Instead of adhering to older laws, which may have been based on conditions that no longer apply to members of the modern world, Conservative Jews are urged to develop Jewish law and thought in the same way that they have historically been developed. While Conservative Judaism respects both Orthodox and Reform Judaism, it has theological differences from both of the other variants of Rabbinic Judaism. Conservative Jews believe that Orthodox Jews have hampered the natural and necessary evolution of Jewish law by adhering to traditions and laws that developed in a context outside of the modern world. Furthermore, Conservative Jews believe that Reform Jews have made a major break with the historic definition of Judaism, and therefore have abandoned the method of evolution of Jewish law. While Conservative Jews do not condemn Reform Jews for their interpretations of Jewish law, they do not necessarily feel that Reform Jews' beliefs are valid (Conservative Jews). Furthermore, like Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews adhere to the traditional definition of Jewish identity, but feel that Jews who intermarry should not be excommunicated.
Reform Judaism is the least traditional of the three forms of Rabbinic Judaism. In contrast to the other two forms of Rabbinic Judaism, Reform Judaism is characterized by "the belief that an individual's personal autonomy overrides traditional Jewish law and custom" (Reform Judaism). This belief leads to a much greater acceptance of modern culture than is found in Orthodox Judaism. In addition, Reform Jews believe that Jewish law, as found in the Torah and in rabbinic literature, can be studied using both the traditional rabbinic modes of study and textual analysis (Reform Judaism).
In addition, Reforms Jews believes that individuals are capable of exercising personal discretion in determining the principles of their personal faith. To Reform Jews, rejection of some principles of traditional Jewish law cannot be equated with a rejection of the Jewish faith. In fact, Reform theologists believed that it was an error for Judaism and Law to be considered interchangeable and interdependent terms (Reform Judaism). Therefore, Reform Jews began to draw a distinction between moral and ceremonial laws, which was a major departure from traditional Judaism because the Torah neither draws such a distinction nor delineates guidelines by which such distinctions could be drawn (Reform Judaism). In fact, such a belief signals a significant departure from the traditional practice of Judaism, because historically "infractions of certain ceremonial statutes were punished more severely than moral lapses" (Reform Judaism). Reform Judaism does not have a unified position on Jewish identity or the concept of intermarriage; however, in America, many Reform rabbis will perform mixed-faith marriages and one is considered a Jew if born to a Jewish parent of either sex and raised in a Jewish household.
By examining the three forms of Rabbinic Judaism being practiced today, one easily comes to understand that the term "Rabbinic Judaism" does not refer to a single belief system. In contrast, there is almost as much variety in forms of practice between different groups of Rabbinic Jews as there is between Rabbinic Jews and members of other religions. The three subgroups, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform, differ greatly on their definition of Jewish identity, on their interpretation of oral law, and on their beliefs regarding the modern world. Despite their differences, Rabbinic Jews do share some common beliefs. Rabbinic Jews all believe that the Torah and the Tanakh cannot be interpreted in a vacuum; instead the must be interpreted with the aid of Jewish oral law. However, the three groups differ on what they consider Jewish law and on their beliefs regarding the evolution of Jewish law in the context of the modern world. Most importantly, Rabbinic Jews share a common spiritual background; they all belief in a monotheistic, creationist God and that this God is the source of morality and law. It is because God is the source of law that Rabbinic Jews place such an importance on how to interpret the laws handed down to Moses and the laws provided by Jewish oral tradition.
Conservative Judaism. Retrieved October 23, 2005, from Wikipedia Web site: http://www.secaucus.us/project/wikipedia/index.php/Conservative_Judaism
Orthodox Judaism. Retrieved October 23, 2005, from Wikipedia Web site: http://www.secaucus.us/project/wikipedia/index.php/Orthodox_Judaism
Rabbinic Judaism. Retrieved October 23, 2005, from Wikipedia Web site: http://www.secaucus.us/project/wikipedia/index.php/Rabbinic_Judaism
Reform Judaism. Retrieved October 23, 2005, from Wikipedia Web site: http://www.secaucus.us/project/wikipedia/index.php/Reform_Judaism