Adderet Eliyahu

Jewish Texts >> Adderet Eliyahu

Rav Eliyahu ben Moshe Bashyatzi wrote Adderet Eliyahu in late 15th – early 16th century Turkey and is known as the most renowned compendium of Karaite Law. Even though it was never completed it nevertheless covers a wide range of Karaite halakhah in breadth and depth. Adderet Eliyahu is written clearly and well-organized exposition of the legal positions and practical consequences of Karaite halakhah.  This work is often misunderstood as an attempt to bend Karaite halakhah to be more consistent with Rabbinic halakhah. However, Rav Bashyatzi’s work is strictly within the halakhich framework of Karaite Judaism.1

Adderet Eliyahu is sometimes confused for a work that is expressly attempting to make Karaite practice more consistent with the Rabbinate practice. However, this is not the purpose of the Adderet Eliyahu even though there are certainly some issues where the Adderet Eliyahu and the Rabbinate halakhah can come into some sort of agreement. Part of the Adderet Eliyahu is also a refutation to the Rabbinates of their challenges to the Karaite practices. Rav Eliyahu ben Moshe Bashyatzi wrote Adderet Eliyahu in order to summarize “the opinions of his great predecessors and the ‘standard’ Karaite halakhah that had been refined by generations of Karaite sages studying the peshat (or ‘plain meaning’).”1

The Adderet Eliyahu explains how the Tanakh is organized as well as how Karaite halakhah is determined.2 There are three pillars that Rav Eliyahu ben Moshe Bashyatzi used when writing the Adderet Eliyahu: katuv, hekeish, and sevel hayerusha.1

The katuv (“what is written”) refers to the peshat, or plain meaning, of the text. However it must be noted that peshat only refers to the plain meaning and not necessarily to the literal meaning of the text. Karaites, unlike Rabbinates have historically used the divinely revealed text of the Prophets and Writings to also determine halakhah. The Karaite sages have held that “every commandment that is clarified in the prophets has its basis and its essence in the Torah, from which that commandment if derived.”2

Hekeish are rational inferences found in the text. These are mitzvot (commandments) that are not found explicitly with the text but can be logically derived from other mitzvot within the text. Hekeish infers that there are mitzvot which are not explicitly stated. In addition, hekeish clarify those mitzvot which are written. Rav Eliyahu ben Moshe Bashyatzi teaches that there are seven forms of hekeish:

“1. When a commandment is ambiguous or obscure in one verse it can be clarified by using another.
2. From the particular we may derive the general.
3. When two scenarios are equal in nature we may apply to them equal rulings.
4. If something is true for the minor case it is true for the major case.
5. Linguistic analysis.
6. It is possible to broaden the application of a law using reason alone without any textual support.
7. That which is forbidden to its counterpart is also forbidden to itself.”2

Sevel hayerusha (“the yoke of inheritance”) refers to legally binding information that has been passed down from the time of Moses. As opposed to the Rabbinate “Oral Law,” the sevel hayerusha never contradicts the katuv (that which is written) and always has a basis within the katuv. Sevel hayerusha only includes legally binding tradition as opposed to general Karaite traditions. “Legally binding traditions are exclusively those that are needed to properly follow the laws that have explicitly been written down in the biblical text.”2


1Tomer Mangoubi, Baroukh Ovadia, & Shawn Lichaa. “Mikdash Me’at: Introduction.” Karaite Jews of America, n.d. []
2Tomer Mangoubi, Baroukh Ovadia, & Shawn Lichaa. “Mikdash Me’at: Adderet Eliyahu’s Introduction.” Karaite Jews of America, n.d. []