Orthodox Judaism Term Paper

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Orthodox Judaism considers itself the most authentic experience of Judaism dating itself back to the source of Judaism as stated in the Torah and keeping the Torah as it believes it was transmitted form Sinai. Orthodox Judaism is a hybrid of opinions and these will be described in the following essay. To better understand Orthodox Judaism, too, we have chosen the synagogue Congregation Shaare Zion as example and illustration of its form. Comparison too to Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism will be elaborated on and mentioned as contrast.

Orthodox Judaism: definition

Orthodox Judaism is synonymous to traditional Judaism. The Torah it believes was handed to Moses from Mt. Sinai and together with that were oral instructions and elaboration that were first transmitted orally via the judges and leaders and later codified in the Mishnah and Talmud.

The Oral Law includes a complex compendium of laws that govern every part of the human life form routine practices to ways to festival laws to laws that govern family life. Orthodox Judaism in fact is highly family-oriented, and many see it as patriarchal although this may be a generalization1 (Armstrong, K "The battle for God: fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam" New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000).

Orthodox Judaism may in fact be a misnomer of sorts since numerous and diverse groups make up the system with the extreme right (Hassidim) seeing those on the extreme left (Modern Orthodox Jews) as not being Jewish at all. Although different, the umbrella term of 'Orthodox Judaism' encompasses all of them since all believe in the veracity of the Torah as handed from God to Moses. Each of their differences will be described in the following essay.

Hassidic Jews

Hassidism started in the 1800s with the Baal Shem Tov who had the avowed intention of making Judaism more spiritual and more relevant for the layman than it was at the moment. He preached that the peasant was as important to God as the learned man, and that practice was as important as study. His emphasis was on loving all Jews unconditionally and on joy. The movement mushroomed and fractured into different sects with each Chassidic leader (Rebbe) calling his sect after the village where he was lodged (2. Armstrong, K "The battle for God: fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam" New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000). As it grew, Hassidim became a populist movement with some rabbis exploiting their power and with rabbi soon being seen as analogical to the Pope in his relation to God. Rabbis gave charms, they transmitted their sovereignty as family possession rather than according to merit; Hassidism today has ceased to be according to the way that the Baal Sham Tov envisioned it. Prominent in parts of New York and in part of Central Europe, many of the sects have degraded into a series of corruption and strife, with the groups sheltered from the secular world speaking largely Yiddish and participating as least as possible with anything secular (which includes with anyone who is not Hassidic, too).

Misnagedim / litvish people/

These are Orthodox Jews who largely come from Lithuania, from Germany, or form parts that were not Hassidic. They practice a strict Judaism; some of them are as strict as many of the Hassidim secluding themselves to the same extent from secular society. They, for instance, send their children to secular school; some prohibit college and higher education; some avoid secular media and secular material… Strictness often depends on region, with 'litvish' Jews being, for instance more fundamentalist in Israel (where they are called Chareidim) than in America.

There is a group of these people too (not rigidly classified) who practice Mussar which means 'ethics'. The mussar movement originated in the 1900s as a response to the growing mediocrity of Orthodox Judaism. It too had various approaches, accordingly various groups. Mussar is still practiced today, albeit in a different form.

Religious Zionists

More common in Israel than the U.S.A., these are people who marry commitment to Zionism with Orthodox Judaism. They believe (contrary to Hassidim) that the State of Israel symbolizes end of Galut (Diaspora) and the beginning steps of the Messiah. Their spokesperson and founder was Rav Kook. Many Hassidim believe that Israel can only be founded with the coming of the Messiah. The current state of Israel is secular. This invalidates it to them. Many of them therefore perceive Religious Zionists as irreligious Jews at best.

Ashkenazi / Sephardim

The former are Jews who originated from Eastern Europe and have their own customs derivative to that region. The latter are Jews from Oriental countries who have their specific customs. Not all are necessarily Orthodox, although the term is generally used with Orthodox associations.

Modern orthodoxy

This is the more liberal form of Orthodox Judaism and, as per its name, integrates earnestness in Torah Judaism with earnestness sin the secular world. Many of these practitioners are professors in prestigious universities; some are in the government; others have won the Noble Prize. Their credo is "Torah Im Derech Eertz' (meaning Torah with the law of the land) (3. Armstrong, K "The battle for God: fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam" New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000; Gurock, J "Orthodox Jews in America" Bloomington: Indiana University Press, c2009). Those on the extreme right condemn them and perceive them as irreligious at best.

As with every group, Orthodox Judaism also contains its fundamentalists. These are people who not only maintain rigidity to the law but also profess and demonstrate an aggression to those whose views differ to their own. Fundamentalism has been nothing new in Orthodox Judaism, but it has recently had an upsurge since the 1960s in various parts of the globe transported to Orthodox Judaism largely from Holocaust survivors and as a reaction to the globalization and free spirit of the 'sexual (and other) revolution' . In Israel, practitioners of Orthodox Judaism are also called 'Haridim'. Sociological differences give them differences of thinking and behavior than their Western counterparts. (Emerson, M.O., & Hartman, D. (2006). "The rise of religious fundamentalism," Annual Rev. Social., 32, 127-144).

History and theology of Orthodox Judaism

Literally speaking, the term "orthodox Judaism' is relatively new and generic to North America in order to make a distinction between it and the spectrum of Liberal Judaism. In other parts of the world, distinction is made by differentiating between more or less religious Jews (or between Jews who are religious and those who are irreligious; in Israel a third classificaiton is used -- Masoreti which means traditional).

Orthodox Judaism believes that the Torah (i.e. conduct for life) was given by God to Moses from Mt. Sinai. That this was accompanied by Oral instruction on details of law and that both are universally incumbent on all generations. (Gurock, J "Orthodox Jews in America" Bloomington: Indiana University Press, c2009)

has held fast to such practices as daily worship, dietary laws (kashruth), traditional prayers and ceremonies, regular and intensive study of the Torah, and separation of men and women in the synagogue. It also enjoins strict observance of the sabbath and religious festivals and does not permit instrumental music during communal services (Encyclopaedia Britannica Premium Service, 2004.)

According to a 1990 nationwide survey, 7% of American Jews are Orthodox.(Orthodox Union )

Example: the site

Congregation Shaare Zion (Hebrew:?

) is an Orthodox Sephardic synagogue located at 2030 Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, New York. Shaare Zion typically has an estimated 2,000 worshipers who attend its services Fridays and Saturdays for Shabbat making it one of the largest Sephardic synagogues in North America. The synagogue generally serves the Aleppo or (Halabi) descendants of the Syrian Jewish community, has been more than 50 years in existence and has hosted over ten thousand occasions including Brit milahs, Bar mitzvas, engagements and weddings (Rushefsky, Carolyn "Shaare Zion: The Synagogue That Nearly Wasn't Built." Community Magazine. Volume XI No. 8. May 2012.. )

Commentary on site

As notice, the synagogue is called 'Congregation'. This is not particularly striking since Orthodox synagogues are beginning to be called so, but nonetheless it is unusual since most (particularly those on the far right) are called 'shul, which comes from Yiddish or German word 'schoole' which means house of study. Many synagogues indeed double over as places of study, although the distinction toady is made between Beis Midrash (for studying in) and synagogue (strictly for prayer and informal events. . . 'Temple' denotes the reform terminology. The Hebrew name is beit Knesset (literally, House of Assembly).

It is likely that the synagogue calls itself 'Congregation' to imply that it is non-sectarian and accepts all types of Jews.

Conservative Jews use the term 'synagogue' which is a derivative of the Greek word 'synod' (assembly / senate) is a translation of Beit K'nesset and means "place of assembly." Reform Jews who use the term 'Temple' since they consider every synagogue to be analogical to the original Temple in Jerusalem.

The term 'Temple' offends some Jews because they consider it to be trivializing the…[continue]

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