By Translated by Michael L. Rodkinson
CRITICISM TO CHAPTER VII (KARAITES). THE BELIEF OF SADDUCEES, KARAITES, AND OF THE REFORMED JEWS.
DR. MICHAEL L. RODKINSON.
Sir:--Having read your article about the "The Karaites" in The American Hebrew (23-24), though in general I have found therein likely and probable things, I cannot forbear from calling your attention to several points on which, in my opinion, it behooves not a man like you to take a partial view, while presenting to the readers a historic account. It is the duty of every fair writer of history to give an account of the facts without any personal bias, and where there is a difference of opinion, without sufficient evidence for demonstrating the truth of any, then it is the duty of the historian to state as much, and if he is able to decide between them, he should give his opinion also; if not, he shall leave the task of deciding to some of the readers who might be able, perhaps, to do so. But you have not done so.
You have written (p. 685) that when Anan saw, etc., and have ignored, or are unaware of, what the head of our poets, R. Jehudah Halevi, wrote in his "Cuzari," III., 65, that in the time of Jehudah b. Tabi and Simon b. Shetah Karaism commenced an account of what happened between the Sages and the King Janæus, etc., see carefully that passage, you will find there that R. Jehudah Halevi admits that the doctrine of the Karaites is an ancient one. And you ought to mention this fact.
So also I do not agree with you in what you say, that at present are found only 4--5,000 Karaites in the world. For, in my opinion, the Reformers in Europe and America must be regarded as Karaites, as they decided at their Congress at that they do not consider the Talmud as authoritative, and that only the Pentateuch is the basis of their doctrines. If it is so, then they are evidently also Karaites. And if in some ceremonies they differ from the contemporary Karaites, for this reason cannot separate them from them. You yourself enumerate sects among the distinguished from each other in their ceremonies, and yet they all avow the to be Karaites.
This is what I have wanted to remark, and if you are conscientious, you will modify this, not to mislead the future generations who will read your history, and thereby you will insure yourself against critics, who condemn a whole book when they find in it one thing which is not quite right.
Your obedient servant,
ISAAC LEVI SHALIT.
With many thanks for your ingenious remarks, and for your love of truth and eagerness to save me from unfair critics, I state at your desire what I have to say in reply, and what I have omitted in the article itself, viz.:
First--let it be known that I am not writing the history of the Karaites, but that of the Talmud, and mention those who have contributed to its extension and diffusion, as well as those who persecuted it, from the time it had begun to develop till to-day. For this purpose it does not matter whether Karaites were an old or a new sect, from the time of Anan, as all admit that they persecuted the Talmud to the utmost. And I, who have been, obliged to give briefly the history of the Karaites for the reason that they persecuted the Talmud, used as authorities the latest historians who have treated this subject, as Pinsker, Graetz, Fürst, Geiger and Gottlober, who have all decided that it was an invention of Anan himself. But out of respect to truth, I am bound to tell you that I was not unaware of, nor did I conceal, what is written about the Karaite sect in the "Cuzari." For of this has the head of the reformed rabbis, the learned scholar Holdheim, written long ago, in his book "Maamar Haishuth," as much as it is worth, and philosophized about the assertions in the "Chasar," but he also found that be had been mistaken in this (or that he was compelled to write this, for reasons unknown to us at the present day; I myself say, he wrote thus because in his days the Chasars were reported to also be Karaites, and he who made his book in the form of a controversy between a Karaite and Rabbi did not want to charge it with being a new sect, but admitting one point, namely, that it is an old sect, he still urged that there is no foundation for it). And to make you, and those who entertain the same opinion, to cease to think that the reformers of the present time are "Karaites," and also that the readers may know what the Karaites plead; that the Karaite sect has been from the time of Moses, who was himself a Karaite, and the Rabbinical innovation dates from Jeroboam b. Nebat, we have only to quote from the above-mentioned book of Holdheim, p. 117, etc., and also what he wrote to refute their assertions, p. 122, and also what we will find to remark on his words.
1It is known that according to the opinion of the Karaites themselves in their books, their belief and their tradition is identical with the Pentateuch. Together with the body of the Pentateuch, the Lord communicated to Moses an oral comment, and he communicated to his contemporaries, who transmitted it to the succeeding generations till the death of Solomon. When the people was split into two parties, one adhered to Rehoboam, and the other followed Jeroboam, who sinned and led his party into sin. The Karaites named their traditions the inherited yoke and burden, and according to them there was during all that time only one Torah for the whole people, as one God, and the text and its interpretation were inseparable and sprung from the same source, the father of the Karaites being Moses himself, the trusted pastor who carried all his people on his shoulders. As Jeroboam was one of those who had received the tradition transmitted from age to age as above-mentioned, and one of the men of the Great Sanhedrin, fearing that the royal power should be recovered by David's dynasty, he invented strange and spurious interpretations of the Torah to replace the good ones and true ones which the Sanhedrin had by tradition. He presented it to the people, whom he misled, and brought to evil. The nation believed him, followed in his footsteps, exchanged most commandments of the Torah for others, subtracted, added, at their pleasure. Since then Israel was divided into two sects, and the Torah became two rival and hostile Torahs. Judea kept the law according to the ancient custom received from Moses without any change, addition or subtraction, Karaism. being the modern continuation thereof. Israel, on the other hand, observed the laws according to the new manner, with alterations, additions and subtractions invented by Jeroboam, and Rabbinism is its continuation; later false prophets rose in Israel, and, claiming divine inspiration, misguided them, and even some of Judea, etc. But Judea, nevertheless, continued to be the seat of the Mosaic tradition, as the majority adhering most to the truth. However, as the Temple was demolished, most prophets, priests, Levites and Sanhedrin were slain, while those left alive were mostly of the sinners. Therefore at the restoration of the second Temple, even while there still were prophets, who are called the "good figs," there were two sects and two separate Torahs. After the cessation of prophetic inspiration this split grew and widened. The party holding by the truth said the Torah was only that one written by Moses and given to Israel; the party believing in the falsehood said there were two Torahs, written and oral, invented by Jeroboam and the false prophets, and which they also referred to Moses, who received it (according to them) from the Lord. Thus it continued till the time of Matthew, the Hasmonean (Maccabee), when Antiochus the Wicked, wishing to suppress altogether the Jewish lore, in which time of calamities all great sages of the Sanhedrin who had the true tradition of the comment and the Torah were all murdered, and the tradition till then transmitted, was now severed, and the greater part of the comment and the Torah was lost and forgotten, only an infinitesimal fraction being left. This fact took place in the year 3560 after creation.
As Matthew triumphed, and peace was restored in the land, the men of intellect sat down to learn the Torah and understand it with the aid of their reason. But owing to its great depth, they could not comprehend it, and many diverse opinions existed. Thus the differences between sects, Karaite as well as Rabbinical, arose, and persist to these days.
The quarrel between the two sects grew in violence till the time of the king and high-priest Janeus was reached, and something happened between the sages and him, as is well known, so that be massacred all the sages in his anger, and none remained except one great man of each sect, Jehudah b. Tabai, who held the truth, and Simeon b. Shetah, drawn after the false doctrine of Jeroboam b. Nebat and the false prophets. The king, wishing to kill both, Jehudah b. Tabai hid in Jerusalem, and Simeon b. Shetah was the queen's brother, who facilitated his escape to Egypt, where he stayed three years; being there, he learned from the Israelite sages found there since the destruction of the first Temple, and the days of Jeremiah, all the strange comments invented by Jeroboam and the false prophets. Simeon b. Shetah added thereto some of his own, and built there a great temple and sacrificed there, though it was not the chosen place; and after his return to Jerusalem he wanted to be a great lord in Israel, and taught, therefore, the people what he had acquired in Egypt, as the oral law communicated to Moses, and transmitted by him; and, because he was the king's brother-in-law and had much influence at the court, his false doctrines became popular among Israel, who received the false Torah instead of the true one.
After that Israel was divided into two parties, and the quarrel commenced also in the Sanhedrin, the heads of the nation, and heirs and teachers of the Torah. One sect went after R. Jehudah b. Tabai and was called Sadducees (Zadikim) (Upright), from the phrase "hearken unto me, ye that pursue righteousness" (Zadik) [Is. li., i.], and their justice is everlasting justice, and their Torah is truth; Karaism is a continuation thereof. The second sect followed Simeon b. Shetah, and were called Pharisees (Parushim), separatists, for separating themselves from the old faith of Israel. This state of things continued from 3650 after creation, from the time of Jehudah b. Tabai, till the ruin of the second Temple, year 3828. At that epoch, the majority of the Sadducees were slain, but the Pharisees mostly survived, for which there were two causes: first, because those of the Sadducaic party were the political and warlike men, while the Pharisees were humble and were students; secondly, because the Sadducees were stricter in observing the duties, and their conduct was of much holiness and purity, and had seen that if they were to be exiled, being an unclean earth, and without water for removing the uncleanness, they could not keep the law as it ought to be; therefore they were martyrs, choosing to be murdered rather than live, and all were killed for the sanctification of the Lord. Put the Pharisees who were not strict, and were not afraid of the ruin of the Temple or exile, and chose life rather than death, and went out to Titus, the Wicked, and, surrendering, were all left alive. Therefore, after the ruin of the Temple the Pharisees rose in power, whereas the Sadducees declined. Thus it continued till R. Jehudah the Nassi, the editor of the Mishna. He collected all comments, good and bad, true and false, ancient and recent, all together; he wrote them down in a book without making distinctions between the sacred and profane, unclean and clean; he decided and declared that they are all Sinaic. This occurred in 3945.
After the conclusion of the Mishna, rose up those who composed the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds, and from that time on the quarrel grew in force, and the hate, rivalry and jealousy grew between the two sects, the Sadducees and Pharisees. For the Sadducees held the true Torah, written by Moses our teacher, and those few true comments that have been left from many; but the Pharisees abandoned the written Torah and ignored it as of subordinate importance, and clung to the oral law, that is, the Mishna and the Talmud, making it the thing of the first importance, saying that tradition will be victorious. They said every one who studies the written law has fulfilled only partially his obligations, but every one who studies Mishna or Talmud he has completely discharged his obligations; every one who trangresses the written law is culpable of stripes, who transgresses the words of the sages is guilty of capital punishment, and that one should not object even if they say to you of the right that it is the left, and of the left that it is the right and similar erroneous teachings. Thus it continued to be till the time of Anan the Nassi, the Holy and the Saint, the son of David the Nassi, in the year 4400 after the creation. Anan 1 lived in Babylonia and was of the Sadducees, and for his great wisdom Israel, Sadducees as well as Pharisees, chose him as Nassi, as the head of Beth Din and Exilarch. After his instalment as Nassi and head of Beth Din by the sanction of the Arabian monarch, and the will of all Israel, he became zealous for God and his Torah, and wished to restore it to its primitive purity; he commenced to plead against the oral law, i.e., the Mishna, and deny and declare it as nought. When the Pharisaic sect perceived all this, they rose upon him and devised stratagems to kill him. But out of fear of the king, they did not lay their hands on him, but denounced him to the king that he had rebelled against the law of the government, but the king pitied him and saved him from them, and so he was left alive. When Anan perceived that the Pharisees did not want to return to the truth, he was disgusted with being a Nassi, left his house and possessions in Babylonia, and departed with his sons and disciples to Jerusalem, the Sacred City. He built there a synagogue, "The Temple of God," to pray and to weep morning, noon and evening; and perceiving that the Pharisees were increasing, and that the Sadducees decreased, and fearing lest the true Torah be forgotten entirely, and lest the Sadducees be absorbed in time by the Pharisees, he commanded his disciples, friends and acquaintances, to keep themselves apart from the sect of the Pharisees wholly and with the utmost possible strictness. He forbade them to eat their foods, for they are not careful about all kinds of uncleanness, and eat carcasses and tallow prohibited by the Torah. So also he forbade them to intermarry with them, because they had trespassed the barriers of consanguinity. And Anan interpreted the Torah and commandments according to the true comment, as he had received it from his fathers and masters by tradition, who belonged to the sect of Sadducees, continuing from the oldest times; and as the whole Sadducean doctrine is founded on the text of the Holy Scriptures, Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographas, therefore Anan the Nassi called the Sadducean sect "Karaites," (Karaim), that is, who are called and go in their simplicity. (Ba'ale Mikre): and as the whole object of the Pharisees was to pursue high positions and lordliness, and also because they are many in comparison with the few Karaites, he called them "Rabbanim," (lords, many), that is, the adherents of the Mishna and Talmud. . . .
This is the opinion of the Karaites themselves about their history, and that every one who wishes to know and understand all the errors of the Rabbis (according to them), should see the Book of God's Wars, ("Sepher Milhamoth Adonai"), by Salman b. Jerucham I and the Admonitory letter ("Igereth Hatochachath"), by Sahal Hakohen, and "Eshkol Hakopher," by Jehudah Hadasi Haabel (the Mourner), he called himself thus for mourning, and "Apiryon Asah," and "L'hem Sheorim," by R. Solomon the Turk, also the "Asara Maamaroth," of Elijah the Jerusalemite, and the "Amuna Omen" by Abraham b. Joshua the Jerusalemite, all which books are written to refute the false Rabbinical laws; and of the Rabbinical sages after Anan they say that when they saw that the plain and just truth is evidently on the side of the Sadducees, they invented about them calumnies, that they were Sadducees, and Bithusiaus followers of Zaduk and Bithus, the infidels, and their glory they confounded with shame by conscious falsehood for whereas they had been called Tzadikim from ancient times, they altered their name to Tzadukim (Sadducees, Zadukim), followers of Tsaduk, etc., etc."
. . . 1Here we have given to the reader what we have briefly quoted so far as needful for our purpose, and to spare much of our own discussion by citing the words of another. From "Orah Tzadikim" treating of the split between the Karaites and Rabbis, written by the scholarly rabbi, Sim'ha Isaac of Lutzki in 550. And we, desiring to call the attention of scholars and thinkers to the affirmations of the Karaites themselves about their ancient history, both their charges against us and their justifications of themselves, have abridged their statements, for it is our duty to hear what they say for themselves, and try to separate the truths from the falsehoods as impartial judges, not as advocates.
And, before all, I say, the man is dreaming who speaks that the difference between the Karaites and Rabbis began in the time of Rehoboam; the son of Solomon, and of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, when Israel revolted against David's dynasty. And if the Rabbi, were to make such a senseless assertion, that the rebels against David's dynasty were the same that the Karaites are, beyond doubt the Karaites would say that they pervert the words of the living God and deny what is written in the Prophets, that Jeroboam led a away the people from the worship of the true God who had protected them from the times of Egypt till then, to serve golden calves which he had made, and made a festival in a wrong month which he invented that the people should not go to celebrate the holidays at Jerusalem, and the royalty not be restored to David's house. The Karaites state here a strange fiction, which is ridiculed by every one who has any knowledge of books.
Besides that, any one who has eyes to see, ears to hear, and a palate to taste, that which is written in the Scriptures, is aware that during all the time of the prophets till the exile of Israel and Judea from their land and captivity in the land of their enemies, the quarrel between the parties was not about the interpretation of the Torah, or about the reasons of the commandments, but about the Torah itself, between those who knew it and those who did not know it, between the worshippers of the true God and the idolators. The prophets of the true God, and the best element of the people who followed them, have served God and loved him, and were his true servants, adhered to him and observed his commandments and his law. But the king and the common people devoted themselves to drink, to idolatry, adultery, and other uncleanness of the other nations of their time.
And truly, the author of the "Orach Zadikim," as well as the writers whom he quotes, have not adhered to the truth but indulged in falsehoods, by fixing the beginning of this quarrel at a time which it was impossible to have begun. And if the author and his co-religionists fully believe that the present Pentateuch was known to and in the possession of the names in the days of David and Solomon, Rehoboam and Jeroboam, and that, together with the written Torah and its commentaries,--it was in the possession of the Sanhedrin and the members of the great and small Beth Din of those days, as the same belief was entertained by the Pharisees from the written Torah and its commentaries, we will not plead with them to question or reflect upon this belief, and state from the investigations of the modern as well as the ancient critics, that the Pentateuch was at that time of recent date and no one knew of it because it had been written only in the days of Solomon, and no one had seen it,--for it would be unfair to refute a warranted belief on one hand by a total denial on the other. But we will argue from the standpoint of the Karaites themselves, who adhere to the text and deny the commentaries which are conflicting with the ordinary interpretation of the Scripture. For they themselves have interpreted the Scripture wrongly, and ascribed to it a meaning which has never been intended, by stating that the quarrel between Israel and Judea, or between Jeroboam and Rehoboam, has caused a quarrel, in no way or manner resembling it, between the Karaites and the Rabbis regarding the interpretation of the Scripture. This is one of those falsehoods which have absolutely no foundation whatever, and are shunned by those who are able to distinguish between truth and falsehood.
The statement that the difference between the Karaites and Rabbis dates from the time the difference between Jehudah b. Tabai and Simeon b. Shetah broke out, etc., is nothing but a net spread out by the Karaites to catch therein the people of Israel, etc. But it is up to date not known who is the author of this statement and who circulated it among the Karaites that they might make it the foundation of their structure, which foundation, if demolished, would cause the ruin of the whole structure.
There is no doubt in our mind that the Karaites have borrowed this statement from the Pharisees when endeavoring to separate from the Sadducees, whom they also considered as infidels, and to erect a new edifice for themselves, for the Pharisees also consider Simeon b. Shetah to have restored the Torah to her old .glory, as they state in the mentioned Boraitha: "The world was embarrassed until Simeon b. Shetah appeared and restored the Torah to her former state." And here they found an opportunity to use the Pharisees' arguments against them. The Pharisees say that after the massacre of the sages and those learned in the traditional law by Johanan Hyrcanus, the oral law was forgotten in Israel till Simeon b. Shetah came and restored it. By oral law is meant that traditional comment on the Torah as it was afterward written down and concluded by R. Jehudah-the Nasi and his successors in the Mishna and Talmud against which the Karaites protest. Now, the difference between restoration and innovation is insignificant, and what the Pharisees and Rabbis term restoration the Karaites name innovation, and maintain that Simeon b. Shetah made a new law, that is the oral law which was unknown previously, and had not descended to them from their forefathers: and from this new law a new quarrel sprung forth among those who believed in tradition, which quarrel has no connection whatever with the old controversy between the disciples of Sadduk and Bithus, the infidels, and the Josees, the believers, on whom all Israel leant.
As for the statement of the Karaites above mentioned that their belief dates from the time of the second Temple, etc., and that only Anan brought it to light again, after it had disappeared, the same was very ably criticised by the scholarly rabbi, S. J. Rapaport ("Kerem Hemed," p. 200), by laying out his own plan for the investigation of the causes of the Karaite history; he says, namely: "The activity of Anan was not isolated in its kind, but it war, only a link in the chain of the history of the nations of those days. For there existed religious differences among the Arabians, some holding only the Koran and what Mahomet communicated to his son-in-law Eli, and who are known as the Shitin; while some held the traditions communicated by Mahomet, his wife and son-in-law, his sons, and many disciples, who are known as the Shonin."
And it seems that this religious quarrel has, to our shame, infected the Jews; Anan and Saul, his sons, tried to establish a new sect in Israel similar to the Shitin, for they thought that the Arabian high officers would assist them, for they would be at one with them in taking for the basis of their belief only what is written in the text, and to deny tradition. And how many times have religious movements, similar to those, taken place among the nations among which we live, even in our own times.
Having thus laid before the reader the views of the Karaites themselves, i.e., of those later Karaites who endeavored to justify Anan for his complete separation from the Rabbanism, although Anan himself was very far from doing so, as can easily be seen by every one who has some sense of his own, from the statement of Anan: "And I will prepare you a Mishna and Talmud myself," (vide supra, 27), and also some of the opinions of the scholars Holdheim and Rapaport, we wish to submit our own opinion in regard to this matter.
In our judgment they all erred in making the following two assertions, viz: that the Sadducees did not believe in retribution in the world to come; and that the Talmudists had no knowledge of a sect naming itself, or which was named by others, Karaites. The error in making these assertions caused them to draw farfetched inferences and to write a number of articles, which will not stand any proper criticism. For Holdheim, in refuting upon the assertion of the Karaites that their sect was founded in the days of Jehudah b. Tobai, fixes their origin at a much prior date, by stating that the Sadducees and Karaites are one and the same sect, and that the latter name was adopted by them at a later date, but at the time of the Talmud they were known by the former name, and that accounts for not finding the name Karaites in the Talmud, (see at length, ibid., p. 25), basing his assertions on Maimonidus and Abraham b. David of Paskira. Some of these assertions may be found in Rapaport, although he tries to reconcile both sides. And because the Karaites differed from the Sadducees in that the latter did not believe in resurrection, and, according to him, also not in retribution after death, Holdheim asserts that the Karaites, who are the same as the Sadducees, have adopted that belief only at a later date, when that belief has already been adopted by all other nations and religions.
And coming to such conclusion he justifies the Sadducees and their views, and gives them preference over the Rabbanism and their views, which constitutes almost the whole subject of his book. But we will prove his error, and therefore most of his assertions will prove of no value, and the Talmudists and their views and teachings will remain true and everlasting.
But before attempting to explain ourselves in more detail we feel it our duty to say a few words in regard to Resurrection, which is the basis of the whole contention between the scholars above mentioned and the sects themselves.
The first Mishna in Chapt. Halek (Sanhedrin) reads: "The following have no share in the world to come: the one who says the Resurrection does not originate from the Pentateuch," which is explained by Rashi as follows: "i.e., he who does not believe in the inferences drawn later on in the German that resurrection originates from the Bible; and even if he does believe in resurrection, but says that it does not originate from the Pentateuch, he is an infidel, for if he does not believe in its origin from the Bible what do we care for him or his belief? Wherefrom does he know that so it is? He is, therefore, a perfect infidel." And although some doubt whether these quoted words came from the pen of Rashi, because it was not Rashi's way to enter into lengthy explanations, still all concede that it expresses the true meaning of the Mishna.
Now, if we will take the true intent of the Talmudists, that although one believes in resurrection he is an infidel, if he does not believe that its origin is from the Pentateuch, we will at once conceive that when the latter belief began to circulate among all nations and among the masses of Israel to such an extent that, it was considered an essential element of the belief in God, and that any religion which did not consider it one of its dogmas, was not worthy of being ranked as a religion at all, the Talmudists endeavored to prove the origin of this belief from the Pentateuch and that other nations and religions borrowed it from that source, in order to refute those who asserted that its origin was in the New Testament and, therefore, the latter was the principal religion and the former ceased to exist.
We will now take up another Mishna in Tract Berachoth, P. 54a: "Since the Sadducees have perversely taught that there is only one state of existence, it was ordained that it shall be pronounced: 'From Eternity to Eternity,'" which Rashi explains, i.e., "that they denied resurrection." Rashi again diverts the Mishna from its plain meaning, that the Sadducees did not admit the existence of the world to come, i.e., retribution after the soul separates from the body, and limited their disbelief to resurrection only; (and that the meaning of "perversely taught" means that they perverted from their own opinions and taught the masses that belief).
It is self-evident that the perversion of the Sadducees consisted, according to Rashi, only in denying the inferences drawn to establish the origin of resurrection in the Pentateuch. But from the dispute of the Sadducees with the founder of the Christian religion, or with his disciples, and from the derisive question, "whom of them a widow of seven brothers will marry after resurrection," which is quoted in the work of Azariah Di Rossi, we can easily see that the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection at all.
If we will examine carefully the interpretations of the Talmudists in desiring to find a hint for resurrection in the Pentateuch, and that they did not infer it from the plain statement (Deutr. xxxli. 39): "I alone kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal," which, on every occasion they explained to mean "as the healing follows the wound, so also does life follow death" (see Ben Ezra), but resorted to far-fetched interpretations instead, we will clearly see that the Talmudists did not wish to state that resurrection is expressly stated in the Pentateuch, for in such case they would, of necessity, have to admit that this belief was known and circulating at the time the Pentateuch was given. They only wanted to find some slight reference to it in the Pentateuch, and were of the opinion that the belief in resurrection was known only to a limited number of select men, but not to the masses, from whom it was kept secret, for fear that they might as well believe in "familiar spirits" and "wizards ("Ob and Yaduni"), or in "inquiring of the dead." But only after this belief has been borrowed from the neighboring nations and has been adopted by the masses, the Talmudists found it necessary to find some source for it in the Pentateuch in order to strengthen the latter, although not explicitly stated therein.
It follows from all this that at the time the Mosaic Law was proclaimed, that belief was not only not obligatory, but on the contrary every effort was made to keep it from the masses, and, therefore, no promises were made as to resurrection, but only as to longevity and tranquillity during life-time.
When, however, the founder of Christianity made this belief one of its dogmas and minimized the Old Testament, the Talmudists made it obligatory to believe that its source is in the Pentateuch. And the Sadducees who rejected this belief at all were considered as disbelievers.
But we find nowhere that the Sadducees ever denied the immortality of the soul or that they ever denied the belief in retribution after death, for according to all opinions the Sadducees were not the disciples of Autigonus of Socho, Zaduck and Bithus, who, according to a statement in Aboth d'Rabbi Nathan, rejected the belief in retribution. The name Sadducees, as we have said in the beginning of this article, had its origin from Zaduck the high priest of David, according to Geiger's opinion. Or, perhaps, Holdheim's opinion is the correct one, viz.: that in the beginning they were surnamed "Zadikim," as Simon the high priest was surnamed the "Zadik."
Neither do we find anywhere that the Sadducees repulsed the statement of the Talmudists, to wit: "In order that thy days may be prolonged" (Deutr. v. 16), that means in the world to come which is prolonged (endless), and as the simple proof, if one say to his son: "go up on the roof and examine the bird's nest, and take the young ones, and send away the mother, in both of which (sending away the mother and honoring the father) longevity is the promised compensation in the Pentateuch; and the son in doing so fell and was killed; how can the promise be fulfilled? We must, therefore, say that the promised longevity has reference to life after death." Nor is it anywhere found that the Sadducees refuted the statement of the Talmudists: "That person shall be cut off" (Numb. xv. 31); that it means, he should be cut off from this world as well as from the world to come."
The assertion of those who consider themselves competent to make it, that there is no basis in the Pentateuch for the immortality of the soul, is not correct, for besides the many plain passages indicating. that, the same can also be established from the necessity of the marrying the widow of the deceased childless brother, for if the soul is mortal what is the benefit of "raising up the deceased's name?" So, also, greatly err those who, from this very passage, draw a contrary conclusion, i.e., by asserting that because the soul dies together with the body the Pentateuch commanded that decedent's name be raised up if he die childless, for if the soul dies as does the body, why all that trouble of marrying the widow, or the ceremony of the "Chalitza," and spitting out before the one who refuses to marry the widow of his deceased childless brother, as commanded by the Pentateuch? If the soul derives no benefit therefrom, why all that? There is no honor in all that either for the dead or for the living, and it is very well known that this custom of raising up the name of the deceased on his estates was known and observed in ancient times, and the family that did not observe this custom incurred disrespect.
Thus far as to the Pentateuch, but as regards the prophets or Hygiogropha only a blind man can fail to find in them retribution and immortality of the soul after death. The whole book of Isaiah is full of that, and it says plainly (Isa. lvi. 4-5): "For thus saith the Lord concerning the eunuchs (those who die childless) I will indeed give unto them, in my house and within my walls, a place and a name better than sons and daughters, an eternal name--they shall not be cut off." And not to mention about the early and the later Hygiogropha (Ps., xvi. 10): "Thou will not abandon my soul to the grave," and also (ibid. xxvii. 13): "Unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the Land of life." And it is also explicitly stated, (ibid. xxv. 13): "His soul shall abide in happiness; and his descendants shall inherit the land." Now, how can it enter the mind that the Sadducees, who, according to Holdheim, are the Karaites, whose only endeavor was to give the whole Scripture, not only the Pentateuch, the illiteral meaning of the words will deviate from the literal meaning, and explain all those passages as referring only to this earthly life? We can also see from the fact that the Sadducees were more strict as to purification than the Pharisees in going as far as saying that profane writings (the book of Homer) make the hands unclean, to such an extent that if they touch Terumah the latter must not be eaten; that they believed in immortality of the soul, which they considered to such an extent clean that they will not tolerate the least uncleanliness in a sacred thing. And how much did the Sadducees sacrifice themselves in order to prevent the enemy from defiling the sanctuary? How much did they sacrifice themselves for the sake of the Holy name (קידושהשם), which no one who does not believe in immortality would do? But Holdheim seems to advance a strange assertion, viz., that the Sadducees believed in immortality of the soul and nevertheless denied retribution, which we can by no means understand, because what is the benefit of immortality if there is no retribution? If all are equal and alike after death, the righteous and the wicked, the wise and the fool? (The philosophy of Aristotle concedes at least that the soul of the righteous unite with the (שכלהפועל) after death, but according to Holdheim there is absolutely no preference to the human soul over that of the animal). It is true that we heard some few years ago (in 1885) in Leipsic, at a meeting of spiritualists, in company of the late Dr. Mandelkern, a professor, state in his lecture that the spirit of a certain man who, during his lifetime was one of the easy-minded, rested upon his shoulders for about two weeks, and that he was then of the same disposition as before death, and from this he drew the conclusion that the soul remains the same after death, in the spiritual world, as during the lifetime, but we hardly believe Holdheim ever entertained this belief, which is contrary to common sense, and still more, he endeavors to make his beloved Sadducees entertain such belief.
Dr. Geiger's opinion that the whole contention between the Sadducees and Pharisees was originally over political affairs, the former struggling to have the control over such affairs, because of their descent from prominent families, and the latter not desiring to submit, and from this the contention extended to civil and religious matters; the Pharisees being extremely faithful to their traditions saw in everything the Sadducees differed from them, a denial in tradition;--seems to be more correct, as being also supported by history. The same theory is followed by I. H. Weiss in his work "Dor Dor V'dorshow," who proves conclusively that the Pharisees always laid down their decisions in direct opposition to that of the Sadducees in order to prevent the masses from joining the ranks of the latter. In fact, we see that the differences between the two sects, mentioned in the Talmud, were as to minor things which have very little to do with religious dogmas. We also have proved at the end of Tract Sabbath of our new edition, from page 381 on, that all the eighteen precautionary measures adopted by the Pharisees at the attic of Hananiah, were directed against the priests who mostly belonged to the Sadducees.
We do not mean to rebuke the Pharisees for having acted thus, for they did so of necessity, because the Sadducees endeavored to transplant Hellenism into the Hebrew religion in such a manner that it should not be noticed, and in order to guard against this they opposed the decisions of the Sadducees even when the latter were not contrary to thee true teachings of the Torah, for (Ps. cxix. 126): "It is time to act for the Lord: they have broken thy law."
It is very probable that because the belief in resurrection was so deeply rooted among the masses, because it is very natural that cue should desire to meet again his relatives alive after they had once died, and the Sadducees have opposed this belief and ridiculed it, the Pharisees assigned so much importance to it and endeavored to find some source for it in the Scripture, in order to prevent the names from adhering to the teachings of the Sadducees and thereby preventing the transplanting of Hellenism into the Hebrew faith, although in the very beginning of its development this belief was kept secret from the masses.
The result of what has been stated is that the Sadducees as well as the Pharisees, have expounded the Scripture according to tradition and have believed in the immortality of the soul and retribution after death. And the animosity of those two sects grew from the desire of each of them to have the control over political affairs. Therefore, when the Pharisees in the end gained the overhand, the first thing for Simeon b. Shetah to do was to remove the Sadducees from the Sanhedrin, in which he was very successful. But after the quarrel was carried on for several centuries, and almost during the whole time of the existence of the second Temple, and during that time more than once the danger was imminent that the teachings of the Pharisees should be swallowed up by Hellenism, and especially so during the time of Johanan the high priest and king, during whose reign the Pharisees were executed by the hundreds, and many emigrated to Egypt and Babylonia, the animosity and hatred assumed such proportions that the name "Sadducee" alone was contemptible. Still more, when after the Pharisees had already been successful they were compelled to have public debates with them in religious matters, for their teachings have been deeply rooted among the masses and could not easily be rooted out.
This animosity assumed still greater proportions when Christianity began to develop; for the latter has confirmed many of the teachings of the Sadducees, although not directly still indirectly, and has opposed those of the Pharisees, although they did not differ to a considerable extent from the latter in religious matters and principles, the masses adhering to the teachings of the Pharisees, have greatly despised the Sadducees, and considered them infidels and disbelievers in retribution and immortality of the soul, and in the appearing of a personal Messiah from the houses of David and Joseph, which belief has been circulating among the masses during the last days of existence of the second Temple, and they endeavored, with all their might, to obliterate their teachings. Those few Sadducees who lived after the destruction of the second Temple gathered up all the courage they could and entered into public debates with R. Johanan b. Zakkai, R. Jose, etc., but seeing that their hope was forlorn, and that they would not be able to rise again, they gave up the battle publicly, although they did not renounce their beliefs, or abandon their hatred, and tried to continue the same against the teachings of the Pharisees secretly. At least, during the second century we hear nothing of them publicly.
Now we will stop for a moment to see who the Karaite sect was. There is no doubt that there existed a sect by this name in the days of the Talmudists, for they are mentioned several times in the Talmud under the name "Adherers to the Scripture," (בנימקרא), and in one place it is plainly stated "the Karaites added" (Pesachim, p. 117; our edition, p. 246, see foot note 3). Neither is there any doubt that they were not favored by the Talmudists, as we find in many places in the Talmud remarks reflecting on them, as f.i.: "They who occupy themselves with the study of Scripture are not to be blamed, but, on the other hand, not to be praised" (Baba Metzia, 79), and in Hagiga, it states plainly; Rabh said: "If a man goes out from the study of the Mishna to read the verses of the Bible, this man can have no more peace." And there is no doubt that many similar remarks found in the Talmud have reference to this sect. But we can not, with exactness, fix the time when and to what extent this sect openly declared against the teachings of the Talmudists. However, we do not hesitate for one moment to state that during all that time this sect has brooded an intense hatred to every Israelite who has not followed them, although at times they were compelled to conceal their hatred.
One penetrating glance into the history of the Samaritans and into that of the Karaites; one penetrating glance into the literature of the former and into that of the latter; the curses pronounced by both of those sects against the followers of the Rabbanism; the beliefs and principles common to the religion of both (although differing slightly ceremonially), will suffice to induce one to agree with us that the Karaites, whose sect was established in the days of Anan, and a few of whom are living in our own time, have not only borrowed from the Samaritans their teachings, but that the Karaites are the former Samaritans and that even up to date they have changed slightly only in their outward appearance and in name, but not intrinsically.
From the whole sect we will pick out only Anan, who descended from the family of the Exilarch, who came from the house of David (and perhaps was his mother or grandmother of Samaritan descent), and who, from jealously having scorned and despised the traditional teachings, had gathered the remainder of the Samaritans, who had long ago changed their name and tendency, had become their chief to fight their battles and to separate completely from the house of Israel, for he could afford doing so, being a descendant from a prominent family. But we do not in the least intimate that Anan founded a new sect with new principles.
This, our present view, is not unfounded, but is based on historical facts, for we do not find anywhere in history any such intense, unchangeable, everlasting and unfounded hatred as that of the Samaritans and Karaites toward the house of Israel.
Whenever we find in history that any ill-feelings or hatred existed between two nations it is easy to find the reason for such feelings or hatred; it was either the craving for subjugation of foreign countries, or the desire to reign supreme over others, or, in very ancient times also the desire to prove the supremacy of one nation's idols over those of the other, and many other reasons, which provoked one nation to go to war with another and to take vengeance of one another. But we find no such reason for the hatred of the Samaritans toward the house of Israel, yet when the latter returned from Babylonia and intended to build the Temple, no plausible reason can be found for the endeavoring of the Samaritans to mislead the Israelites whenever they tried to establish the new moon. (See Rosh Hashana, Chap. II., our Hebrew edition, p. 25; English, p. 38.) Neither can there be assigned a reason for the custom of the Samaritans to pronounce curses over Ezra the Scribe, at the time of the opening of the ark of scrolls every Sabbath, which prevails up to date. (See our "The Pentateuch, its Character," etc., as well as for many other things which the reader may find in the Talmud and Apokrypha, and in Graetz's History of the Jews, which, if quoted here would occupy a full volume.) In a word, there can be found no substantial reason or ground for these things, except that they blindly hated the house of Israel. Neither do we find any reason for the slandering and reviling by the Karaites of the Rabbanism in general, and of Rabh Saadiah Gaon in particular, nor for all the false accusations and malicious charges and denunciations against the Rabbanism. contained in the extensive literature of the Karaites.
History shows us that nations who hated each other to the extreme have in course of time laid the weapons aside and made up. History records numerous instances, that sects between whom differences existed, and which even reached such a degree that they resulted in actual fight, have in course of time become reconciled and associated with each other, and intermarried, and the former hatred and quarrels were wholly forgotten. We will not cite as an example the Beth Shammai and the Beth Hillel, who, although widely differing from each other in their opinions, still intermarried, as found in the Talmud; but even the Sadducees and the Pharisees, did they there decline to eat and drink with each other, or intermarry? We do not find that anywhere. 1 The Samaritans, however, and Karaites are singular instances in this respect in history. Although most of them have already intermingled with other nations, not a single instance can be pointed out that they have intermarried with an Israelite or have partaken of his food or drink.
The toleration of the Pharisees and of their teachings is well known. The disciples of the Beth Hillel have done all that lay in their power to bring them into the house of Israel: they credited them in regard to purification; they permitted them to be counted in the number of three for the benediction over the meal (זיטון) and in the number of ten for prayer in the prayer house (מנין עשרה) and in fact, wanted to consider them as Israelites for all purposes, but their animosity and trickery increased to such an extent that they could no more be tolerated, and therefore, the leaders of Israel were compelled to regard them in all respects as idolators, and prohibited their bread, wine, and oil. Exactly the same thing happened with the Karaites whom the Rabbanism endeavored, with all their might, to draw near them and debate with them, until they convinced themselves that their hatred toward Israel is so great that they said "הקרעים אינן מתאחין לעולם"(the rents will never be sewed together), "the Karaites will never make up with us," and they are up to date regarded as idolators.
We know well that we are too brief in this article and that we ought to adduce at length all the facts to prove that all that the Samaritans and Karaites have done unto Israel was not to derive any benefit therefrom, or with a view of subduing them, for they well knew that this was an impossibility, but only out of blind hatred deeply rooted in them, which descends from generation to generation. We know this very well, but we can not enter here into such details, as it would exceed the limits of an article, and would comprise a whole book in itself. We, therefore, rely upon the intelligence and knowledge of the reader that be will know where to find those if needed.
Even in our own times, when the Karaites number only a few thousands, which accounts for their enjoying equal rights with the natives, since Emperor Nicholas of Russia, they make no secret of their hatred toward Israel. When the anti-Jewish disorders broke out in Russia some few years ago, and many of our co-religionists were exiled from the Middle States of the Russian Empire, the latter have petitioned the Russian Government to be permitted to embrace Karaitism. The Minister of the Interior has expressed his willingness to grant their petition if the Karaites will consent to receive them into their midst, and directed an inquiry to this effect to their Hacham in Odessa, but the latter answered that there is no desire on the part of the Karaites to receive the Jews as their co-religionists.
These facts need hardly any comment; they speak for themselves. In fact, during all the long period since the year 760, it has not as yet happened that even a few individual Karaites should intermarry with our co-religionists, or should in any way associate with us. (Even in business affairs they do it only with great reluctance and very seldom.) Is there any stronger proof necessary of this race-hatred? No other race or nation, no matter how great their hatred may be, will ever decline to receive into their midst a Jew, if he only wishes to gain their faith, and will never refuse to associate with him; and the masses, as well as the intelligent classes, have always been favorably inclined toward the Jews. But this hatred of the Karaites has no equal among other nations in any generation.
As the Samaritans have forged and falsified the Pentateuch, as is now well established, so also did the Karaites forge and falsify the Talmud. And we hereby reproach the writers of the history of the Karaites, who without much deliberations wrote; For Saadiah the Gaon, when king, unable to assign any good reason for a statement found in the Talmud (Jerushalmi), that the Beth Shammai have killed some of the Beth Hillel, and vice versa, has denied the existence of such a statement at all; and Sahl, the son of Matzliah, his opponent, in order to prove to the world the delinquency of R. Saadiah, has descended from Palestine to Babylonia with the Jerusalem Talmud in his hand! And they did not conceive that Sahl himself has forged the manuscript of the Talmud by writing in this statement, and he was not the first one to do so, but was probably preceded by others, as we have remarked in the introduction to our edition of Rosh Hoshana. In fact, we are surprised at those who are handling the Karaite literature that they have not perceived it. Why should more evidence be given to Sahl the forger, than to Rabh Saadiah, who states positively that such a statement did not exist in the Talmud? Why should we not believe R. Saadiah that in his manuscript such a statement was not in existence? (To our regret this statement was added to, and remains in the Talmud through the fault of the printers.) Especially so that even now in our own days the Karaites continue to forge and falsify, as proved by many modern scholars at the head of which is Abraham Harkawy, by exposing the falsifications of Abraham Firkowitz, the Karaite Hacham, in all his writings.
The result of all that stated is that from the similarity of action, in all details, of the Karaites and Samaritans we can logically arrive at the conclusion that the Karaites were doing nothing new, but only stepping in the shoes of their ancestors, the Samaritans, who they were, only under a different name, and being so they never descended from Israel. And all that Anan did was to gather the scattered Samaritans and encourage them to continue their fight against Israel, which has been hitherto conducted by them secretly, openly and publicly and with more vigor and animosity.
And if we will examine with a critical eye the literature of the Karaites we will easily see that they are none others than the Samaritans. And in vain has Dr. Holdheim held up as a striking proof the "laws of divorce," saying that such were the opinions of the Sadducees, and that the Karaites who were none else but the Sadducees clung to their old laws. No divorce was granted under the teaching of the Samaritans, unless on the ground of adultery. And as to this also the Talmud bears testimony in stating (as quoted above), "The Beth Shammai are as the Kuthaiz, i.e., the Beth Shammai who prohibited a divorce unless on the ground of adultery, agree with the Samaritans who taught the same thing, and so also are the laws of the Karaites (even in regard to this has Dr. Holdheim blamed the teachings of the Pharisees without any foundation, for formerly even the Pharisees did not allow a divorce unless on the above-stated grounds, and all the leniency as to divorce which was afterwards decreed by the Beth Hillel, of whom R. Aqiba was one, was only introduced because the exigencies of the time required it, for it was at the time the New Testament began to gain strength and become popular, which declared every one who married a divorced woman to be an adulterer; as proved by I. H. Weiss in his work, and all other laws of the Karaites"). The strict observance of the Sabbath, etc., is nothing else but the laws of the Samaritans, and the slight difference in the ceremonies of these two sects is only because the former lived much later than the latter, and had to struggle with other sects who were their superiors, and to submit to them, and therefore many ceremonies were forgotten altogether. As to principles and dogmas, we have never heard that the Samaritans have ever rejected the belief in resurrection or in the world to come. On the contrary, as the belief in resurrection has circulated among all nations, and as the Samaritans have produced no great and learned men, and being widely separated from Israel, it is very natural that they did believe in resurrection as did their descendants the Karaites.
Another proof can be adduced that the Karaites are the descendants of the Samaritans; namely, that the Karaites mourn much more over the destruction of the Temple (and some of their Hachams have even adapted the name "Mourner" or "Mourners"), than we do, because, as the Samaritans they mourn over the loss of their temple on the Mount Gerisim which was destroyed by Janai, and continue to curse him up to date in their prayers.
We could adduce numerous other proofs taken from both the extensive literature of the Karaites and the inextensive literature of the Samaritans, to show that we did not in the least exaggerate our opinion as to the origin of the Karaites, but this article has taken up much more space than we expected and we are unable to give them here to the reader.
Before closing this article we find it our duty to answer the gentleman who put the question to us: "What are the reformers of our times, if not Karaites?"
A careful examination of the literature of the reformers in Europe, as Holdheim, Geiger, Ritter, etc.; of the prayer books of the reformers in this country, and of the sermons of their preachers all over the world, we will at once recognize in them the early Sadducees, with all their particularities. They (generally, not considering here and there an exception) believe in immortality of the soul, in retribution after death and in many Talmudical traditions, as can be shown by the fact that they observe the holidays as established by the Talmudists; but they do not believe in resurrection, neither in the coming of a personal Messiah, and do not recognize the Talmud as final authority in all matters; and self-understood those rules and regulations established subsequent to the close of the Talmud but in its spirit, the same thing did the former Sadducees.
But as our present reformers are descendants of the Pharisees, and the Sadducees being no more in existence, therefore they also have in many things adopted a new form, and recognize the teachings of the Pharisees (as for instance the observance of the sixth day of Sivan as Pentecost) as indisputable laws. But we can by no means accuse the reformers in not believing in tradition generally, as we cannot well accuse of that the former Sadducees. (Even those reformers who have changed the Sabbath, for even this can be explained in accordance with the general rule of the Talmud which sanctifies the seventh day, but not the Sabbath itself, and for this reason the Talmud decreed that in case one forgets which day is the Sabbath, he shall count six days and observe the seventh as Sabbath, see our article in the Deborah, 1894.) Should the reader put the question to us whether the reformers are not to be charged with transplanting Christianity into Judaism, and whether there is no danger that in course of time Christianity will swallow up Judaism altogether, as the Unitarism of our own days, as such danger has already threatened Judaism during the early Sadducees, we will say that this question requires a deliberate answer, and cannot be answered by "yes" or "no" offhand.
We can only state that we have devoted much of our attention to this question, and with a penetrating eye have followed the work of the reformers of the School of Holdheim, Ritter and their companions, in Berlin, of the school of Isaac Wise in Cincinnati, and of the teaching of Emil G. Hirch in Chicago, and having collected considerable data of their past, and having bestowed much deliberation upon their future, we consider ourselves competent to give our opinion about Otis matter. In fact we have prepared a long article dealing specially with the following questions: (1) Does the Hebrew religion require any reforms? (2) If it does, what are they and on what basis can we introduce them? (3) What are the re. reforms introduced by the conservative reformers, and what are those of the radical reformers? (4) What benefit resulted from these reforms in general and in particular? (5) The result of the reforms of Cincinnati and of those of Hirch, and (6) What is the meaning of the name "Orthodox," and to whom shall it be applied? This article we are willing to submit to the readers (after accomplishing our task of the translation) if desired.
END OF VOLUME I.
140:1 Translated almost verbatim from Mamar Haishuth.
143:1 It is well known that the Karaites make Anan's life date 100 years earlier than in reality, i.e., 4400. But S. L. Rapoport, in his "Kerem Chemed," p. 203, has explained and proved their mistake, from the testimony of Sherira the Gaon, and the "Book of Tradition," by Abraham b. David, that Anan rose in the age of Jehuda the Gaon, who was a Gaon from 4516 to 4529 1/2.
144:1 Page 122, Holdheim's opinion.
156:1 An example may be given of the last century when a new sect (Chasidim) established themselves. The greatest authority, at least in Russia and Poland, Eliah Wilna, called the "Wilner Gaon" in conjunction with all the Rabbis, excommunicated the whole sect, prohibited their eatings and beverages and intermarriage with them. Moreover he allowed any one to denounce the new sect, and their rabbis were imprisoned by the government. But what was the end? Nothing at all. All the excommunications, prohibitions, prosecutions, etc., were abolished, without even the result of a meeting, and as soon as the quarrel was over, not one of either party hesitated to mingle with the opposite sect. All are called Israel, all are Israelites, and at the present time nobody gives any attention to all that happened then.