Shalom and welcome! orthodoxjews is a community for anyone who practices or identifies with Orthodox Judaism as well as curiosity seekers who are simply interested in its diverse range of communities, lifestyles and beliefs. It's a place for dialogue, discussion and debate on matters theological, philosophical, cultural, social, kugel or otherwise. We welcome black hats, knitted kippahs, fancy wigs and everything in between. You don't even need to be wearing anything on your head at all! We just ask that you follow a few rules to help keep things running smoothly around the shtetl:
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Orthodox Judaism is the approach to Judaism which adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin ("Oral Torah") and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and Acharonim. Orthodox Jews are also called "observant Jews"; Orthodoxy is known also as "Torah Judaism" or "traditional Judaism". Orthodox Judaism generally refers to Modern Orthodox Judaism and Haredi Judaism but can actually include a wide range of beliefs.
Diversity within Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism's central belief is that Torah, including the Oral Law, was given directly from God to Moses and applies in all times and places. Haredi Judaism asserts that it may no longer be changed in any fashion. As a result, all Jews are required to live in accordance with the Commandments and Jewish law.
Since there is no one Orthodox body, there is no one canonical statement of principles of faith. Rather, each Orthodox group claims to be a non-exclusive heir to the received tradition of Jewish theology, while still affirming a literal acceptance of Maimonides' thirteen principles. Given this (relative) philosophic flexibility, variant viewpoints are possible, particularly in areas not explicitly demarcated by the Halakha. The result is a relatively broad range of hashqafoth (Sing. hashkafa Hebrew: השקפה – world view) within Orthodoxy. The greatest differences within strains of Orthodoxy are over:
the degree to which an Orthodox Jew should integrate and/or disengage from secular society
based on varying interpretations of the Three Oaths, whether Zionism is part of Judaism or opposed to it, and defining the role of the modern State of Israel in Judaism
their spiritual approach to Torah such as the relative roles of mainstream Talmudic study and mysticism or ethics
the validity of secular knowledge including critical Jewish scholarship of Rabbinic literature and modern philosophical ideas
whether the Talmudic obligation to learn and practice a trade/profession applies in our times
the centrality of yeshivas as the place for personal Torah study
the validity of authoritative spiritual guidance in areas outside of Halakhic decision (Da'as Torah)
the importance of maintaining non-Halakhic customs, such as dress, language and music
the role of women in (religious) society
the nature of the relationship with non-Jews
Streams of Orthodoxy
The above differences are realised in the various subgroups of Orthodoxy, which maintain significant social differences, and slight differences in understanding Halakha. These groups, broadly, comprise Modern Orthodox Judaism and Haredi Judaism, with most Hasidic Jewish groups falling into the latter category.
Modern Orthodoxy comprises a fairly broad spectrum of movements, each drawing on several distinct, though related, philosophies, which in some combination provide the basis for all variations of the movement today. In general, Modern Orthodoxy holds that Jewish law is normative and binding, while simultaneously attaching a positive value to interaction with contemporary society. In this view, Orthodox Judaism can “be enriched” by its intersection with modernity; further, “modern society creates opportunities to be productive citizens engaged in the Divine work of transforming the world to benefit humanity”. At the same time, in order to preserve the integrity of halakha, any area of “powerful inconsistency and conflict” between Torah and modern culture must be avoided. Modern Orthodoxy, additionally, assigns a central role to the "People of Israel". Modern Orthodoxy, in general, places a high national, as well as religious, significance on the State of Israel, and Modern Orthodox institutions and individuals are, typically, Zionist in orientation. It also practices involvement with non-orthodox Jews that extends beyond "outreach (Kiruv)" to continued institutional relations and cooperation.
Haredi Judaism advocates segregation from non-Jewish culture, although not from non-Jewish society entirely. It is characterised by its focus on community-wide Torah study. Haredi Orthodoxy's differences with Modern Orthodoxy usually lie in interpretation of the nature of traditional halakhic concepts and in acceptable application of these concepts. Thus, engaging in the commercial world is a legitimate means to achieving a livelihood, but individuals should participate in modern society as little as possible. The same outlook is applied with regard to obtaining degrees necessary to enter one's intended profession: where tolerated in the Haredi society, attending secular institutions of higher education is viewed as a necessary but inferior activity. Academic interest is instead to be directed toward the religious education found in the yeshiva. Both boys and girls attend school and may proceed to higher Torah study, starting anywhere between the ages of 13 and 18. A significant proportion of students, especially boys, remain in yeshiva until marriage (which is often arranged through facilitated dating), and many study in a kollel (Torah study institute for married men) for many years after marriage. Most Orthodox men (including many Modern Orthodox), even those not in Kollel, will study Torah daily.
Hasidic Judaism overlaps significantly with Haredi Judaism in its engagement with the secular and commercial world, and as regards social issues. It differs, however, in its origins and, relatedly, in its focus. The movement originated in Eastern Europe (what is now Belarus and Ukraine) in the 18th century. Founded by Israel ben Eliezer, known as the Baal Shem Tov (1698–1760), it originated in an age of persecution of the Jewish people, when a schism existed between scholarly and common European Jews. In addition to bridging this class gap, Hasidic teachings sought to reintroduce joy in the performance of the commandments and in prayer through the popularisation of Jewish mysticism (this joy had been suppressed in the intense intellectual study of the Talmud). The Ba'al Shem Tov sought to combine rigorous scholarship with more emotional mitzvah observance. In a practical sense, what distinguishes Hasidic Judaism from other forms of Haredi Judaism is the close-knit organization of Hasidic communities centered around a Rebbe (sometimes translated as "Grand Rabbi"), and various customs and modes of dress particular to each community. In some cases there are religious ideological distinctions between Hasidic groups, as well.