In the 1998 classic film, The Big Lebowski, the Dude (played by Jeff Bridges) accuses Walter Sobchek (played by John Goodman) of not being Jewish. Walter lashes back with one of the tirades for which his character is known, culminating in a proclamation: “I’m as Jewish as . . . Tevye!”
Tevye, of course, is the patriarch of an orthodox Jewish family in one of the greatest musicals of all time, Fiddler on the Roof. Walter’s response to the Dude conveys what most people inherently believe to be true: Tevye is the personification of an observant Jew.
Welcome to the launch of A Blue Thread, A Jewish Blog With a Thread of Karaite Throughout. This blog is about a different type of Jew, far from the embodiment represented by Tevye.
Karaites are Jews who derive their laws solely from the Hebrew Bible. In contrast, Rabbanite Jews, such as Tevye (and probably even Walter Sobchek), derive their laws from writings such as the Talmud, in addition to the Hebrew Bible. While Karaite Judaism and Rabbanite Judaism are similar in many respects, this different approach to texts leads to some marked differences in theology, observance and spirituality.
Karaite Jews are as Jewish as Tevye. It’s just that our Judaism is a bit different.