Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Letter of the St.-Petersburg Karaim Community to the Falashas

"Peace to You dear brothers. Hallow you YHWH of Israel, children of Abaraham, Yitzhaq and Yakov! From many books we learned, that you are our brothers and that You live in distant country of Abisinia, in country which is called by Israelites as Qush and that Your religion is Law of Moshe, which was given to Israel on the Mt. Sinai via prophet Moshe. As we learned we use to call Yourself as Falash or Kara, because you believe strictly in Tanakh, You dont accept Talmud or Mishna, which are accepted by Jews. We want to inform You, that our nation, which derives own origin from Israeli nation, and which call yourself as Qara, Qarai, Bene Miqra, or Qaraim. We live 20 centuries in country which is at this time part of Great Russian Empire. In our opinion we moved in Persia after destruction of Solomons Temple, than we moved in country of Khazars, which is near Black Sea. We are more than one century over rule of russian emperors. We are not numerus. 10 000 Qaraim is in Russia, 5 000 in Egypt and Algeria. Some Qaraim are in Jerusalem, Istanbul and in countries of Germany. Our religion is religion of Israeli nation, we believe only in Tanakh and we dont accept intermarriages with Jews or with other nations which dont believe in our religion. Our prayers are in hebrew- Leshon kodesh (holy language). Our prayers were wroten in ancient time by our great sages and we use for our prayers a lot of psalms by King David. Torah of Moshe which we profess has 5 parts. Bereshiit, Shemot, Vayikra, Bamidbar and Devarim. Beside it we have 19 books of prophets. If You with YHWH help will receive this letter, please answer us our questions.
1) Why do you identify as Kara or Falasha?
2) What of differences are between You and Jews?
3) Are you descendants of ancient Israelites as same as we?
4) If you are descendants of Israelites when did you move in Abissinia?
5) If you are descendants of Israelites do You accept only Tanakh as we?
6) Are in Your country other descendants of Israelites (Jews, which call Yourself Rabbanites)? If yes do you practice intermarriages with them? Do you use their meat?
7) What are Your relations with other Jews?
8) Do you practice circumcisions, do you keep Shabbat and Pessah as the reminder of exodus from Egypt?
9) How do You celebrate Shavuot, when do you start to count 50 days? From the 2nd day of Pessah or from the first day(Sunday) of week of Pessah as is wroten: Mimashurat ha-Shabbat? We count 7 weeks from the 1st day of week (after Shabbat). If Pessah is in the 1st day of week, than we count 7 weeks from this Sunday. For us is always Shavuot in day after Shabbat – in Sunday.
10) Do you wear according to Torah tzitzit? Do you wear it only during worship or do you wear its on your clothings? We wear tzitzit only in the time of prayers.
11) What kind of calendar do you use and what are names of your months?
12) Which date do you use? Do you use date from creation of World or from other time? We start our months according to New Moons.
13) Have you got the Torah of Moshe and prophets? If you have Books of prophets, on which language its are wroten and what are its names?
14) Have you got works of your Hakhams? What about are these books? Which language is used and when its were wroten?
15) Where do you pray? How do you call your prayerhouses? Which language do you use for your prayers and when its were wroten?
16) Have you got Kohanim and Levites? If not who substitute their? Who is head of your community and how do you call this person? Who pray in your community in front of YHWH (who is kantor) and how do you call your worships?
17) Have you got fast days? What are their names and what its remember?
18) Do you celebrate the Purim, which was established in the time of Mordokhai and Esther?
19) What is you're the oldest book and what is wroten in it and what language was used?
20) Do you read and write in Hebrew? Do you use tapping? Do you use tapping over or under text? We use tapping under written text.
21) On the base of our requests we want to wrote informations about your customs, traditions, about your social and economical status. What type of job do you do? How do you live, what kind of dress do you wear? Are among you wealthy people? Teach you your children to read and write? In which age use your sons to be married and what about your daughters?
How many people are you? What kind of language do you use? What are differences between you and local nations? With this letter we send you next letter in Hebrew-leshon kodesh. If you know this langure please answer us in hebrew because we know this language very well. We hope that you will answer us all our questions and they you will inform us that in your distant country live our brothers –Israelites, believers in ONE God, Qaraim. Could you inform us which address we have to use and how to write next letters. Could you inform us if are in your country people which travell in distant countries of Europe and Russia or in Egypt, Palestine and Holy town Yerushalayim. If someone of you will travell into Russia he will be able to find us in Peterburg, Moscow, Odessa, in Crimea (Yevpatoriya, Sevastopol, Simferopol, Feodosiya) there we have our communities.
We will pray to YHWH to hallow you, we are sending you the best regards. Yours humble servants. Signed:
Samuil ben Moshe Szapszal, gabay of community
Nissan ben David Kokizov,
David ben Berakha Mangoubi,
Yakov ben Benyamin Duvan,
Sabatai ben Berakha Mangoubi,
Moshe ben Berakha Mangoubi,
Yosif ben Yitzhaq .
Community of Qaraim in St. Peterburg 14 of July 1896."


  1. Shalom Hayim,

    Wasn't there a second letter sent in 1905? I'll be happy if you post it, assuming a copy is extant.


  2. Ein ‘Od MiBal‘adaiw ( אֵין עוֹד מִבַּלְעָדָיו

  3. where there any answers to the letter?

  4. Shalom - This is Ya`aqov Walker.

    Could you email me and/or upload the original scans of this letter in Karaimskaja Zhizn? I am hoping to publish this as part of a book on the history of the Beta Yisrael community.

    Todah rabbah -