Anan ben-David


Anan ben-David
(8th century)
   Babylonian founder of the Ananite sect. It is said that Anan fell out with the Babylonian rabbis because he was passed over in favour of his brother for the position of exilarch. The sect he founded, known as the Ananites, was a forerunner of the Karaite movement, that relied solely on scriptural authority, rejecting the Mishnah and the Talmud and the whole rabbinic tradition. They also differ from the Rabbinites in their very stringent interpretation of the laws governing prohibited degrees of relationship in marriage, and in their laws of ritual slaughter. From Palestine, Babylonia and Egypt, groups of Karaites spread to the Crimea (12 century) and Lithuania (13 century). Today there are still some Karaite communities in Eastern Europe and in Israel.
   Anan wrote Sefer ha-Mitzvot, in which he summarized Jewish law as derived from biblical exegesis, but his writings show how steeped in talmudic tradition he was. It was even written in Aramaic, the language of the Talmud. His strict interpretation and his ascetic approach appealed to the Karaites, who came to regard him as the founder of their movement.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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