Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thoughts on the Shomronim

Last Thursday I drove to Har Greizim -- the Shomron mountaintop community of the Samaritans, and had a fascinating talk with Yefet Cohen (pictured on the left), the curator of the Samaritan museum (and son of the previous Samaritan Kohen Gadol/High Priest).

While taking a video clip of him reading the "Shma", he curiously pointed to his arm and head during the verses that allude to "tefillin".

Afterwards, I asked him about their tradition of tefillin, and he replied that the Samaritan tradition of tefillin was lost over the years. I can understand. When a community of over a million has been reduced to only 700, certain skills are bound to be lost. I don't know how to manufacture tefillin (in fact, I'd be willing to wager that there are hardly any people in the blogosphere that are qualified to make kosher tefillin). How long did the Jews lose the tradition of tekhelet? (the blue fringe in tzitzit)

Then I asked about tzitzit -- do they still have the tradition for how to tie them? Jews have many different ways to tie tzitziyot, especially when you include the permutations for adding in tekhelet. Again, Yefet shook his head sadly that they also lost that tradition.

"But over there in the corner of your museum, you have a mannequin of a person wearing a tallit, and I assume you use them in prayer -- where do you get those from," I asked.

He laughed -- "Oh, we got those from you, the Jews." While the tallit and tzitziyot are now worn by the Shomronim -- and are purchased from Jews, the Shomronim have not adopted tefillin in their daily religious prayers.

"And you will make for me a Temple, and I will dwell in your midst -- translation from over the doorway entrance to the Samaritan synagogue"

Pictures inside the Samaritan synagogue, during their afternoon prayers (close to sunset). Its customary to remove your shoes before going in (which we did)

Here's their message board at the entrance: Note the "חג שמח וכשר" (A Happy and Kosher Holiday) message from the State of Israel at the bottom right...and the 6:22 time reminder at the left. Anyone gander a guess what it's the time for?

Other interesting things that I'll post about later:

1. The Samaritans reference "613 mitzvot"
2. The Samaritan mentality of being among the "gentiles"
3. The stolen Samaritan "Torah"s -- currently being held in Lebanon for a ransom of 12 million dollars.
4. The Samaritan Torah they claim written by Avisha (son of Pinchas, son of Elazar, son of Aharon the Kohen Gadol) about 3400 years ago.
5. Between a rock and a hard place; Israeli Holon and Palestinian Authority Har Greizim

Note commandment #10 of the Samaritans:

1. You shall have no other gods before me.

2. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.

3. Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.

4. Honor your father and your mother.

5. You shall not murder.

6. You shall not commit adultery.

7. You shall not steal.

8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

10. You shall keep the mount Gerizim holy.

Some of the differences between Samaritans and Jews:
  • Small in number (under 700)
  • One level of religious belief -- no divergent streams (i.e., no Reform, Conservative, etc.)
  • Only live in the land of Israel
  • Patrilineal lineage
  • Mount Gerizim is the center of worship -- prayers made facing Mount Gerizim
  • Authority of Torah is the Levite Priests (no rabbis)
  • Complete list of High Priesthood lineage going back to Pinhas
  • Torah not supplemented past 5 books of Moses
  • Messiah, called Taheb, from sons of Joseph or Levi
  • Passover Sacrifice
  • No celebration of Purim or Hanukkah
  • Counting of Omer starts day after the Sabbath after Passover
  • Do not light candles on the Sabbath
  • Samaritans do not have sex on the Sabbath
  • Men do not wear head cover all the time
  • No required number for prayer (minyan)
More Source info here.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד


Anonymous said...

The gemara says "in the cases that they follow our ways we consider them to be jews, but when they dont they arent considerd such"

Didnt they petition dariur or cyrus against building the 2nd beit hamikdash ? I seem to recall that they forcefully tried to stop it ?

Now after churban their status isnt as bad as it was before.. back then they violated "ki el hamakom asher yivchar hashem elokecha lishaken et shemo shama"

Also most things needed to be dealt with by a cohen in yerushalayim, yoledet, nazir, metzora, pesach (they are chayav kares bizman beit hamikdash kayam)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Elchonon: The Tannaim of the Mishna were alot more tolerant of them, and even debated if they could be considered part of a minyan.

Anonymous said...


How are they different from the Kariates? And are there other tribes or cultures that are similar?

Anonymous said...

Tolerant I guess.. not that i'm not.. just saying that they posed issues bizman beit hamikdash kayam.

Lion of Zion said...

"Anyone gander a guess what it's the time for"

something about ערב שבת (and מצות?)

Rafi G. said...

very cool. I am working on planning a trip there now with a friend. Jameel leads the way, and the rest of us follow.

Carina Coderis said...

I believe that nothing says kosher holiday more than an in-depth look into jewish tradition and how some of the more popular traditions came to be.

Anonymous said...


And I believe that there are more Kosher ways to advertise on this site than what you just did.

Anonymous said...

Seems they are closer to Authentic Torah then Judaism is. BAsically they
stayed in Eretz thru thick and thin while the nation of Judeas took it on the lamb.

Seems they should be questioing wether we belong rather then Judaism questioning their kashrut.

Nice they still have patrineal lineage like the Torah specifies amongst other things. Har Gerizim aside, maybe if we stepped back and looked at the Shomronim as an example of the many ways how we once really looked and acted and practiced before the Talmud and Rabbis got carte blanche to run the show as though they saviors of the faith above all else. Thank God they were spared the black hat cult.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Anonymous: Actually, I found that particular point about staying in Eretz Yisrael rather haughty on their part. Jews were physically thrown out of Israel and scattered to Rome after Bayit Sheyni. There have been pockets of Jews that remained in Israel, like in Peki'in.

Judaism is Mishanic-based, so it's useless to say they are more "Torah True" than Judaism is, especially for patrilineal descent.

Perhaps they could be an example of how not to fracture themselves by running away from community accepted halacha? Their cohanim are similar to the rabbis in Judaism.

My post wasn't condescending towards them; I don't understand why your comment has to be towards Judaism.

Anonymous said...

It's true, in ancient times, the Shomronim were our rivals for control of the land. The Maccabees destroyed their Temple, and they conspired with our enemies.

Today, we both a have common enemies- assimilation, and terrorists.

Let's put the past behind us. Like the Samarians, I'm sure other ancient local non-Muslim peoples, such as the Assyrians and Copts also have much in common with Jews.

Smooth said...

Great post, gave me good bumps.

Smooth said...

oops, meant to say goose bumps. (too much matzoh clogging my arteries)

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the Jews of Hebron.

Lion of Zion said...


so are you going to tell us what that 6:22 is for

Lion of Zion said...

"Don't forget the Jews of Hebron."

Shechem has also had jewish settlement (although not continuous) for the last thousand years or so. i once started writing a documentary post about this, but i never finished it.

Anonymous said...

Since someone asked about Karaim... Karaim are nothing like Samaritans. They did not exist until early Middle Ages- split off from the rest of Judiasm by rejecting Talmud, solely following Written Torah- but their written Torah is ours.

Anonymous said...

Shalom and Shavu`a Tov.

This is to clarify matters about the Qaraite Jews (yes, not only the Qaraites but also knowledgeable Rabbinic Jews concede the Jewishness of the Qaraites).

First off, research hasn't answered conclusively the question of the beginning of Qaraim. Qaraite Jews had already existed some time before the label "Qaraite" came into being.
The real Torah (the Khumash) has always been the providence of the entire Jewish people, Qaraites and Rabbinites alike. In fact, it was a Qaraite Jewish family of scribes, the Ben-Ashers, who were the Masoretes and they ensured the Torah's accurate transmission from ancient times and its fidelity to the official Second Temple Torah version.

We Qaraite Jews share much with the Shomronim while we differ in other respects:

* We claim Patrilineal lineage (yet accept Rabbinical Jews' Jewishness based on matrilineal lineage).
* Yerushalayim is our holy city.
* Authority of Torah is the Hakhamim and Qaraite Rabbis (not the Kohanim).
* We consider the entire Tanakh sacred
* We expect a Judahite Messiah.
* No Passover sacrifice
* No celebration of Hanukkah but do celebrate Purim
* Counting of `Omer starts on the first Sunday during Feast of Unleavened Bread ("Passover")
* Do not light candles on Shabbat
* We do not have sex on Shabbat
* Men do not wear head cover all the time
* No required number for prayer (minyan)
* No tefillin

Lastly, It is unfair to brand all of Jusdaism as Mishanic-based. That Qaraite Jews total in at less than 1% of Jewry doesn't render their Halakha non-existent.
And yes,-- in reality the Samaritans (barring their grave deviancy of sanctifying Har Gerizim) are more Torah-true than Orthodoxy (as are the Qaraite Jews), including patrilineal descent.

Kamagra said...

This kind of people are very intelligent and i think that they know a lot of thing that we do not know or we do not have any idea, the knowledge that these people have is amazing.

Anonymous said...

"Men do not wear head cover all the time"

Even Sephardim and Mizrahim don't have to wear head cover all the time according to the halakha...
It's just minhag tov.

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