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My Personal Sabbath: Karaite Perspectives

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Dedicated to Avranan

The fundamental rule to be remembered in the Sabbath observance is from the words of Ezekiel 20:12, “I gave them my Sabbath to be a sign between Me and them that they may know that I, Yahweh, sanctify them.” It is intended to be a day of delight as is evidenced in Isaiah 58:13 and the only burden enforced is joyous singing that must fill our hearts and our souls according to Psalm 92.  Keeping all this in mind, the follower of Karaism can approach the Sabbath with its proper respect and devotion.  With this in mind, you may now have a better understanding of my article on the 39 Lashes of the Sabbath, as I take offense of the burdensome nature to which the Rabbanites have reduced a day of joy and gaiety to one of hardship and self-sacrifice; a burden of guilt where even the saving of lives and the relief of the misery that would follow is to be demanded by their definition of observance.  How do denial, sacrifice and intolerance correlate to the promise of sanctification and uplifting joy?  Somewhere, somehow in their efforts to prove themselves a ‘better’ Jew, a more religious and righteous observer, a ‘chosen’ people, these Rabbanites have twisted even the definition of the Sabbath into a means of ostracizing those that carry a burden of guilt simply because they must commit Rabbinical applied infractions on the Sabbath day.  

As mentioned in the article, the definition of work was referred to as ‘melakha’ or an act of creation.  From this it can be implied that we are not to begin anything of a creative nature on the Sabbath but it is not prohibiting us from carrying on anything that may be crucial, as a man cannot be joyous as commanded if his abstinence from completing whatever the work might be if it was to cause hardship or loss by failing to do so.  As long as the work does not entail such a burden that it does not leave the time for the man to provide the proper respect and prayers to God on the Sabbath day then it is acceptable.  For example, if one is a surgeon and the life of his patient hangs in the balance if the surgery is not performed on the Sabbath, then I believe Yahweh would be more offended that the doctor walked away from his patient, leaving him to die because the man felt it more important to pray for his own personal benefit than to save the life of a fellow human being.  God has already made it clear that the preservation of life supersedes the Sabbath and although the example of the surgeon is extreme, we can broaden the definition to see many other means by which performing some work on the Sabbath might be necessary for the health or preservation of life.  This is ‘avodah’ not ‘melakha’ and the difference should be seen as clearly as night and day.


My Personal Sabbath

I’ve been asked by one of my readers to explain my Shabbot. How do I fulfill my dedication to the Sabbath being located in a land where there are no fellow Karaites, no Kenessah, none to discuss and contemplate Torah with face to face, other than my own family? Some of you may also face this reality of isolation and find difficulty in determining exactly how you are to fulfill the Shabbot obligations. And certainly, when I am in some hotel as is often the case, when family aren’t even accompanying me, how is it that I can still conduct myself in a manner befitting the Sabbath. What does one do when they are a party of one without the support of community, friends, or colleagues? Firstly, it must be remember that God gave us the Sabbath as a joy and delight and with full understanding that even a man alone should not be eliminated from His promise and blessings. The first failure that the Rabbis imposed on the population following the destruction of the Temple was that their joy of the Sabbath could only be achieved through a prescribed means. By that I meant that they wrote their 39 regulations, set in stone a prayer service that seemed more designed to fill the long hours of the day rather than bring joy to the heart, and made it compulsory to attend synagogue if one was to be received by God. According to Shammai, not only did they enforce their restrictions on both man and beast but on inanimate objects as well. How different these are from what we find in the Torah where the only instructions would appear to be to enjoin a holy convocation from Leviticus 23:3 whenever possible, to renew the showbread from Leviticus 24:8 and to provide the appropriate meat and drink offerings in addition to the daily burnt-offerings in Numbers 28:9-10. The rest of the time it would appear the congregation in the Temple listened to the Priests and Levites singing and blowing their trumpets. The people were there to enjoy the service and it would seem that most of the time that enjoyment was determined by their own personal communications and prayers to the Lord without a preset or proscribed transcript that may or may not reflect the person’s direct relationship with God. Based on this primary rule, my Sabbath takes on a very personal perspective beginning with a family prayer that has a specific melody preserved over time. It is an invocation, an attempt to seek God’s attention and hope that over the Sabbath he will actually hear what I have to say. What use are prayers if God is not listening. And just because one starts reciting pages from a book written by someone else does not mean that Yahweh will automatically listen. Why should he? The words aren’t your own. They are merely words written on paper and recited like an incantation, as if compelling God to listen much in the same way the pagan religions recited their magical words and spells but they were not their own words. My Shabbot is an entreatment for Yahweh to hear my voice with the hope that He will listen. There are no guarantees, only the hope that he will see my words come from the heart and that they are stamped with my own personal plea. It is recited shortly after sunset on the Friday evening, preparing for the songs and prayers that will follow. I write the prayers in Roman letter script so that those not knowledgeable in reading Hebrew can have the opportunity to sound out the words while they can read the English translation as well.

On the Eve of the Sabbath

There is only one thing I hope to achieve on the eve of the Sabbath and that is to entreat God to listen to my prayers. I want him aware that I am praying to him but I know there are no guarantees that he will answer them.  Free will works both ways.  I can only hope, and with that in mind I will go to sleep that night knowing that I had done my best to gain his attention with the hope that he will be there in the morning to listen to me. Some who have heard the melody have said it is haunting. I think of it as being compelling. For those in the past that may have sat in the dark, I can understand their feelings at the completion of these versus, their nervousness as they awaited the arrival of the almighty, their fear that perhaps they're prayers have not been good enough, to be heard above those made by others. Because as is clear from these ancient words, passed down through the generations, they could only hope to catch the Lord's attention, nothing could or should be taken for granted. My Sabbath eve is not restricted according to the 39 restrictive categories of the Rabbanites. If I choose to write regarding Torah, Karaism, or other religious issues I am free to do so. For that is as God intended for me to do on the Sabbath. To teach his laws, instruct his people, for I am Kahana, of the family of Aaron.

Shemah koli elohenu, shemah koli adonenu, shemah koli avenu malkenu, Hear my voice our God, Hear my voice our master, Hear my voice our father and King. Shemah hakol shel avdechah, Shemah hakol shel benai Israel, shemah hakol shel hamishpecha Aaron. Hear the voice of your servants, Hear the voice of the children of Israel, Hear the voice of the family of Aaron. Shemah,Shemah, Shemah! Hear, Hear,Hear! Yahweh shemah tefilati ve-shevati aylechah tavoh. Yahweh hear my prayer and let my pleas travel unto you.

(This is followed by the Shemah that most of you are accustomed to: )

Shemah Israel, Yahweh (Adonai) elohenu, adonai ehud. Hear O Israel, Yahweh is our God and our Lord is One.

(And then: )

Shemah Elohim renati, hakshevah tefilati.

Hear my jubilation God and attend to my prayer.

Yahweh shemah tefilati ve-shavati aylechah tavoh.

Yahweh hear my prayer and let my plea come to you

Shomayah tefilah adechah col basaar yavoyu.

You hear the prayers that come to you from all flesh.

Shemah Yahweh koli ekrah ve-chanaini veahnaini.. Shemah Yahweh vechanaini, Yahweh hehyai oizair li.

Hear my voice Yahweh when I call and be gracious to me and answer me. Listen Yahweh and answer me. Yahweh be a helper to me.

Yahweh kerahtichah chushah li haazenah koli bekari lechah. Bekari ahnaini elohai tsedeki hertavtah li chanaini ushmah tefilati.

Yahweh I have called unto you. Make haste unto me. Give ear to my voice when I call you. Answer me when I call, God of my righteousness, you who set me free in my distress, hear my prayer.

Uvha-alot ha-mishpechahi Aaron et hanayrot bain ha-arbayim yaktirehn ketoret tamid lifnay Yahweh,

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And when my family of Aaron lights the lamps at the dusk, it shall be burnt as incense before Yahweh,

ledorotaychem. Ve-la-amod baboker lehodoit oolhalail le-Yahweh vecain la-erev. Ahallah shem elohim besheer va-ahgadlenu betodah.

throughout the generations. And to stand in the morning to give thanks and praise to Yahweh, and so too in the evening. To praise the name of God in song and in thanksgiving.

Baruch Shemchah elohay haelohim ve-adonai ha-adonim.

Blessed is your name, God of Gods, Lord of Lords.

Baruch atah adonai le-oylum va-ed.

Blessed are you Lord forever and ever.

Baruch atah Yahweh elohim elohay Israel oiseh neflaoit levadoh.

Blessed are you Yahweh, God, God of Israel who makes wonderous inventions.

Ve-Baruch shemchah elohay ha-elohim, atah yetzartani berachamechah harabeem venafachta be,

And blessed be your name God of gods, you created me in your great mercy, and breathed into me,

neshama venatata li hachma vada-at le-sapear gevuroitechah oolshoirair neefloytechah ki atah

the spirit and gave to me wisdom and understanding to enumerate your mighty acts and to sing your wonders because you

boray veyoitsair col hanshmoit meparnais oomchalkale la-col maymeet bemeeshpat mecha-yeh,

created and are the Creator of all souls, the provider and sustainer of judgments over death from life,

bechesed oovrachamim rabeem ve-col zeman shehanshemah bekeerbe chayav ani le-hodoit

in righteousness and great mercy and all the time that there is life within me, I will proclaim your

le-shem kadshechah le-heshtabayach beet-helatechah.

holy name, to praise your glory.

Ashrai yoshvai baytechah, ashrai yoshvai bait Aaron avdechah, oyd yehalluchah.

Happy are those that live in your house, happy are those that live in the house of Aaron your servant.

Yechyou leratzon eemray pi vehegyoin leebe lefanechah Yahweh tzuri vegoyali.

Give heed to my desires that my mouth gives voice to my heart before you Yahweh, my refuge and my redeemer.

Ve-imroo Amen.

And we all say Amen

The Sabbath Day

My morning prayers begin with:

Baruch atah Yahweh asher natan menuchah le-amoi Israel kecol asher debair lo nafal davar ehud

Blessed are you Yahweh that has given rest to his people Israel according to all that he said, and not one promise

mecol devaroin ha-tov asher debair be-yad Mosheh avdoh.

has He failed in from all the good promises which he has spoken by the hand of Moses his servant.

Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh, Yahweh tzevahoit meloh col ha-eretz kavoidoi.

Holy, Holy, Holy is Yahweh’s host, the whole earth is filled with His Glory

(I would then follow the same course as is laid out in the Karaite siddur for the morning of the Sabbath. Not necessarily all of it but I would recite a fair portion of it.

Near the conclusion of the Sabbath day I recite only a single prayer. It is the one that I view as pertaining the most to my situation because of its content. It is a reflection of my reality since I spend so much time away from home. It is the one that makes me most comfortable with the long journey that I take alone and provides me with the reassurance that God has heard my prayers, especially those of the Sabbath.

Baruch atah Yahweh, elohim, elohay Israel oisay neflaoit levadoh: oo-baruch shem cavoidoh le-

Blessed are you Yahweh, God, the God of Israel who makes wondrous inventions: And blessed be His glorious name

oylum ve-yemaleh cavoidoh et col ha-eretz,amen, ve-amen. Baruch elohim asher lo hayseer tefilati

forever and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen. Blessed be God who has not turned away my prayer

ve-chasdo mayeti. Anah Yahweh, elohay Israel yehi ratzon melfanechah le-hashkeef memoyn

nor his mercy from me. Please Yahweh, God of Israel, may it be your will to look from your dwelling that is

kadshechah meen ha-shamayim berachahmechah. Ooray begodel anyi oovdaluti ovovshefluti.

holy in heaven with mercy and see the greatness of my suffering, affliction and humiliation.

Behetataif ahlye ruche al tashlikayni melfanechah shecaltah kochi ve-hatzilenu berachamechah

When my soul faints within me, cast me not off from before you. When my strength fails, save me

meecol choivoitie ooslach le-col ahoynoytie oomchoil et col pasha-eye ootcalech shenoytie.

in Your mercy from all my debts, forgive all my iniquities, and pardon all my transgressions.

Bunnymim ve-tachoin ve-tachmoil ahlye ve-al col benai meshpachti ve-hatzlichah. Nah

End my years in pleasantness, and have pity and mercy upon me and my entire family. Please

bemachashavti oov-eski zeh veshamrayni nah ba-eer ha-zoit may-adam ra oomilisteem ra-eem

cause me to have success in my current plans and endeavors and guard me in this city from evil men,

oomayrishay hazman ve-cain tatzilenu mipachad eerooray hara-eem hameetgarim baderech ve-

from violent persons, and from the wicked people of the generation. Likewise, save me from the

hameetpa-arim ba-eer ve-hatzilenu meeyadam ve-al tatzrikayni leeday shoo madam ve-lo leeday

terror of the strife of the wicked who provoke upon the roads and gloat in the cities; save me from them.

Basaar vadam oofchat li et yadchah hamlayah veharchavah vetain betoycanu shalom ooshlach

Make me not depend upon any man nor upon the hand of any living flesh or blood. Open before me Your full and generous hand, give peace among us

berachah bema-ahsay yadenu vehatrifaynu lechim chukinu vetain lanu lechim le-echol oovehged

and send blessing upon all our works. Feed us our allotted bread and give us food to eat and clothing

leelboish ki alechah nishanu oovshemchah hagadol vehakadosh batachnu vechasinu ve-sa-ayni letachayr atzmi el rachoom vechanoon. Gam avdechah neezhar bahem beshamram aykev rav.

To wear for we depend upon you and in your great and holy name do we seek trust and seek shelter.

Shegi-oit me yaveen meneestarot nakini. Gam meezaydeem chashech avdechah al yimshelu be az

Assist me to purify myself, O merciful and gracious God. Morevover by them is Your servant warned. In keeping of them there is great reward. Who can discern is errors.

Aytum ve-nikiti mepeshah rav. Yehu leratzoin imray fi vehegyoin libi lefanechah Yahweh Tzoori ve-goyali. Baruch atah Yahweh le-oylum. Amen ve-amen.

Cleanse me of my hidden faults. Keep your servant from presumptuous sins that they may not have dominion over me. Then shall I be faultless and I shall be clear from great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before thee. O Yahweh, my rock and my redeemer. Blessed are you Yahweh for eternity. Amen and Amen

In Conclusion

I hope this has answered my reader’s question as to how one can observe the Sabbath when a congregation of one, when far from home and all alone.  Because the fact is, when I pray, I am not alone.  I never feel alone.  I know that the Lord has always been there for the Kahana.  I know that as I recite my prayers there are thousands of us saying and doing the same thing.  We may not be in the same room or the same country but we are bonded together.   All he has ever asked from us is faith and adoration.  The history of my family has been like a see-saw; Persecution, murder, exile, fortune and poverty.   Unfortunately for some within the family they took this as a sign that God had turned his back on us, and the rod was no longer between our legs.  But to others we saw it as a test, a personal challenge to our faith just like Job in the Tanach, and we never turned from the Lord.  Adversity only strengthened our convictions, suffering only made us look at our own iniquities as the cause.  In prayer there is joy, there is hope, there is a promise of better times and even one alone can find the hand of God resting upon his shoulder.   Find hope in your prayers.  Find solidarity in your beliefs.  Find redemption in your convictions but remember most of all, your prayers are your direct communication between you and the Almighty.  They never should be simply read as a duty, without the personal ties of which the words reflect.  That is the main difference between Karaism and Rabbanite Judaism. 


BnBashath BnYaqob on September 18, 2010:

Yes she is the Queen of my heart...

Thank you for your response,

thank you praying alongside of me.

What a beautiful concept...

Kahana (author) on September 05, 2010:

BnYaqob, you are never alone on the Sabbath. All hearts are enjoined as one on this day of praise. I am sorry to hear that the Queen of your heart has passed on, but never feel alone for we pray along side of you.

BnBashath BnYaqob on September 04, 2010:

Beautiful. Just what I needed, todah.

I am now alone on this special day.

My Queen has passed on, children away in school.

Thank you and Praise YAH

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