(photo credit: Maor Dabah)
Pop quiz: The Four Species of Succot, which starts Wednesday night, are lulav
(palm branch), hadass (myrtle), aravah (willow) and etrog (citron) – correct or
According to mainstream or rabbinical Judaism the answer is correct.
But if you ask Karaite Jews, members of an ancient Jewish movement which
strictly adheres to the Bible and ignores the Talmud and rabbinical law, the
answer is more complicated.
“The Torah does not talk about hadass, but of
etz avot, which is boughs of thick trees and can be from any tree, not just the
myrtle,” Maor Dabah, the educational coordinator for the Universal Karaite
Judaism Movement, told The Jerusalem Post
disagreement over the arava. Regarding the lulav, the command is to use the
palm-shaped date. But the lulav isn’t palm-shaped,” he said.
the etrog, the revered citron which is the prize possession of many Jewish
families during the holiday and can fetch prices of up to a few hundred dollars
on the market? Karaite Jews disregard it completely.
“Again, Torah does
not use the word etrog. It talks about peri etz hadar, that’s mean ‘fruit of
goodly tree’ and can be any fruit which is new and fancy. Citron etrogs are
relatively new imports; there were none in the Land of Israel during the First
Temple, so we use regular lemons, oranges or olives instead. From Nehemia 8:14
we can easily learn that the commandment of the Four Species of Succot is to
build the succa from them, and not to play with them by our
Besides Succot, Karaite Judaism differs significantly from other
For instance, descent is through the father, not
the mother; Karaites do not lay tefillin; Hanukka is not celebrated
isn’t in the Torah, and the dietary prohibition against eating a calf in
mother’s milk is taken literally and doesn’t apply to mixing dairy and
products in general.
The Karaite movement emerged as a distinct form of
Judaism during the ninth century in Babylon and over the course of
had ups and downs in its ties with the rabbinical stream.
European branch of Karaite Judaism, which survived well into the 20th
has largely disappeared.
But most members of Egypt’s Karaite community
moved to Israel after it was founded.
Today, there are between 20 to 50
thousand Karaite Jews in the world, the majority of which live in
“We are commanded to live in Israel and we serve proudly in the
army,” Dabah said.
“There are concentrations of Karaites in Ramle,
Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Moshav Matzliah, Moshav Ranen, Beersheba and
like to live close to the land.”
He said the biggest Karaite Succot
gathering of about 300 people is expected to take place at their ancient
synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City on the third day
Succot. But if you’d like to show up at the event and witness the
traditions of this branch of Judaism, just remember they’re on a
different time than the rest of us.
“We will celebrate Succot a day after
rabbinical Judaism this year, so the pilgrimage will be on the 26th of
September, which is the third day of Succot according to our
not the 25th. Those different times happen because we start the months
to the new moon, like in the biblical age,” Dabah said .