Orthodox Judaism

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Orthodox Judaism is a Jewish denomination that adheres to a relatively strict interpretation and application of the laws and ethics canonized in the Talmudic texts ("Oral Torah") and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and Acharonim. Generally, Orthodox Judaism consists of two different streams, the Modern Orthodox and the Ultra Orthodox but actually is a wide spectrum of beliefs.



Orthodoxy is not a single movement or school of thought. There is no single rabbinic body to which all rabbis are expected to belong, or any one organization representing member congregations. In the United States, there are numerous Orthodox congregational organizations, such as Agudath Israel, the Orthodox Union, and the National Council of Young Israel; none of which can claim to represent a majority of all Orthodox congregations.

The exact forms of Judaism during the times of Moses or during the eras of the Mishnah and Talmud cannot be known today, but Orthodox Jews believe that contemporary Orthodox Judaism maintains the same basic philosophy and legal framework that existed throughout Jewish history, whereas the other denominations depart from it. Orthodox Judaism, as it exists today, is an outgrowth that claims to extend from the time of Moses, to the time of the Mishnah and Talmud, through the development of oral law and rabbinic literature, until the present time.

In response to The Age of Enlightenment, Jewish Emancipation, and Haskalah, elements within German Jewry sought to reform Jewish belief and practice in the early 19th century. They sought to modernize education in light of contemporary scholarship, they denied absolute divine authorship of the Torah, declaring that only those biblical laws concerning ethics to be binding, and stated that the rest of halakha (Jewish law) need no longer be viewed as normative for Jews in wider society. (see Reform Judaism).

In reaction to the emergence of Reform Judaism, a group of traditionalist German Jews emerged who supported some of the values of the Haskalah[1] but who wanted to defend a conservative, traditional interpretation of Jewish law and tradition. This group was led by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. Hirsch held that Judaism demands an application of Torah thought to the entire realm of human experience—including the secular disciplines. His approach was termed the Torah im Derech Eretz approach, or "neo-Orthodoxy." While insisting on strict adherence to Jewish beliefs and practices, he held that Jews should attempt to engage and influence the modern world, and encouraged those secular studies compatible with Torah thought. This pattern of religious and secular involvement has been evident at many times in Jewish history. Scholars[who?] believe it was characteristic of the Jews in Babylon during the Amoraic and Geonic periods, and likewise in early medieval Spain, shown by their engagement with both Muslim and Christian society. It appeared as the traditional response to cultural and scientific innovation.

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