History

Title: First of 23 volumes of the Zohar Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vanbest/2331007233/in/set-72157604112750019/In 10th-century Muslim-ruled Babylonia, the Karaite sect emerged in opposition to the rabbinic establishment by rejecting the Talmud as a human creation set up to deceive and alienate the individual Jew from the Torah while strengthening rabbinic power. Influenced by Greek and Arabic philosophy, the Karaites argued that each individual must rely on one's own intelligence to understand the Hebrew Bible and not depend upon any outside human authority. However, Rabbi Saadiah Gaon, one of the rabbinic sages who directed the Babylonian Talmudic academy in Sura and produced his own philosophical work, countered that while the human intellect is the most essential foundation of faith, the Written and Oral Torah are also necessary sources for understanding divine revelation and must be reconciled with human knowledge.

Karaites Rabbinic tradition
reject the Talmud as human creation
only Hebrew Bible is necessary
accept the Talmud as authoritative
Written and Oral Torah are needed

Title: A Karaite synagogue in Lithuania Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/moacir/3705133933/

In response, the Karaites only increased their polemics against the "Rabbanites" by criticizing their promotion of worship outside of Jerusalem, arguing that all Jews must come to Jerusalem to publically mourn the destruction of the Temple and exchange any material prosperity they have gained in exile for a life of asceticism there. Ultimately, while the rabbis were able to suppress the Jewish gnostics until the 13th-century emergence of Kabbalah, the schism between the Karaites and Rabbanites was irreparable and produced permanent Karaite communities, some of which still exist today.


Study Questions:
1.     Who were the gnostics? Why were they at tension with the early rabbinic mystical seekers?
2.     Describe the development of Jewish mystical thought throughout history.
3.     What is the Hagigah? What does it examine?

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