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The letter from Karaites of St. Petersburg (Russia) to the Falashim (1905)

St. Peterburg 21 of November 1905
 
Peace to You dear brothers, children of Abaraham, Isaac and Yakov! May you be blessed by YHWH of Israel. 
 
We have learned from many books that you are our brothers and that You live in a distant country of Abissinia, in the country that the Israelites call Qush and that Your religion is the Law of Moshe, which was given to Israel on Mt. Sinai through the prophet Moshe. As we learned, you call yourselves Falash or Kara, because you believe strictly in Tanakh. You don’t accept Talmud or Mishna, which are accepted by Jews (rabbanites).
 
We want to inform You that our nation, which call themselves Kara, Karai, Bene Miqra, or Karaim originates from the nation of Israel. We have lived in this country which is at this time a part of Great Russian Empire for 20 centuries. According to our records we moved to Persia after the destruction of Solomons Temple, than we moved into the country of the Khazars, which is near the Black Sea. We have been under the rule of Russian emperors for more than one century. We are not numerous, there are 10,000 Karaites in Russia and 5,000 in Egypt and Algeria. There are also some Karaites in Jerusalem, Istanbul and in the countries of Germany. Our religion is the religion of the Israelite nation, we believe only in Tanakh and we don’t intermarry with Jews (rabbanites) or with other nations who don’t believe in our religion. Our prayers are in Hebrew - leshon kodesh (holy language). Our prayers were written in ancient times by our great sages and we use a lot of psalms in our prayers which were written by by King David. The Torah of Moshe which we believe in has 5 parts. Bereshiit, Shemot, Vayikra, Bamidbar and Devarim. Besides this we have 19 books of prophets. If You receive this letter with the help of YHWH, please answer our questions.
 

1) Why do you identify yourselves as Kara or Falasha?
 
2) What differences are there between You and Jews (rabbanites)?
 
3) Are you the descendants of ancient Israelites the same as we are?
 
4) If you are descendants of Israelites when did you move to Abissinia?
 
5) If you are descendants of Israelites do You accept only the Tanakh as we do?
 
6) Are there other descendants of Israelites in Your country? Are there Jews (which call themselves 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 Pesach as a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt?
 
9) How do You celebrate Shavuot? When do you start to count the 50 days? From the 2nd day of Pesach or from the first day (Sunday) of the week of Pesach as is written: Mimakharat ha-Shabbat? We count 7 weeks from the 1st day of the week (after Shabbat). If Pesach is in the 1st day of week, than we count 7 weeks from this Sunday. For us Shavuot is always the day after Shabbat - on a Sunday.
 
10) Do you wear tzitzit as commanded in the Torah? Do you wear them only during worship or do you wear them on your clothings? We wear tzitzit only during prayers. 
 
11) What kind of calendar do you use and what are the names of your months?

 
12) Which dates do you use? Do you use the date from the creation of World or from another time? We start our months according to the New Moons and we call them: Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, Tamuz, Av, Elul, Tishri, Kheshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat and Adar and we insert additional month Adar II when it's a leap year. We count our calendar era from the Creation of World and we are now in the year 5656.
 
13) Have you got the Torah of Moshe and prophets? If you have the Books of the prophets, which language are they written in and what their names?
 
14) Have you got the works of your Hakhams? What are these books? Which language is used and when were they written?
 
15) Where do you pray? What do you call your houses of prayer? Which language do you use for your prayers and when were these prayers written?
 
16) Have you got Kohanim and Levites? If not who substitutes them? Who is the head of your community and what do you call this person? Who prays in your community before YHWH (who is the cantor) and what do you call your worship? 

 
17) Have you got fast days? What are they called and what are they in memory of?
 
18) Do you celebrate Purim, which was established in the time of Mordecai and Esther?
 
19) What is your oldest book and what is it written? What language was used in the book?
 
20) Do you read and write in Hebrew? Do you use tapping - nikudot? Do you use tapping over or under the text? We use tapping under written text:

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ׃
 
21) On the base of our requests we want to write information about your customs, traditions and 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 there wealthy people among you? Do you teach your children to read and write? At what age do yours sons get married and what about your daughters? 
How many of you are there? What kind of language do you use? What are the differences between you and local nations?

With this letter we send you the next letter in Hebrew - leshon kodesh. If you know this language please answer us in Hebrew because we know this language very well.

We hope that you will answer all of our questions and that you will inform us that our brothers live in your distant country - Israelites, believers in ONE God, Karaites.

Could you inform us which address we have to use and how to write our next letter?

Could you inform us if there are people in your country who travel to distant lands such as lands in Europe and places such as Russia, Egypt, Palestine and the Holy city Yerushalayim?

If one of your people travels to Russia he will be able to find us in Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa and in Crimea (Evpatoriya, Sevastopol, Simferopol, Feodosie)  our communities are located in these places. 
 
We will pray to YHWH that he hallows you, we are sending you our best regards. Your humble servants,
 
Signed:

gabay of community Nissan ben David Kokizov 

David ben Berakha Mangoubi 

Yakov ben Benyamin Duban

Sabatai ben Berakha Mangoubi

Samuil ben Moshe Szapszal

Moshe ben Berakha Mangoubi

Yosif ben Yitzhaq Eraqa