Sultansky, Mordecai ben Joseph

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SULTANSKY, MORDECAI BEN JOSEPH (c. 1772–1862), Karaite scholar and writer. He was born in Lutsk, Volhynia. His father was a ḥazzan and a head of the bet din in Lutsk. Sultansky served as a teacher in his native town. At the age about 40, apparently after a large fire that broke out in 1813/4 in Lutsk, Sultansky moved to the Crimea where he functioned as melammed in *Chufut-Qaleh, and later as ḥazzan in *Yevpatoriya. At the end of his life he went to his son Isaac, who lived in Kherson, Ukraine. In Chufut-Qaleh Sultansky, together with A. Firkovich, was engaged in publishing Karaite books in the printing house of Eupatoria. Sultansky was widely read in both Karaite literature and such rabbinic authors as Maimonides, Abraham ibn Ezra, Judah Halevi, Bahya ibn Paquda, and Levi b. Gershom, and he also studied Talmud. The most important of his printed works is his Zekher Ẓaddikim (also entitled Kiẓẓur Aggadah; ed. by S. Poznanski, 1920), a detailed account of Karaite history from its beginnings to the author's time. This book demonstrates anti-rabbinic tendencies and contains numerous incorrect historical data and other errors. Since it lacks a critical approach it is of little scientific value. This book is an example of modern Karaite historiography, which demonstrates at the same time an interest in modern research and manipulation of the facts for the ideological and political purposes of the community. His main concepts concerning Karaite history, presented in this book, were adopted by Sultansky's disciple A. *Firkovich before the latter started his public and research activity.

Sultansky also published a Hebrew grammar entitled Petaḥ Tikvah (pt. 1, Yevpatoriya, 1857); Tetiv Da'at (ibid., 1858), a philosophical defense of Karaism, containing many quotations from old rabbinic and modern Hebrew authors, and polemics against Rabbanism and Ḥasidism; Sefer ha-Taʿam (ios spb a 132) – answers to questions posed by a counselor of Czar Alexander i about the origins of Karaites; Palgei Mayyim, a commentary on the Lamentations of Jeremiah (ios spb b 429). Most of his works remained unpublished, among them Or ha-Ganuz (philosophical composition); Hod Malkhut – the treatise about Karaism and against Rabbanism which he planned to present to Czar Nicholas i, but for some unknown reason did not; Yalkut Yosef (commentaries on the Torah); Mikhtam Sur me-Ra (ethical composition). Sultansky also studied new Hebrew written works belonging to the Haskalah. He was on a friendly terms with Peretz Smolenskin and Efraim Deinard.


E. Deinard, Massa Krim (1878), 18, 71; R. Fahn, Sefer ha-Kara'aim (1929), 99–100; Mann, Texts, 2 (1935), index, 1570; L. Nemoy, Karaite Anthology (1952), 6; M. Polliack (ed.), Karaite Judaism: A Guide to Its History and Literary Sources, (2003), index.

[Golda Akhiezer (2nd ed.)]