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Difference Between Orthodox and Reform Judaism

Orthodox vs Reform Judaism

Judaism is a religion that is followed by the Jewish people. Judaism has been divided into orthodox and reform which have very distinct beliefs and features.

One of the main areas of difference is in the interpretation of the sacred texts. Followers of Orthodox Judaism strictly believe in a Messiah, a life after death, and restoration of the Promised Land. The followers maintain an understanding of the rabbinical teachings and the sacred texts. On the other hand, followers of Reform Judaism have a conceptual approach to the rabbinical teachings and the sacred writings.

Another difference that can be noticed between Orthodox Judaism and Reform Judaism is in the status of women. In Reform Judaism, there is no separation of men and women in worship and services. In Reform Judaism, both men and women can sit together and perform prayers. But in Orthodox Judaism, they are not allowed to sit together while praying. This is because the Orthodox Jews believe that women are not clean during menstruation. So even if women are not having a menstrual period, they are not allowed to sit together with men. Another thing is that the Orthodox Jews believe that women distract men’s focus during worship.

In Reform Judaism, women are allowed to perform duties as rabbis, educators, and cantors. On the contrary, these roles of educators, rabbis, and cantors are restricted to men only in Orthodox Judaism. It should also be noted that Reform Judaism only has short services when compared to Orthodox Judaism.

When talking about Reform Judaism, the movement started in Germany in the 19th century. The reformers wanted to carve out Judaism into a modern religion. Many doctrines that the Orthodox Judaism followers took literally were spiritualized by the followers of Reform Judaism. Unlike Orthodox Judaism, Reform Judaism viewed the Bible only as a record of Israel’s consecration to God.

Summary:

1.Followers of Orthodox Judaism strictly believe in a Messiah, a life after death, and restoration of the Promised Land.
2.Followers of Reform Judaism have a conceptual approach to the rabbinical teachings and the sacred writings.
3.In Reform Judaism, both men and women can sit together and perform prayers. But in Orthodox Judaism, men and women are not allowed to sit together while praying.
4.In Reform Judaism, women are allowed to perform duties as rabbis, educators, and cantors. On the contrary, these roles of educators, rabbis, and cantors are restricted to men only in Orthodox Judaism.


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    Orthodox Jews believe that they are bound by the mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah Law (“from Sinai”) as moderated by rabbinic law, and those of rabbinic origin (d’rabbanan), including prayers and ritual. Reform Judaism, by contrast, considers itself informed, but not bound, by the Law; its focus is exclusively the moral teaching contained in the Torah, Prophets, and wisdom literature, and rabbinic teachings. Thus, Orthodoxy continues to maintain the primacy of Shabbat (laws pertaining to the keeping and remembering of the Sabbath); kashrut (laws pertaining to food); and taharat hamishpacha (laws of family purity), while these are considered to be optional in Reform Judaism.

    The study of sacred texts in Hebrew has an especially elevated status in Orthodoxy which does not obtain in Reform Judaism. Orthodoxy maintains a closer relationship with the Hebrew language than Reform; prayer and study are performed in Hebrew, while in Reform Judaism, English is the norm.

    Some separations between men and women are based on the laws of family purity found in the Torah, and have been widely misunderstood in liberal Judaism and in the larger culture. What has been translated into English as “unclean” (Hebrew, tamei), has a more nuanced meaning in Hebrew, more closely linked to the concept of “taboo,” and denoting the fitness or unfitness of an individual for service in the original Temple. In the Torah, there are many ways both men and women become tamei; becoming tahor (often translated in English as “clean”), obviates most restrictions. Reform Jews typically do not continue to observe these laws.

    In Orthodoxy, the laws and customs of separation between men and women are based largely on a different understanding of the spiritual nature, needs, and functions of women within the family and the community. Specifically, in Orthodox Judaism, there is a different understanding of the nature of mitzvot that has been obviated in Reform Judaism. Orthodox Jews consider mitzvot to be “obligations,” whereas Reform Jews often perceive the mitzvot as “privileges.” Therefore, although women are required to perform most of the same mitzvot as men, they are not considered obligated in time-bound mitzvot (those that must be performed at specific times), such as being counted in a quorum for prayer, or praying at fixed times. Women remain obligated in such mitzvot as prayer, study, giving charity, tikkun olam (“repairing the world”) kashrut, Shabbat, and taharat hamishpacha.

    In Orthodoxy, men and women pray separately at the same services, but this custom is in no way related to the concepts of tahor and tamei. Women may read Torah and perform prayers among other women; men read Torah and perform prayers for the entire congregation, which is strictly defined as a quorum of at least ten men. Reform operates under no such restrictions.

    In Orthodoxy, women may serve as chazzanit (cantors) among other women and certainly serve with distinction as educators. Many distinguished Torah scholars throughout history have been and are, in fact, women.

    Just as liberal Judaism divides itself into the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Renewal movements, with considerable overlap, in general, it is possible to divide Orthodox Judaism into three movements: ultra-Orthodox; Centrist; and Modern Orthodox, although there are no strict divisions and there is considerable overlap. In general, the Ultra-Orthodox may be considered “fundamentalist” and confine themselves to exclusively Jewish forms and institutions of higher learning, while the modern Orthodox are likely to be university educated as well. Modern Orthodoxy espouses a somewhat more nuanced understanding of Torah and mitzvot consistent with modern scholarship.

    In summary:

    Orthodoxy maintains a strict belief in the primacy of Torah and mitzvot as moderated by rabbinics, whereas these are considered optional in Reform Judaism, which concentrates on prophetic and wisdom literature.

    In Orthodoxy, mitzvot are obligations, whereas in Reform Judaism, they are privileges;

    Orthodoxy maintains certain separations between men and women, both by law and custom, which Reform Judaism does not, based on a different understanding of men’s and women’s roles.

    There is a wide spectrum of belief and practice both in liberal Judaism and Orthodoxy.

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