make...

While the Karaite Jewish University, that advertises a conversion certificate on its "mission statement" page, lists under the topics of children's conversions the teaching that the "age of accountability" is 20 years old, and a quick peek at other Karaite webpages repeats this teaching, a great many Karaites have complained to me that this isn't their opinion, they don't agree, and they wouldn't describe this teaching as "official."


But when something is presented as a belief on their webpage, and is apparently part of the lessons to be studied as a requirement for conversion, and appears on the webpages of Karaite groups and shuls all over the English speaking world, then I have to wonder what their definition of "official" is, since they insist this isn't.

Go figure.

So let me make one thing clear - while I stand by ever statement I wrote on my previous post, some Karaites have vigorously complained that this is not their belief.

I did point out to them that I often castigate orthodox beliefs, feminist beliefs, liberal economic beliefs, etc. but nobody is silly enough to think every single orthodox person, feminist, economist, etc., believes in them. But no, that was not sufficient. So let me repeat: JUST IN CASE YOU WEREN'T SMART ENOUGH TO FIGURE IT OUT FOR YOURSELF, NOT EVERY KARAITE BELIEVES THIS.

Got it, class? Good.


Michal said...


Some Karaite webpages say that incandescent light bulbs and sex on Shabbat are prohibited while other Karaite webpages permit the above. Are these all "official" Karaite positions? If a basic tenet of Karaism is that the individual has to study and interpret for himself how can there be an "official" Karaite position on this particular issue? You are redefining Karaism and making a straw man argument. You had a discussion with ONE person who said more than once that he was presenting his PERSONAL opinion and suddenly this becomes the "official" Karaite position and your blog speaks about "Karaites" in general. You were also told by someone on the board at the KJU that this was not the "official" Karaite position so I think you are knowingly being dishonest and misrepresenting Karaism.

Sarah said...

You stated "a great many Karaites have complained to me". Just EXACTLY how many is that please ?

Ahavah bat Sarah said...

If ALL of them said light bulbs were prohibited on shabbat, it would be perfectly reasonable for anyone to conclude that is an official teaching.

What normal intelligent person even THINKS that ALL persons of any sect, profession, political party, ethnic group, or whatever have identical beliefs and any one teaching is universally accepted by that group?


As for KJU, they are, as near as I can tell, the ONLY venue in America for A CONVERSION CERTIFICATE, as they say they offer VERY PLAINLY in their mission statement:


Mission Statement

Karaite Jewish University "KJU" was founded in 2005. We hope to provide the Karaite Community with an institution that can gain broad based acceptance amongst all major Karaite organizations. Therefore, it is the stated policy of KJU not to promote one particular form of Karaite Judaism over another.

In practice Karaite Judaism is both a scholarly and a spiritual experience. It places upon every Karaite the duty to "search the scripture well" to find the most accurate understanding of the Bible and closest connection to God. On occasion Karaites will differ, but these differences should be a source of strength and celebration. Eventually further study generally will provide a greater consensus as to the correct interpretation of the Bible.

KJU will file its Articles of Incorporation with the California Secretary of State and expects to obtain non-profit Tax exempt status as a Religious organization by filing Forms IRS 2300 with the Internal Revenue Service and FTB 3500 with the California Franchise Tax Board seeking recognition as a Tax Exempt organization under IRS Section 501(c) (3) and Revenue & Taxation Code Section 23701d as an exclusively religious activity of any religious order. KJU will also file a Application for Religious Exemption pursuant to CALIFORNIA EDUCATION CODE §94739 (b)(6) seeking to issue the following religious degrees:
* Certificate of Jewish Conversion through Karaite Judaism
* Associate Degree of Karaite Religious Studies
* Bachelors of Karaite Religious Studies
* Bachelors of Comparative Religious Studies
* Bachelors of Modern Jewish History
* Bachelors of TaNaKh Studies
* Masters of Karaite Religious Studies
* Masters of Comparative Religion
* Doctorate of Karaite Philosophy
* Honorary Doctorate of Congregational Leadership
bestowing the Title of "Edah Nagid" Hakham/Hakhamah
* Honorary Doctorate of Karaite Scholarship bestowing
the Title of TaNaKh Hakham//Hakhamah

KJU will include a broad range of instructors who may well have differing outlooks and views on particular topics. The University will present all currently held views and will seek to avoid taking a position that favors one movement's views over another's. Rather, it is our goal to have our Certificate of Conversion be given the widest acceptance amongst the Karaite community and to thereby permit integration into each strand of Karaism. It is also our hope to expand our program to include Adult Education via video lecturers, assist Israeli's obtain leaping conversions, and to develop a Board of Directors....


Now, this institute offers a conversion certificate, and claim to represent and include the broadest possible range of views of Karaites. If they don't, you need to take up their false advertising with them.

And as was already cut and paste to the forum, also, is a full page on that website explaining that the age of accountability is 20 etc., and this effects children's conversions, etc.

So CLEARLY the people who made this webpage believe that SO MANY PEOPLE IN KARAISM HAVE THIS BELIEF that they can list these beliefs as CONVERSION ISSUES under their "broad agreement among sets" and until this point, nobody has complained about it.

You and others are spending a great deal of energy trying to make 2 and 2 not equal 4, but it isn't working.

I think it is you who are being dishonest about the normative Karaite belief concerning the age of accountability/majority because you find it personally embarrassing. All evidence points to that conclusion.

Ahavah bat Sarah said...

As soon as I challenged the person on the forum to prove their qualifications and listed mine (BA degree in Philosophy that covers religious practice and teachings from pre-history until the present, magna cum laude, with minors in Linguistics and Judaic Studies) I was booted off the forum.

This person also threatened to "complain" to and said that people had been "prosecuted" for their blogs before.

I pointed out that if was inclined to censor anyone because of a complaint, then the Rabbinate would have shut me and Schmarya and DovBear and many others down a long time ago.

My last post was rejected, since I had been booted, so I'll put it here:

Good luck with "prosecuting" me for only repeating something that clearly appears in writing on the KJU webpage and all other Karaite webpages.

You must think judges are stupid. Anyone can plainly see that this is the usual and customary, i.e. "official" teaching of Karaism.

It's also clear to me that there is no substantive difference between your exegisis and that of the Rabbis - which is another reason to oppose your opinion. Don't you think I can bring in all sorts of rabbinically trained men to testify? The apostate community is quite close knit. I'm sure several will be happy to volunteer their opinions on your exegesis.

So do whatever you want. I have kept every email. And if you think you're going to intimidate me, you're sadly mistaken. You have not answered a single point that I made either in the blog or in the subsequent posts - your unlevel playing field is obvious to everyone.

But don't worry, I've learned everything I need to know about Karaism. You have been a very enlightening example.

Bye, yall.

Ahavah bat Sarah said...


This reply to my post appeared AFTER I had been booted off. The context was that he claimed my linguistic example of the hebrew word "damsel" from Deut 22 is somehow "bogus" (Now, I'll leave it to you to read the entire chapter. Suffice it to say that the word damsel is used to describe virgins, non-virgins, married girls and unmarried girls. In fact, the only thing that distinguishes the word for "damsel" from the word for "woman" (also used in the passage) is the AGE. A damsel is clearly a teenager/youth, regardless of her marital status. So I said that this person's definition of "bogus" must be "I don't agree with it.").

The post-boot reply was this:

No bogus means that you put forward evidence which is disputed. Did Moshe have degrees? Yet, relying on YHVH he was able to teach wisdom. My wisdom comes from studying Tanakh and its Hebrew. I don't think I have to show my pedigree to win an arguement.

So his argument apparently is that he's right because God told him so? Or Binah told him so? And of course, for no apparent reason HIS study of the Tanakh is so much more valid than mine, since I went to school and did it.


Ahavah bat Sarah said...

One more thing: Since I have been banned from your site, don't expect me to allow any more of your posts here, either.

Turnabout is fair play, after all.

Ahavah bat Sarah said...


Well, about five or six, actually.

There are far more members in the forum, though, and I presume they agree. The conversation was quite heated - anyone who wanted to admit that the KJU and everyone everywhere else had this on their webpages had lots of opportunities to do so.

Since they didn't, I presume these vocal ones represent the forum, at least.

Of course, there are some 30,000+ Karaites in the world, so a handfull in one forum is not be a representative sample. Certainly the readership of the various shul/org webpages outnumers the forum, which is why my position is that this teaching DOES in fact represent most Karaites understanding of the issue.

To bad Karaites don't have a "chief Rabbi" who could make a ruling. Even a bad ruling would at least be an "official" statement. If such a chief Rabbi ruled this is not the view of most Karaites, then we could ask him why all the websites and the KJU teach this.

I'm certainly baffled.

Ahavah bat Sarah said...

It occurred to me some time in the night that I should cut and paste the original KJU page about the age 20 issue, since I found out yesterday that the person whose screen name is "Yochanon ben Emet" is in fact involved with the University. His name is Ivan Lombarbe. His degree is in Business Administration. He converted to Karaism, which I'm going to presume means he's not a native-born Jew and has no experience whatsoever with Talmudic studies or Rabbinate training inside the orthodox community. He's on the Board of Directors and a Faculty Member at KJU.

But when I got online this morning, I saw I was too late. The page has been changed. You'll notice the typestyle is different than all the other pages on the site now, whereas before it wasn't. (Of course you can't see that in this cut and paste. You'll have to go there.)

This little tidbit of information throws this whole debate into the Twilight Zone, because now a Board Members and Faculty of KJU are apparently anxious to distance KJU from this teaching, which they still have remnants of posted on their webpage. The fact that this person is faculty and the basic info is still there seems to scream "official teaching" to me. How about you, class?

Conversion of Minors to Judaism

First we observe, that a person is not born a Karaite Jew even if both his/her parents are native born Karaite Jews. Such children are born Jewish but Karaite Judaism is not a social club nor can it be genetically transmitted, rather it requires an affirmative act on the part of the individual to pledge to follow the biblical precepts of Tora handed down to us from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and of course Moshe, our Teacher and the prophets and holy writings that follow, collectively referred to as the TaNaKh. Thus a child born of Karaite Jewish parents who elects to follow any other variant of Judaism and who rejects setting the calendar by observing the Aviv and the New Moon cannot be a Karaite Jew despite the fact that his parents are Karaite Jews.

The process of transmission of Jewish values to children is one of education in the broadest sense, so that what is transmitted is not merely knowledge but beliefs and values attitudes and ideals, and above all, a sense of identification and commitment The responsibility for transmitting Judaism derives from Har Sinai when our ancestors on behalf of themselves and their descendants pledged their commitment to a covenant with God saying "We will do and hear." (Exodus 24:7)

The transmission of Judaism is a task for each successive generation of Jews.

Psa 78:2-7: I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter
dark sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and
our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their
children, showing to the generation to come the praises
of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works
that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob,
and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers,
that they should make them known to their children: That the
generation to come might know them, even the children which
should be born; who should arise and declare them to their
children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget
the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not
be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a
generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was
not steadfast with God

While there is nothing wrong with the custom of calling a child to the Torah at the age of 12 or 13, the rabbinic practice of calling that child an adult and severing certain responsibilities towards that child is not in accord with our Tora that bestows adulthood at the age of 20 [1].

Therefore, it is the parent's obligation to teach their children the ways of the Tora, and when they are twenty years old with the help of our Creator, the child will make the right choices. For very small male children it is advisable to circumcise them immediately to avoid them having to make that decision later in life.

It is the practice of the Moetzet Chachamin (the Council of Sages) that Minors over the age of 10 and under the age of 18 must sign a statement consenting to their conversion and that minors under the age of 10 will be converted without a formal statement.

[1] Exd 30:14 Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD.

Lev 27:3 And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary.

Num 1:3 From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies.

Num 1:18 And they assembled all the congregation together on the first [day] of the second month, and they declared their pedigrees after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, by their polls.

Num 1:20 And the children of Reuben, Israel's eldest son, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, by their polls, every male from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;

Num 32:11 Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me:

1Ch 27:23 But David took not the number of them from twenty years old and under: because the LORD had said he would increase Israel like to the stars of the heavens.

Ezr 3:8 Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD.

Ahavah bat Sarah said...

Now someone is saying I wasn't booted off the forum, indicating that "she is the moderator" and has the only authority to ban someone.

Yochanan ben Emet said very plainly in a message he sent me ON THE FORUM that I was "banned" from posting there. Check the archive, if you didn't see it. I had already replied to a number of messages that day before I came down to that one. But it was most certainly not unplain in any way. I was told I was banned from posting.

After which, I unsubscribed.

So there is no doubt that I was booted from the forum - by someone who didn't have any authority to do so. I HAD NO WAY OF KNOWING that Yochanan ben Emet had no authority to ban someone. Since he is a board member and faculty at KJU, I presumed he was a leader/moderator of the forum. His message to me certainly made it seem that way.

So instead of calling me a "liar" why don't you ask Yochanan why he misrepresented himself as having authority when he banned me?

Ahavah bat Sarah said...

Of course, I emailed friends of mine to ask the scholars among them the linguistic validity of my interpretation of the word for "damsel" in Hebrew, giving a rough outline of my dispute. Here is the answer:

From: Failed Messiah
Date: 2007/06/12 Tue PM 05:13:05 EDT
To: Ahavah B.
Subject: Re:

You're basically correct. Judaism does have a concept that sins
committed before the age of 20 are wiped out by marriage - a clean
slate, so to speak. This generally refers to masturbation, eating a
cheeseburger, etc., and not to sins against other human beings. I
would also point out that, well before the Karaite split Jews married
at a very young age, generally at sexual maturity (about 13 yrs old).
The average life expectancy was short, as well. 40 was old. 50 very
old. 60 was an elder in every sense of the word. To wait until 20 to
marry and procreate makes little sense when your children are counted
on to take care of you in your old age, and old age hits hard by 45.
Remember, there were no pain relievers, no truly effective drugs, no
real medicine or medical practice. Probably 20 % or even more of the
population was crippled by arthritis by 45 ?

On Jun 12, 2007, at 4:03 PM, Ahavah B. wrote:

> Shalom!
> I would like to ask you a favor. I would like you to pass this
> along to someone who's into theological arguements, or maybe post
> it on your site and let people comment.
> I am having a knock-down drag-out theological argument with a
> Karaite who claims that the passages in Leviticus concerning the
> incident of the spies, and the recap of that incident in Deut,
> "proves" (according to this Karaite) that the age of accountability/
> responsibility is 20 instead of 13. As part of that arguement,
> this person claims persons under 20 could not get married
> halachically. When I pointed out that all sorts of textual,
> historical, and archaeological evidence shows bronze age and
> forward Israelite girls were so married and had children prior to
> 20 was met with the rebuttal that they were "doing it wrong," not
> according to God's will. I pointed out that adopting this ruling
> would mean teenager rapists would be able to walk away scott free
> and violate the passages where a seducer or a rapist has to marry
> his victim. That was rejected as evidence.
> So, I rebutted with Deut 22, which uses the word "damsel" in
> regards to married girls, unmarried girls, virgins and non-virgins,
> and said that this shows they did in fact marry as teens, as the
> only distinction between the word "damsel" (ie teenager/adolescent)
> and "woman" is age, and that either can be a virgin and either can
> be married.
> The reply was that this position that damsel = young/adolescent/
> teen is "bogus."
> I was wondering if some scholar out there would like to tell me
> whether I am right or wrong.
> I understand if you don't have time to fool with this.

Ahavah bat Sarah said...

This is getting funnier and funnier. Now, I am being chastised because I am either supposed to psychically intuit that Yochanan was not a moderator, have looked at or remembered (from how long ago?) the "members list" to see who the moderator was, and, on top of all that, instantly realize that the ban he was talking about ON THE FORUM was REALLY about ANOTHER SITE.

So I'm a "liar" because Yochanan sent me a message saying I was banned, which I presumed meant the forum SINCE THAT WAS WHERE I RECEIVED THE MESSAGE, not to mention where the conversation was taking place, whereas he didn't "mean" the forum, etc., and HIS Karaite operation is different blah,blah,blah.

This is ridiculous, and the very last thing I am going to post on this subject. Martha can call me a liar if it makes her happy, and convinces herself that she is somehow morally superior or whatever. I don't care. If she has nothing better to do with her time, so be it.

Who is morally inferior here? I'm not the one going around calling people liars for apparently not understanding that Yochanan can't ban people from the forum and that he was talking about some other site entirely.

So, wow, glad that's cleared up. Of course, since I'm a "liar," I'm still banned form the TorahTruthSeekers forum, I presume. After all, they don't want "liars" who are going to burn in hell or whatever hanging around.

(Do Karaites believe in hell? Oops, can't ask that question - Karaites don't HAVE official positions on anything, apparently, whether they teach it and agree to it or not.)

I think I have more than made my original thesis, though. Both Karaites and non-karaties and karaites-who-don't-agree-with-other-karaites and non-karaites-who-don't-agree-with-other -karaites all do have one thing in common: they're just like the rabbis, as my orthodox, non-orthodox, orthodox-who-don't-agree-with-other-orthodox and non-orthodox-who-don't-agree-with-other-orthodox readers can see plainly (gotta get every single POV in there, after all, because some readers might not be smart enough to know that not everybody who opens their mouth represents every possible combination POVs).

Seems like it would be a lot easier if some people WERE intelligent enough to know that no one person represents every other person of that sects, political party, race, religion, ethnicity, or....

Good grief. That's enough.