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Who is a Jew – from the Bible to the Beit Din

November 16, 2010 – 2:07 pm18 Comments

A Karaite Jew in Jerusalem. Source: IllCallBaila.blogspot.com

By Simon Holloway

It was about two years ago now. I was having lunch with a friend and fellow contributor to Galus, when he asked me the big question: “What’s your background?” Well, my mother is from Hungary and she moved here with her family after the Hungarian Revolution, which followed swiftly on the heels of the Holocaust. ” And your father?” My father is a fourth or fifth-generation Australian. His parents were proud Anzacs and his ancestors were Poms. “Were they Jewish?” he asked me. At some point no, although we don’t know when that changed. One of his father’s forebears married a Jewish lady and, while he bequeathed his name, she bequeathed her religion. “Ah,” he tells me, having obviously misunderstood. “You’re half-Jewish.”

Now, I’m not sure which part of the story he didn’t understand, but it doesn’t really matter. Who is a Jew remains today a deeply complicated question, and an incredibly interesting one. What makes it especially fascinating is the fact that a significant portion of the world’s Jewish population don’t think it’s complicated at all. A Jew, quite simply, is somebody whose mother is Jewish, or who converted to Judaism. Simple. But here’s a question: how do you know that your mother is Jewish? Well, it’s a simple question and it has a simple answer. Somebody’s mother is Jewish if her mother is Jewish, or if she converted to Judaism. You can see where I’m going with this.

There’s an inane assumption, floating around and continually resurfacing in this context, that the terminus a quo of the whole business is Abraham. My mother is Jewish because her mother is Jewish, and she is Jewish because her mother is Jewish, and I have it on faith that this matrilineal progression goes all the way back to Abraham’s wife, Sarah, or to somebody who converted. I refer to this as an inane assumption because a literal reading of the story that I am referencing would lead me to brand half of this planet with the epithet “Jew”, and I think that we can all agree that would be missing the point.

On the contrary, while Jews do traditionally consider themselves to be descended of Abraham (both ideologically and genealogically), the starting point of this development is actually sixth century Judah. It is around this time, according to the literature that we have at our disposal, that being Judean started to mean being Jewish, and that Jewishness became Judaism. References to “Jews” in the books of Kings, Isaiah and Jeremiah (for example) are more properly references to Judeans. References to the same people in the books of Esther, Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah are references to Jews. With their most defining feature being a focus on their own pedigree, early Judaism was a faith built less around living in Judah than it was around being descended of other Judeans. Jewishness, in its origin, was more ethnically than philosophically determined from the outset, which may have informed the current halakhic impossibility of departure from the faith.

If I wish, I can choose to embrace the belief that I am saved from biblical law by the grace of God, who affected my salvation through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus. And, with a quick and public bath, I am a Christian. But I am still a Jew. Alternatively, should I be so inclined, I can acknowledge, with almost tautological simplicity, that Allah is the only Allah, that Mohammad was a true prophet of his, and that the revelation that comprises the Qur’an is the final revelation. All I need do is accept this, declare it publically and in Arabic and, voila: I am a Muslim. But I am still a Jew.

Indeed, there is no philosophical system that I can embrace, nor creed that I can recite, that will erase the simple fact that I am descended of sixth century Judeans, or of somebody who converted into Judaism under rabbinic law. I can deny the truth claims of my literature, I can deliberately subvert or ignore the halakha, and I can reject a belief in any number of gods, but I have it on reliable tradition that my matrilineal ancestor either stood before three judges, whom she satisfied with her intention to join the Jewish people, or dwelt within one of the many Israelite towns in the southern kingdom of Judah. That is not something that I can change. As the Talmud states, “a Jew who sins is still a Jew” (bSan 44a).

Nonetheless, there is a significant number of people who have the same familial tradition that I have, but who are told that it doesn’t count. In 1983, in an attempt at reaching out to such people, the Central Conference of American Rabbis produced one of their most controversial decisions. Ruling that Jewishness can be conveyed through the father as well as through the mother, this remains almost thirty years later one of the most abrasive sources of tension between Orthodox and Progressive Jewish communities around the world. Does anybody know why?

In Tractate Kiddushin of the Mishna (3:12), we are presented with a series of four cases, each with distinct examples and distinct rulings. All that the four cases have in common is the fact that they are each concerned with the status of a child:

1. Whenever there is kiddushin (meaning, the possibility of an halakhic marriage) and the two partners are permitted to one another, the offspring assumes the status of the father. The example given is that of a priest, a levite or a regular Israelite who marries the daughter of a priest, a levite or a regular Israelite. Should the father be a priest, irrespective of whether or not he has married the daughter of a priest, his sons are priests and his daughters are entitled to various priestly privileges, like the consumption of consecrated food.

2. What happens when there is kiddushin but the two are not permitted to one another? The example given here is of a high priest who marries the daughter of a regular Israelite, or of a priest who marries a divorcee. In such an instance, rather than assuming the identity of a specific parent, the child is said to adopt the status of whichever parent is “lower” than the other. Should a high priest marry the daughter of an Israelite, his sons are not priests and his daughters obtain no priestly privilege.

What happens, however, when there is no kiddushin – no possibility of an halakhic union? Focusing specifically on women, the Mishna gives a further two examples:

3. Should she have the potential of an halakhic marriage with somebody else, just not with this man, the offspring is a mamzer: a Jew who is without certain basic rights, like the ability to contract kiddushin later in life, but a Jew nonetheless. An example of a union that could produce a mamzer would be the incestuous union of a Jewish man and his sister. She has the potential for kiddushin with another man, but she has chosen to marry a man with whom there is no possibility of an halakhic union at all.

4. Finally, what if she is somebody who has no potential for kiddushin with anybody? This is the Mishna’s fourth and final case, and the examples that are given of this are the non-Jewish woman and the female slave. While we know from biblical law that the children of slaves, born in captivity, are slaves (Exodus 21:4), the Mishna is here introducing something that we could not have deduced from the Bible alone. In the event that a non-Jewish woman, who cannot contract an halakhic marriage with anybody, should marry a Jewish man, the offspring is said to follow her in status and to not be Jewish. There are dissenting voices to this outside of the Mishna (in one case, even as late as the extra-canonical tractate of Avot deRebi Natan), but the halakha follows the opinion that I have detailed here.

As for the sociological basis of this particular halakha, which stands out in contrast against the various patrilineal laws of the Bible and other ancient Near Eastern literature, there are various theories. One particularly well-known (and possibly well-founded) hypothesis is that it lies in the fact that identification of one’s father proves more difficult, in several circumstances, than identification of one’s mother. In a world before DNA testing, the simplest solution is to deny admission to all children whose mothers are not of the Jewish community.

If this is so (and of course it may not be so) then we have another clear example of where the halakha becomes immutable, even in the face of innumerable reasons to reject it. I know many Jews, and have met a great many Jews, but have never once met one who did not know the identity of his or her father. If the essence of Judaism is simply to be descended of Judeans (or of those who converted), then should not a child born with certainty to a Jewish father be accepted? Is it not the same thing?

Of course, it is not the same thing, and for a very simple reason. Judaism is no longer just a culture. It is now also a religion. And, like all religions, Judaism professes immutable claims to truth, and inflexible parameters of faith. Should any item of law become unnecessary, the law remains standing, for it is no longer built upon practical exigency but upon the authority of its own antiquity. What happens when individual groups decry this?

On a strictly political level, the State of Israel deems Jewish for the purposes of aliyah anybody who suits the Nazi definition: one grandparent, either side. Yet even so relaxed a definition comes fraught with complications, as has been evident in the influx of Jews who know nothing of rabbinic Judaism (many Ethiopians being a case in point), or who reject it outright (many Egyptians being another). Indeed, the Egyptians are of particular interest. In rejecting rabbinic law, members of the Karaite community emphasise strictly patrilineal descent. After all, a Jewish sola scriptura would lead you to no other conclusion.

Tensions between rabbinic and non-rabbinic Jews have always been fraught (despite the fact that Karaites once comprised some 40% of the total Jewish population), which makes all the more surprising certain recent halakhic developments. In 1973, former Sephardi chief rabbi Ovadiah Yosef declared Karaites to be Jewish and, despite the objections of prominent Ashkenazi rabbis (notably the Tzitz Eliezer), even permitted marriages between Karaites and Orthodox Jews. While the Karaites might fall under a “grandfather clause” (or a great-grandfather clause, with “great” being to the power of ten), might this decision serve as the harbinger of more solid ties between Orthodox and Progressive Judaism in the future? Or is Progressive Judaism too young and too presumptuous for this to be envisaged?

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18 Comments »

  • shalomalyisroel says:

    This issue is a fascinating one. The Reform notion of patrilineal descent was created for reasons of expediency – arresting the tide of intermarriage among Reform-identifying Jews in the US. Perhaps if the movement had sought to promote greater Jewish identity and practice among its adherents, the patrilineal ruling would not have been necessary.

    By contrast, the significantly low rate of intermarriage among those identifying with orthodoxy lends credence to the argument that only Torah-true Judaism can ensure a future for Jews and Judaism in the US and beyond… (as well as negating any impetus for seeking to amend the matrilineal principle).

  • Chaim from Israel says:

    Interesting perspectives by Rabbi Raymond Apple, formerly of Sydney’s Great Synagogue, on matrilinealty:

    1. Historical background to the matrilineal principle: http://www.oztorah.com/index.php?s=matrilineal

    2. Argument against patrilinealism (quotes Lord Jakobovits’ reasoning):
    http://www.oztorah.com/2008/12/patrilinealism-ask-the-rabbi/

  • frosh says:

    Hi Simon,

    Very interesting article indeed.

    Just one thing though I would like to point out.

    You write that you “have never once met [a Jew] who did not know the identity of his or her father.”

    We all assume we know who our father is, but statistics apparently show but studies have shown that the level of paternity uncertainty or mistaken paternity is generally underestimated.

    I’m not casting aspersion on anyone, but merely pointing out an overlooked reality.

    Having said that, I’m not arguing for a purely ‘genetic’ basis of determining who is a Jew, because as you have pointed out in your article, the number of people today who would have Sarah (or ‘the Sarah figure’) as a common maternal ancestor would be far more than the ‘recognised’ Jewish population.

    Rather, I would favour a definition based also on how someone was raised, particularly where there is not the certainty of a Jewish mother. I understand that this would bring its own set of complications, but I still think that moving away from a purely ‘genetic’ determination would be a good idea.

  • Chaim: Thankyou for those two articles by Rabbi Apple! I shall disagree, however, with a claim that he makes in both of them. In the first of his articles, he claims that no halakhic authority has ever departed from the matrilineal principle, and then cites a gemara in Kiddushin, as well as passages written by the Rambam and Joseph Caro. In the second of those articles, he makes it more clear that he is relying upon the Talmudic passage and the passages in Mishneh Torah and the Shulchan Arukh, but still makes the same claim that this has never been disputed. On the contrary, as I noted above, opinions in opposition to that mishna can be found outside of it – at one point even as late as Avot de’Rebi Natan.

    Shaye Cohen, in his hugely recommended The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties (Berkely: University of California Press, 1999) devotes a chapter to this, entitled “The Matrilineal Principle” (263-307). He covers the issue in some considerable depth, and notes two dissenting opinions. One is the opinion of a certain Jacob of Kefar Neburya, who in tractate Kiddushin (3:12 [cited by Cohen as 3:14]) and Yevamot (2:6) of the Palestinian Talmud declares the offspring of a non-Jewish woman and a Jewish man to be Jewish. He is lashed by R’ Haggai for this opinion and he subsequently recants. For a fascinating variation on the story, see Genesis Rabba 7:2. Same story (more or less), but the opinion for which Jacob is lashed is that fish require shechitah!

    In Avot deRebi Natan 16:2, R’ Zadok refuses to have sexual intercourse with a non-Jewish girl on the grounds that doing so might “multiply mamzerim in Israel” (והרביתי ממזרים בישראל). Cohen notes (280-281, n62) the difficulty that this has caused exegetes over the years, given the generally consistent rabbinic agreement with the matrilineal principle that this mishna records.

    Even so, to suggest that the mishna in question is ascribing to the mother the role of determining the child’s religion (as Rabbi Apple does, by quoting Rabbi Jakobovits) would be to overlook the fact that this mishna shows no interest in the relationship between a Jewish woman and a gentile man. (Indeed, there is halakhic dispute over whether or not their offspring would be a mamzer, based on extrapolation from the third example in mKidd 3:12 – as explained in my post). For that reason, I was very careful to note that this is an hypothesis only, and one that is not necessarily founded in reality. (Frosh, your comment came through while I was editing mine: you are correct. The fact that I alone have never met somebody whose parentage was in dispute does not change the fact that many others may have, and was merely indicative of the halakha’s inflexibility.)

    As for Shalomalyisrael‘s assertion that the decision of the CCAR was for “reasons of expediency” (and Rabbi Apple’s assertion in the second article that it represented a desire to be more inclusive), I think that’s a fair point. I would be being disingenuous if I were to intimate that there was a deeper halakhic motivation behind it than that. Nonetheless, interested parties might consider extrapolating from the opinion of R’ Asi (bYeb 16b; cf: Tosafot ad loc.), who declares that non-Jewish men who marry Jewish women can be assumed to be descendents of the ten tribes.

    And by the way…, when Rabbi Apple (beginning of his second article) suggests that “someone” once said that the poor will always be with us, I wasn’t sure whether he was speaking with his tongue in cheek or not, but that someone was Jesus (Matt 26:11, Mark 14:7, John 12:8). An interesting segué, then, to the fact that the nascent Christian movement was every bit as concerned with the provenance of their identity as were the rabbis and, while they arrived (at the end of the day) at a very different religious philosophy, there is a line in Revelation (3:9) that might be of interest to Chaim. In condemning his opponents, the author refers to “those who say that they are Jews but are not”. It seems a curious feature of all definitions that they relate not only to one’s personal identity, but to our ability to categorise others as well. What about the flip side of the coin? Those who say that they are not Jewish, but who apparantly are?

  • Shira Wenig says:

    Simon, really interesting article.
    You mentioned that a reading limited to Torah Shebichtav would lead one to think that only patrilineal descent is emphasised, accounting for the Karaite view.

    I just wanted to point out that there might be some ambiguity about this within the Torah itself. The “mekalel” (Vayikra 24:10) is identified as “ben isha yisr’elit v’hu ben ish mitzri”. Rashi understands that he was not “Jewish”, but Rashi’s description of the importance of paternal lineage is more concerned with tribal affiliation rather than Jewish status – perhaps implying that tribal affiliation was all that mattered at that point.

    However, the text itself seems to be very careful to list his ancestry accurately, while avoiding explicitly commenting on the man’s own status. In fact, later on it shortens his ancestry and refers to him only as “ben hayisr’elit” – although this may not be a comment on which parent’s lineage is more relevant. The use of his mother’s identity only may be for any number of reasons, eg. to contrast him with the full-fleged “ish hayisr’eli” with whom he was fighting – which is the opinion of my great grandfather Rabbi Harry Freedman in his commentary. This raises the interesting possibility that, at least at that time, there may have been degrees of belonging to the nation.
    Nevertheless, the emphasis on maternal lineage in this instance can’t be ignored.

  • Marky says:

    Simon Holloway writes “the Palestinian Talmud”

    Oh, so now they are claiming the Talmud. What next? Palestinian Nach? Palestinian Beis Hamikdosh?

  • Marky says:

    Simon Holloway writes “someone once said that the poor will always be with us”

    This is written in the Torah “Ki lo yechdal evyon mikerev haaretz”

    j.c. must have copied it. It was written long before he was around..

  • AccidentialKorach says:

    For more Amoraim see also Yevamot 44b-45b

    Rabbah b. Bar Hana (circa 300 CE) said in the name of R. Yohanan: All agree that where a slave or an idolater had intercourse with a daughter of an Israelite the child is a mamzer.

    For when R. Dimi (circa 290 – 350 CE) came he stated in the name of R. Isaac b. Abudimi in the name of our Master [R. Judah the Prince] ‘If an idolater or a slave had intercourse with the daughter of an Israelite the child [born from such a union] is a mamzer ‘.

    Josephus also reports that King Herod was Jewish even though he also reports that Herod’s mother was Arabian and not Jewish. See …

    [Jewish War 1.181] Now this Antipater married a wife of an eminent family among the Arabians, whose name was Cypros, and had four sons born to him by her, Phasaelus and Herod, who was afterwards king ….

    [Jewish Antiquities 15.385] [Josephus quoting Herod] “Our fathers, indeed, when they were returned from Babylon, built this temple to God Almighty”

    [Jewish War 2.266] There was also another disturbance at Caesarea, – those Jews who were mixed with the Syrians that lived there rising a tumult against them. The Jews pretended that the city was theirs, and said that he who built it was a Jew, meaning king Herod [ie the Jews see herod as Jewish]. The Syrians confessed also that its builder was a Jew [ie Herod was Jewish even according to the Syrians]; but they still said, however, that the city was a Grecian city; for that he who set up statues and temples in it could not design it for Jews.

  • AccidentialKorach says:

    Samaritans require both parents to be Samaritan. However in recent times (early last century) they have been prepared to accept as Samaritan those whose fathers are Samaritan and mothers are Rabbinic Jews – for patrilineal descent reasons – see link to intersting research article

    http://www.anthrobase.com/Txt/I/Ireton_S_01.htm

  • Joe in Australia says:

    There’s a solid Biblical basis for matrilineal descent in Ezra 9:12 and 10:1-3.

  • So much to respond to!

    Joe: In a nutshell, I think that you are correct. In more detail, I would warn against further perceiving the origins of this principle within the Torah texts on which Ezra is based (Exodus 34:16 and Deuteronomy 7:3). Neither of those texts speak of dissolving marriages with foreign women, nor of considering their offspring to be alien, so while they serve as the base texts on which Ezra’s laws are built, they are not adequately reflected in the same. If you are interested, there is a fantastic book that treats of this issue in considerable depth: Joseph Blenkinsopp, Judaism – The First Phase: The Place of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Origins of Judaism (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2009). He draws attention (68-69) to the number of individuals within Tanakh who contravene Ezra’s “principle”. Not only that, but as Shaye Cohen notes (Beginnings of Jewishness, 255-260), the law of the “beautiful captive” contravenes this principle as well. Blenkinsopp’s conclusion is that “endogamous marriage… was generally considered the preferred option but without any overlay of ritual exclusivity” (68).

    That’s in the Torah, of course. Just as the Torah law is adapted by the author of “Ezra” (for the sake of an argument, let’s call him Ezra), so too is the material in Ezra adapted by the rabbis. But just as the Torah law is not reproduced in Ezra without alteration, so too is the Ezra law developed exegetically by the rabbis into what they presented in Mishna Kiddushin. I would be most interested in knowing what Karaite Jews do with the Ezra passages! I suspect that they would consider his ad hoc pronouncements in light of other passages within the same text that lack an overt Torah basis.

    Shira: I am very pleased that you drew that passage to my attention, as it is something that I had overlooked. How do you feel that it implies any ambiguity about matrilinealism? If anything, the passage seems to be suggesting a patrilineal descent! The fact that this individual, who was possessed of an Israelite mother, was not really a member of the community (you very rightly suggest a sort of graded degree of belonging) would demonstrate that the focus is upon his father. This accords with, what we can assume to be, the full degree of belonging possessed by the offspring of Moses, Judah and Joseph, each of whom married either a Midianite, Canaanite or Egyptian woman.

    AccidentialKorach: The material about the Sadducees is interesting in that it appears to be cognate to the decision of the CCAR. There are considerably fewer than one thousand Samaritans left in the world, and I have no doubt that the decision to expand their membership criteria was related to existential (rather than strictly academic) reasons. Sean Ireton, in the second chapter of that research article, also lists the high rate of consanguinity in the Samaritan community, leading to a high incidence of physical debilitation (the late Prof. Alan Crown, of Sydney University, did a lot of research on this), and the fact that they have too few women in their own community. It is fascinating, then, just how zealous the chief protagonists in Ezra and Nehemiah were, when excluding the Samaritans (who worshipped the same God, and who read – more or less – the same Torah) would have swelled their numbers considerably as well.

    As for the extra Talmudic material, none of this disputes the matrilineal principle, but is important in that it provides additional information on top of the mishna. While the mishna was concerned only with female slaves, the gemara here is including male slaves as well. The presence of an “idolater” (עובד כוכבים) is especially fascinating but, again, not in opposition to our mishna in that it is a non-Jewish man.

    And Josephus! Oy gevalt. So Josephus says that the Syrians say that the Jews think that Herod is Jewish. Interesting, certainly (Cohen’s opening chapter is entitled “Was Herod Jewish?”), but too confusing for me. Can we resolve this by suggesting that he sat before the Sanhedrin and converted, moments prior to chopping off their heads?

    And Marky, your first comment made me laugh out loud :) It’s good, then, that the Tiberian system of vocalisation won out, or they might have been able to claim that as well! As for your second comment, I don’t think Jesus “copied” anything from the Torah – leastways, no more than you or I “copy” from the Torah when we quote it. If you go through the Gospels, it is interesting to observe the fact that each of the biblical quotations are taken from the Septuagint. The Septuagint, like the Masoretic Text, has its own complex history, and there is no “original text” at our disposal, so they don’t match what we have exactly, but they match it more or less. This one doesn’t match it at all, so while he might have been referencing Deuteronomy (I never thought of it that way, but it makes sense), Rabbi Apple’s choice of words was not taken from Deuteronomy, but from the King James translation of Matthew, Mark and John.

  • dovid segal says:

    shira

    see:

    http://bhol-forums.co.il/topic.asp?topic_id=2140740&forum_id=1364

    page 1 from:

    שאלת היוחסין והצורך בגיור שבפרשת המקלל, נידונים גם בדברי הראשונים

  • Shira Wenig says:

    Thanks Dovid – clearly there are many ways to interpret this passage in both the patrilineal and matrilineal directions.
    The Ramban’s view is particularly compelling – that Jewishness is matrilineal while tribal affiliation (with its corollary, the kehuna) is patrilineal. Perhaps this is the reason for the mekalel’s lesser degree of belonging than the full-fledged ish hayisr’eli – particularly if the issue that preceded the fight concerned the mekalel’s tribal affiliation, as Rashi states.

    Simon, my intention was that from a purely pshat level, the emphasis seems to be at least as much on his mother’s heritage as his father’s, and possibly even more so.

  • dovid segal says:

    shira

    I forgot to mention that nishtich bin ich.

    ————

    simon

    The tshuva of Tzitz Eliezer is in שו”ת ציץ אליעזר חלק ה סימן טז dated תמוז תשט”ו/june-july 1955, that was a response to a ruling of rabbi Y.M. Tolidano, who was at that time the sfaradi chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, that karites are permitted to marry Jews לאחר
    קבלת דברי חברות

    The psika of rabbi tolidano is mentioned in שו”ת יביע אומר חלק ח – אבן העזר סימן יב where he writes:

    גם הגרי”מ טולידאנו זצ”ל בהיותו במשרת הרב הראשי וראב”ד לתל אביב יפו, הודיעני במכתבו אלי, שגם הוא נהג לקבל קראים במצרים ולהתירם לבוא בקהל ה’, ושגם בתל אביב נזדמן לו קראי אחד שבא להסתופף בנחלת ה’, ודנו בזה הוא ועמיתו הגאון רבי יוסף צבי הלוי, אב”ד תל אביב, ועוד חבר נוסף מבית הדין, ועשו מעשה רב והתירוהו לישא אשה מישראל, לאחר קבלת דברי חברות. ע”כ. גם בבית הדין הרבני חיפה פסקו הלכה למעשה להתיר את הקראי לישא ישראלית, מטעמים מיוחדים שהיו שם, וסמכו על המעשה של רבינו אברהם הנגיד והרדב”ז, ובפרט שהרה”ג נסים אוחנה ז”ל עם רבנים אחרים מארצות המזרח התירו בחיפה נישואי קראים במקרים קודמים. וחתמו על הפס”ד הנזכר, הרה”ג רבי יהושע קניאל, והרה”ג יעקב פינק, והרה”ג שלמה ילוז. (ונדפס בספר המעמד האישי של הקראים עמוד קמא והלאה). והגאון הרב הראשי לישראל רבי איסר יהודה אונטרמן זצ”ל עודדני מאד להקל בזה בא”י, כאשר נהגתי במצרים, בעקבות גאוני מצרים הנ”ל

    Most of this long t’shuva was written by rabbi yosef in Cairo in 1949 (with addition that added before he pulished it in “she’elot utshuvot Yabia Omer” vol. 8, Even Ha’ezer siman 12).

    what was in 1973?

    shabbat shalom

  • Thank you, Dovid! That was the psak that I was referring to, although I was unaware that it effectively constituted a representation of an earlier psak by Rav Tolidano (of whose existence I am otherwise unaware). Ariel Freilich, in Jews of the Amazon: Self-Exile in Earthly Paradise (JPS, 1999), refers on p244 to the fact that Rav Yosef, in 1973, pronounced Israel’s Karaites (along with Israel’s Ethiopians communities) fully Jewish. I was familiar with the existence of this psak from another source, and made the erroneous assumption that 1973 must have been the year of its composition. Do you have access to the original psak of R’ Tolidano? Or of the wording of the Tzitz Eliezer?

    Many thanks again: I do not have this literature at my disposal (although it is tempting to acquire it, much as I hate reading from a screen) and I appreciate you taking the time to copy all of that out. Shabbat Shalom.

  • dovid segal says:

    I don’t have the original psak of R’ Tolidano? and i don’t think that there was a written psak published, all that i know is that rabbi yosef wrirtesגם הגרי”מ טולידאנו זצ”ל בהיותו במשרת הרב הראשי וראב”ד לתל אביב: יפו, הודיעני במכתבו אלי, שגם הוא נהג לקבל קראים במצרים ולהתירם לבוא בקהל ה’, ושגם בתל אביב נזדמן לו קראי אחד שבא להסתופף בנחלת ה’, ודנו בזה הוא ועמיתו הגאון רבי יוסף צבי הלוי, אב”ד תל אביב, ועוד חבר נוסף מבית הדין, ועשו מעשה רב והתירוהו לישא אשה מישראל, לאחר קבלת דברי חברות Or of the

    i do have the wording of the Tzitz Eliezer, and you will send me your e mail adress to my address: davidsegal18@hotmail.com, i will send you his teshuva as an attachment.

    you may find information about harav Tolidano here:

    יעקב משה טולידאנו – ויקיפדיה

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