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Karaites: How Jewish are they?


Rabbi Yoel Lieberman

Iyyar 2, 5771
Shalom Rabbis Do we consider Karaites to be apostate Jews with the status of tinok shelo benishba as Rambam rules in hilchot mamrim, or do we consider themt o be Jewish and can intermarry etc with them? How woudl this be affected by their recent decision to allow people to convert to Karaism from other religions since they would not be conducting halachicly acceptable conversions? Kol Tuv
The answer to your question is quite complex and it is discussed in length by two of the greater poskim of our generation, by the late Rav Eliezer Waldenberg zt"l (שו"ת ציץ אליעזר (חלק ה סימן טז , שו"ת ציץ אליעזר חלק יב סימן סו ) and, may he live a long life, Rav Ovadia Yoseph shlit"a (שו"ת יביע אומר חלק ח - אבן העזר סימן יב) . However their views are diametrically opposed. Rav Waldenberg zt"l is of the opinion that they cannot marry Jews in any fashion because they are all possibly mamzerim since they do not do a proper Halachic divorce. (based on the Rema שולחן ערוך אבן העזר סימן ד סעיף לז ) Furthermore he says they are basically considered non-Jews. On the other hand, Rav Ovadia Yoseph shlit"a, is of the opinion that they are Jews and if they accept upon themselves to keep the torah in full with torah sbe'al peh as we know it today they may marry Jewish people. This is because the current Karaites are descendants of the Karaites formerly of Egypt whose marriages were never Hachically binding therefore there was never a problem with their divorces.
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