or Qaraism

Jewish religious movement that denied the authenticity of the oral law and defended the Hebrew Bible as the only basis of doctrine and practice.

It originated in 8th-century Persia, where its members were called Ananites after Anan ben David, who worked out a code of life independent of the Talmud. Members later adopted the name Karaites from the Hebrew qara ("to read"), emphasizing their reliance on a personal reading of the Bible. The movement spread through Egypt and Syria, winning only small numbers of followers and enduring many schisms. It still has about 10,000 members in Israel.

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▪ religious sect
also spelled  Karaitism, or Qaraism 

      (from Hebrew qara, “to read”), a Jewish religious movement that repudiated oral tradition as a source of divine law and defended the Hebrew Bible as the sole authentic font of religious doctrine and practice. In dismissing the Talmud as man-made law substituted for the God-given Torah, Karaism set itself in direct opposition to Rabbinic Judaism.

      The movement began in 8th-century Persia. Though its members were never numerous, it spread to Egypt and Syria and later into Europe by way of Spain and Constantinople.

      Karaism proclaimed the Bible to be self-explanatory and sanctioned personal interpretations of the Scriptures. The movement, however, soon found it necessary to develop an oral tradition of its own in applying scriptural principles to daily life. Asceticism became so severe that adherents were not only forbidden to kindle a fire on the sabbath but even to warm themselves or use the light from a fire lit on Friday. The festival of Ḥanukka was suppressed, and great rigour was applied to dietary laws, ritual purity, fasting, clothing, and marriage (adherents were forbidden to marry outside the sect). An uncompromising monotheism led to the exclusion of traditional Jewish ritual objects such as phylacteries and mezuzahs.

      Initially, supporters of the movement were called Ananites, after Anan ben David, the first literary figure of the group, who worked out a code of life independent of the Talmud. During the 9th or 10th century, the name Karaites was adopted to underscore the group's emphasis on a personal reading of the Bible.

      For a long time the movement suffered from numerous schisms and from a lack of competent scholars to defend its position on the Bible. Saʾadia ben Joseph (10th century) was an outspoken and effective opponent of Karaism and tried to exclude Karaites from Jewish communities. He and others, however, were forced by Karaism to develop Jewish philosophy and sharpen their exegesis to defend rabbinic Judaism's use of oral tradition (and the Talmud in particular). These controversies stimulated both sides into producing a great mass of polemical literature in Hebrew and Aramaic, the largest collection of which is now in the St. Petersburg Public Library.

      Karaites still exist today, about 10,000 of them living in or near Ramla, outside Tel Aviv–Yafo, and probably small enclaves survive in Poland and Russia. Their liturgy is less rich than that of other Jewish congregations, having little poetry but many readings of scriptural texts.

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Karaism — Ka ra*ism, n. Doctrines of the Karaites. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Karaism — noun Etymology: Late Hebrew qĕrāīm Karaites, from Hebrew qārā to read Date: circa 1883 a Jewish doctrine originating in Baghdad in the eighth century that rejects rabbinism and talmudism and bases its tenets on Scripture alone • Karaite noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • karaism — n. principles of the ancient Jewish Karaite sect, belief that the written Torah is the only source of Jewish law …   English contemporary dictionary

  • karaism — kara·ism …   English syllables

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  • Karaite — Karaism /kar euh iz euhm/, Karaitism /kar euh uy tiz euhm/, n. Karaitic /kar euh it ik/, adj. /kar euh uyt /, n. Judaism. a member of a sect, founded in Persia in the 8th century A.D. by the religious leader Anan ben David, that rejected the… …   Universalium

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  • Talmud — Rabbinic Literature Talmudic literature Mishnah • Tosefta Jerusalem Talmud • Babylonian Talmud Minor tractates Halakhic Midrash Mekhilta de Rabbi Yishmael (Exodus) Mekhilta de Rabbi Shimon (Exodus) Sifra (Leviticus) Sifre (Numbers Deuteronomy) …   Wikipedia

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