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KA-KM Archives | Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia
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KABAK, A.A.

See Hebrew Literature.

KABBALAH.

Literally, received tradition. Refers to Jewish mysticism. In an attempt to fathom the mysteries of God and Creation, the Kabbalists developed a complete philosophic system during the Middle Ages. The Talmud contains mystical interpretations of the biblical story of Creation. With the appearance of the Zohar in the 13th century, the study of the Kabbalah gained popularity. Among the earliest mystic works are the Alphabet of Rabbi Akiba and Sefer Yetzirah (The Book of Creation) attributed to Abraham. The Sefer Yetzirah attaches great mystic power to numbers and enumerates the ten sefirot, or diven emanations, which later assumed great importance in the Kabbalistic system. God, the En Sof, or Infinite One, makes His divine existence known by means of these ten emanations. The first sefirah is called Keter (Crown). The others follow in this order: Hokhmah (Wisdom); Binah (Intelligence); Hesed (Mercy); Din (Judgment) or Gevurah (Strength); Tiferet (Beauty); Netzah (Victory); Hod (Glory); Yesod (Foundation); and Malkhut (Kingdom).

Jewish mysticism attracted remarkable personalities, some of whom considered themselves Messiahs. Abraham Abulafia (1240-1291), who regarded himself as a forerunner of the Messiah, even attempted to convert the Pope to Judaism.

Kabbalistic teachings gained in intensity and scope in 16th-century Safed. This town in upper Galilee in Palestine became a center of Jewish mysticism; among its foremost teachers of Kabbalah was Isaac Luria (1534-1572). A practical or miracle-working mystic, Luria claimed that the secrets of Creation had been revealed to him by the prophet Elijah. Luria believed that human beings could attain identification with the Divine Spirit through intense concentration, or kavanah. This theory was described by Luria’s disciple Hayim Vital in his book Etz Hayim (The Tree of Life). Other Lurianic ideas transmitted by Vital are tzimtzum, literally contraction, whereby the infinite God reduces Himself to enter the world; shevirat ha-kelim, or breaking the vessels, referring to the destructive impact of God’s creation, which gave rise to evil; this evil is countered by tikkun, or restoration, which is done by a person releasing the holy sparks of the divine within oneself.

Another famous Kabbalist, Moses Cordovero, formulated Kabbalistic teachings in a philosophic system. His contemporary Isaiah Horowitz (1555-1625) interpreted the teachings of Judaism in the light of Kabbalah. He sought, with the other inspired mystics of his generation, to hasten the coming of the Messiah.

The teachings of the Kabbalah contributed to the rise of Messianic hopes and in time influenced Hasidism profoundly. Hasidic religious fervor is based on Kabbalistic teachings. Jewish folklore thrived on the Kabbalah’s poetic and magical elements, and many non-religious Jews, as well as non-Jews, have been and still are influenced by it.

In the United States in recent years a pop-culture version of Kabbalah has become popular among Hollywood stars and others.

KADDISH.

Literally, santification. One of the most ancient prayers in the Jewish prayer book, generally recited in the synagogue during religious services. It became popular as the mourner’s prayer. Kaddish is traditionally recited in the presence of a minyan, or quorum of ten adult male Jews. The essential part of the prayer is the verse from Psalm 113 in its Aramaic version: “Let His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.” The mourner’s Kaddish is recited at synagogue services for eleven months and on every anniversary of the relative’s death.

The so-called Rabbinical Kaddish is recited at the close of a lesson or the completion of the study of any portion of the Talmudic law.

The Kaddish glorifies the name of the Lord, reaffirms faith in the establishment of the Kingdom of God, and calls for peace in the house of Israel. Beautiful and stirring melodies accompany the reciting of the Kaddish on the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

KAF.

Eleventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet; numerically, twenty.

KAFKA, FRANZ (1882-1924).

Writer. Born in Prague, he was a strange genius whose short life was unhappy. From his youth he lived only for his writing. Kafka’s family life was difficult; he never succeeded in gaining his father’s approval, nor did he agree with his father’s views. Kafka never married. His first engagement was broken after several years when he became ill with tuberculosis. The second woman he fell in love with was forbidden to marry him. This personal unhappiness and Kafka’s Jewishness are thought to be reflected in his novels, stories, and sayings. Outstanding among his writings are the short story Metamorphosis and the novels¬†The Trial and The Castle. These works have a strange poetic beauty and an eerie, dream-like quality. Yet they continually startle readers with the recognition of reality and the hero’s hopeless, tragic fate.

KAHAL.

Also kehilla. Literally, community. During the Middle Ages, Jewish localities were organized into communities which had considerable power to govern themselves. The makeup of the Jewish community had developed over the ages in Palestine and in Babylonia and continued with some changes in the West. The community derived its power to manage all Jewish affairs and institutions of the Jewish community from several sources. First was the personal obligation and need for Jews to live according to Talmudic religious and civil law. Therefore, every member of the community had definite rights and duties that could not be taken away. Second, the Jewish community was granted power by the non-Jewish world to conduct its own affairs and enforce its rules.

The feudal barons, kings, and princes of the Church who “owned” the Jews living in their various domains held the kahal responsible for a tax placed on the entire Jewish community. Christian governments throughout the Middle Ages followed the same practice. Community officials, consequently, had the authority to decide how much individuals were to be taxed.

The term kahal came to be applied to the local governments of the Jewish communities in Lithuania, Poland, and Russia during the 16th century. The head of the kahal was called the rosh ha-kahal, or the parnas, and had considerable authority and prestige. He was assisted by gabbaim, or overseers, usually seven. The kahal had its own courts of law to which Jews reported all disputes. The community had the right to enforce its decision by means of imprisonment, flogging (no more than 39 lashes), or temporary or permanent excommunication, or herem, which was the most dreaded punishment because it meant being barred completely from contact with any other Jew, including members of one’s immediate family.

Life within the kahal proceeded according to age-old tradition. Public life revolved around the synagogue, since not only religious worship, but also meetings and weddings took place there. The community school, or Talmud Torah, open to the destitute, was housed in some part of the synagogue. Often, the hostel, or hekdesh, provided by the community for strangers, was located in a synagogue annex, as was the public bathhouse, or mikveh. Public charities in the community were well organized, and no Jew was ever left without help. Learning was highly valued, and illiteracy was rare. Most of the officials, usually chosen for their learning, served without salary. For a time, the rabbi also served without salary, and was the religious authority, the teacher, and the guide of the community. Between 1580 and 1764, the kahal reached a high form of development in the Council of the Four Lands. Delegates of the communities from Great Poland, Little Poland, Podolia, and Galicia met, at first once and later twice a year, to regulate the affairs of the people.

KAHANE, MEIR (1932-1990).

Rabbi, political leader.  Born in New York as Martin Kahane , he was a pulpit rabbi before he founded the Jewish Defense League in 1968 which promoted militant protection of Jewish lives and property. In 1971, he moved to Israel and his militancy became focused on the conflict with the Arabs. He was elected to the Israeli Knesset in 1984 under the banner of the Kach Party. Kach was banned from the parliament in 1984. He was shot to death in Manhattan by an Arab extremist.

KALISHER, Z'VI HIRSCH (1795-1874).

Rabbi, scholar, and early proponent of Zionism. Born in Poland, he was the first outstanding Orthodox rabbi to preach that Judaism permitted Jews to work actively for the Zionist cause and that they were not restricted to waiting and praying for the coming Messiah. In his Hebrew pamphlet, The Quest for Zion in 1862, he outlined methods for the settlement of Palestine. His pioneering effort actually resulted in the organization of the first Palestine colonization society. His pamphlet influenced the French Alliance Isra

KALLIR, ELEAZAR

(7th century). Early Hebrew poet in Palestine whose religious verse (piyutim) appears in the prayer book. He wrote more than 200 piyutim and introduced rhyme into Hebrew poetry.

KANSAS.

With 1,300 Jews in Wichita and 500 in Topeka, Kansas’s Jewish population is one of the smallest in the U.S. Jewish merchants arrived in Kansas in the mid-19th century. In 1882, Jews tried but failed to establish agricultural settlements in several parts of the state. For years, there were small Jewish communities throughout the state, but most have disappeared.

KAPLAN, LOUIS.

See Sports.

KAPLAN, MORDECAI (1881-1983).

Born in Lithuania and raised in the U.S., Kaplan developed an originally American brand of Judaism, called Reconstructionism. In his book Judaism as a Civilization he argues that Judaism is not strictly a religion, but a civilization which encompasses people, land, religion, and culture. His movement has remained small in size, but he has exerted great influence on many Reform and Conservative rabbis. He also originated the Jewish Center (See Jewish Community Center).

KAPPAROT (or kapores).

An old Jewish custom of swinging a chicken over the head before Yom Kippur to transfer one’s sins to the fowl. It is only practiced today by the most strictly Orthodox.

KARAITES.

Jewish sect founded in the late 8th century by Anan ben David. Karaism rejected the rabbinic tradition of Talmudic law and based its religious life on the literal interpretation of the Bible.

Anan ben David, nephew of the deceased Exilarch of the Bustanai dynasty, also aspired to this high position. The Geonim, the highest religious authorities in Babylonia, doubted Anan’s devotion to Talmudic law and appointed instead his younger brother, Hananiah. Angered by the rejection from the Geonim, Anan proclaimed openly his opposition to the Talmud. His followers rebelled against the Talmudic tradition. They were influenced by the controversy raging in Islam at that time between traditionalists and their opponents. When Anan’s supporters increased in numbers, he became head of the new religious sect that later came to be known as Karaism, from the Hebrew Karaim, or (strict) readers of the Scripture.

Anan recognized the authority of the Bible only. He urged his pupils to search in the Scriptures for the true or literal interpretation of the law. By their strict adherence to the biblical text the Karaites defeated their own purpose. As time went on, the Karaite teachers engaged in hair-splitting interpretations of the Bible no less than the rabbinical authorities whom they criticized. Much confusion resulted from the varied and often conflicting interpretation of Karaite scholars. In many instances the Karaite restrictions were more severe than those of the Talmud. They prohibited the use of light on the Sabbath day altogether, and were even more rigorous in observance of the laws of ritual cleanliness and fasting.

The debates between the Talmudists and Karaites stimulated Jewish scholarship. The defense of traditional Judaism required a thorough knowledge of the Bible and the Hebrew language. Jewish philosophic thought was also mobilized in defense of tradition.

Between the 9th and 12th centuries Karaite communities were established in Babylonia, Persia, Egypt, and Palestine. In the 13th century many Karaites settled in the Crimea in Russia, and spread from there to Lithuania and Galicia. During the last few centuries the Karaites have gradually separated from the Jewish community. For instance, in order to avoid the restrictive measures directed against Jews by the Tsarist regime in Russia, Karaites tried to prove that they were not Jews.

Before World War II, there were about 12,000 Karaites, most of them in the Crimea. The Karaites have at all times professed a love for Zion. Since the establishment of Israel, many Karaites from Egypt have settled in the Holy Land. They have founded several settlements, and have tended to draw nearer to other Jews.

KARO, JOSEPH BEN EPHRAIM (1488-1575).

Famous Talmudic scholar and author of the Shulhan Arukh, the core of Jewish law. Orthodox Jewish life for the last 400 years has been regulated by the Shulhan Arukh. Born in Toledo, Spain, Karo was forced to go into exile with his parents when only four years old. After much wandering, the family finally settled in Turkey where he received his education. Karo acquired his greatest fame in Safed, Palestine, at that time a center for the study of the Talmud and of Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah. In this city, high on the mountains of upper Galilee, Karo founded a yeshivah and wrote most of his books. Before compiling the Shulhan Arukh, he spent many years in the writing of Bet Joseph, a commentary on the Arbaah Turim, an earlier code of Jewish law composed by Jacob Ben Asher. Other works by Karo are Kesef Mishneh, a commentary on the famed Maimonides Code. Joseph Karo, himself steeped in the Kabbalah, greatly influenced his students, many of whom were famous Kabbalists.

KASHRUT.

See Dietary Laws.

KATZ, ELIAS.

See Sports.

KATZIR, EPHRAIM(1916- ).

Professor, biochemist, biophysicist, and fourth president of Israel. Born in Kiev, Russia, he was brought to Palestine by his parents at age nine. A graduate of the Hebrew University, in 1949 he was appointed Acting Head of Department of Biophysics in the Weizmann Institute of Science at Rehovot, and later its substantive director. From 1966 to 1968, he was Chief Scientist to the Ministry of Defense. He has written extensively on proteins and such natural products as nucleic acids and is a member of a number of national and international societies. In 1966, he was the first Israeli to be elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He was president of the State of Israel from 1973 to 1978.

KATZNELSON, BERL (1887-1944).

Writer, editor, and Israel labor leader. Honored for many years as the “conscience” of Israel labor, Katznelson came to Palestine from Russia in 1909. In 1920, after working for many years as an agricultural laborer and serving in the Jewish Legion during World War I, he was instrumental in founding the Histadrut, the Israel Federation of Labor. Five years later he established Davar, the Histadrut daily which he edited to the end of his life. A founding member of Mapai, the Israel labor party, he was active in public life as a member of the executive committee of the Histadrut, the Jewish Agency, and the World Zionist Organization. During the late 1930’s Katznelson was a strong partisan of “illegal” immigration. Recognizing the imminent danger to European and world Jewry, he was an active supporter of the underground which smuggled Jews out of Europe and into Palestine.

KATZNELSON, YITZHAK.

See Hebrew Literature.

KAUFMAN, GEORGE S. (1899-1961).

American playwright known for such comic plays as You Can’t Take It With You and The Man Who Came to Dinner.

KAUFMANN, YEHEZKEL (1889-1963).

Hebrew philosopher and scholar. He was born in Ukraine and educated in Talmudical academies and European universities. In his comprehensive sociological study Golah Ve-Nekhar (Exile and Dispersion), Kaufman points out that the problem of Jewish nationalism is unique in character and historical development and therefore requires its own solution. His eight-volume history of the Jewish religion, Toldot Ha-Emunah Ha-Yisraelit (A History of the Israelite Faith), is an exhaustive and analytical work on the development of Jewish religious thought and practices. Kaufman was professor of biblical research at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

KAYE, DANNY.

See Stage and Screen.

KELETI, AGNES.

See Prayer (Eighteen Benedictions).

See Sports.

KENTUCKY.

The two main Jewish communities are in Louisville (8,700) and Lexington (1,850). German Jews arrived in the state in the mid-18th century, East European Jews after 1880. Communities were established in many towns, but most have now disappeared. Distinguished Jews from the state include Joseph Jonas, a friend of Abraham Lincoln who helped found the Whig Party, and Louis Brandeis, one of America’s leading jurists.

KEREN HAYESOD.

See Israel, State of and Zionism.

KETUBAH.

See Jewish National Fund.

Jewish marriage contract listing the details of the marriage agreement with particular emphasis on the promise of the husband to provide for his wife both during marriage and in case of divorce. The oldest ketubah preserved dates from the 5th century, though the Aramaic form used today probably dates only to the 12th century. The margins of many ketubot were artistically ornamented with designs and biblical verses.

KHAZARS.

People of Turkish origin who lived in southern Russia and adopted Judaism in the 8th century. Originally, the Khazars were only a small nomadic tribe, but by alliance with stronger tribes of Arabs, Russians, and Byzantines and through constant warfare, they succeeded in establishing an empire that stretched from the steppes of Eastern Europe and from the Volga Basin to the Chinese frontier. In 960, Hasdai Ibn Shaprut, a Jewish scholar and physician to the Caliph of Cordova, received a letter from King Joseph of the Khazars, telling a remarkable story. Some centuries before, King Bulan of the Khazars had asked the religious leaders of the Jews, Christians, Mohammedans and Mohammedans to explain their religions to him. Most impressed by the description of the Jewish faith, Bulan adopted it for his entire kingdom and invited Jewish scholars to establish schools for the instruction of his people in the Bible, Talmud, and Jewish ritual. Bulan’s successors took Jewish names and encouraged the practice of Judaism within the country. Fascinated by the story, and grasping at the possibility of obtaining a land of refuge for persecuted Jews, Hasdai entered into correspondence with King Joseph and learned about the country of the Khazars. At a time when much of Europe was fanatically bigoted, the Khazars had established a rule of tolerance. The King’s palace was located on the Volga River near the site of modern Astrakhan. The Khazar capital conducted a flourishing trade in grains, hides, and fruit. Unfortunately, early in the 11th century, Russian attacks destroyed the Khazar kingdom completely. The people were scattered throughout Crimea, Hungary, and even Spain; most of them adopted Christianity and disappeared as a separate group. The story of the conversion of the Khazars to Judaism has been interpreted variously. Some scholars call it a fable; others claim that only the ruling class adopted Judaism. Fascinated by the story, the medieval poet Judah Ha-Levi described the philosophic discussion between King Bulan and the three religious leaders in his book Ha-Kuzari.

KIBBUTZ GALUYOT.

See Ingathering of The Exiles.

KIBBUTZ, KVUTZAH.

Literally, group or collective. Forms of communal settlement in Israel. The early halutzim, or pioneers, established the kibbutz on the principle of complete equality. The members of each settlement own the property in common. Every member has one vote in the assembly which manages the settlement. All members must work; hired labor is employed only in times of crisis. Women share fully in the life and work of the community. Children spend the day in daycare. Their parents come for them immediately after work and they spend their free time, evenings, and Sabbaths together.

The kibbutz and the kvutzah differ in several ways. The kvutzah has fewer members and was originally devoted solely to agriculture. Both types trace their origins to Degania, or the mother of kvutzot founded in 1909. The large kibbutz appeared many years later when the number of immigrants flowing into the country rose. It was felt that larger units would better serve the needs of the country. Industrial enterprises were introduced to increase employment opportunities, lessen the dependence of the settlements on the cities, and raise the standard of living. At present, virtually all kibbutzim and kvutzot belong to one of three national federations. These federations coordinate the activities of their members in such matters as marketing, education, culture, credit, and relations with the government and other outside groups.

KIDDUSH.

See Prayer.

KIDDUSH HA-SHEM.

Literally, sanctification of God’s name. This term was applied to the act of martyrdom in Jewish history, especially during the Middle Ages at the time of the Inquisition and during the Cossack massacres led by Bogdan Chmielnicki in Ukraine in 1648. Kiddush Ha-Shem also defines an act that brings honor to the Jewish people. The opposite of Kiddush Ha-Shem is Hillul Ha-Shem, desecration of God’s Name.

KIMHI, DAVID (1160-1235).

Hebrew grammarian and biblical commentator. He provided biblical students with logical, grammatical explanations of difficult words and passages. His grammatical works, encyclopedia, and Book of Roots were translated into Latin and used extensively by Christian scholars. Kimhi ably defended his faith in debates with various Christian scholars.

KINGS, BOOK OF.

In the Bible, the First and Second Books of Kings cover the history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah from Solomon in 970 B.C.E. to the destruction of Judah by Babylonia in 586 B.C.E. Beginning with the last days of King David, one dramatic story follows another. After Solomon’s brilliant reign and the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, war split the country into two separate kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the south.

The story of the Kingdom of Israel spanning the years between 993-721 B.C.E. follows. Throughout his life the prophet Elijah battled against Israel’s idol worship; the prophet Elisha who followed him continued this struggle. In its nearly three centuries of existence, the northern kingdom never managed to rid itself of idol worship. After describing the fall of the northern kingdom, the Book of Kings continues with the southern Kingdom of Judah whose capital was Jerusalem and whose center of worship was the Temple. Great prophets came to Judah, taught its people, and prepared and strengthened them for the time of their defeat and exile in 586 B.C.E.

KINNERET (Sea of Galilee).

A harp-shaped fresh-water lake in Israel. It is thirteen miles long and seven and a half miles wide at its broadest point, surrounded by the hills of Galilee and Golan. A rich fishing ground, Kinneret is encircled by towns and villages, including Tiberias, Kfar Nahum (Capernaum), Migdal, Ginossar, and Ein Gev. The lake has always had a romantic appeal, and many songs and poems were written about it.

KISLEV.

See Sports.

Third month of the Jewish civil calendar. Hanukkah falls on the 25th of this month.

KISSINGER, HENRY ALFRED (1923- ).

American political scientist and statesman. Born in Fuerth, Germany to Orthodox Jewish parents, he came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1938. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he completed his studies at Harvard University, where he subsequently served as faculty member, working primarily in the fields of government and international affairs. He was consultant to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency from 1961 to 1967 and to the U.S. Department of State from 1965 to 1969. From 1961 to 1962 he was an advisor on national security affairs to President John F. Kennedy. In 1969, he became National Security Advisor to President Richard M. Nixon, and from 1973 to 1977 served as Secretary of State, the first foreign-born person and the first Jew in U.S. history to hold that office. In 1973, he received the Nobel Peace Prize (together with Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam) for his efforts to bring about peace in Vietnam. Following the Yom Kippur War of 1973, he initiated a ceasefire between Israel and its Arab neighbors and shuttled back and forth among Israel, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan to effectuate troop disengagements on Israel’s frontiers with Egypt and Syria.

KLAUSNER, JOSEPH (1874-1958).

Hebrew scholar, writer, and historian. As a youth of 15 in Odessa, Russia, Klausner dedicated himself to the task of modernizing Hebrew. He published books in Hebrew on a variety of subjects: literature, philosophy, philology, history, and Asian studies. He was editor of Ha-Shiloah, one of the finest Hebrew publications for more than 20 years, and served as professor of modern Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem since its establishment in 1925. Klausner was chief editor of a Hebrew Encyclopedia. His two studies on the rise of Christianity, Jesus of Nazareth and From Jesus to Paul, are available in English.

KLEZMER.

Literally, musical instruments or musicians. Small musical bands in Eastern Europe before World War II, with the fiddle being the main instrument. They entertained at weddings and other festive occasions. In the U.S. today there has been a revival of klezmer music, consisting mostly of traditional Yiddish melodies.

KLUTZNICK, PHILIP (1907-1999).

American communal leader. He held a position in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration and from 1979 to 1980 served as Secretary of Commerce. One of the leaders of B’nai B’rith, he played a major role in that organization for many years.

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